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BFS: Changing Street Design Paradigm

In 2014 the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) invited states to endorse its new design manual for urban streets – the Urban Street Design Guide (USDG).

Eight states endorsed the USDG, with 7 of those states ranking in the Top 10 of our Bicycle Friendly State rankings. Tennessee is the only state outside of our Top 10 to endorse the NACTO USDG, and the only state in the South to endorse the USDG. The USDG campaign is one indicator of a changing traffic engineering paradigm, where thoughtful, safe, and comfortable bicycling facilities are given as much attention as other parts of streets.

The often-staid profession of traffic engineering has seen an explosion of innovative treatments and design guidance to allow their proliferation. To help people keep up, the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Information Center recently published a guide to which guides discuss which facilities where. According to the data from state DOT bicycle and pedestrian coordinators in our survey, many states that have not yet adopted the NACTO guide are nevertheless making progress towards implementing new facility designs:

  • At least 4,424 state DOT employees attended a training event on innovative bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in 2014.
  • 35 states sponsored at least one training event on innovative bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in 2014.

In addition, this year’s survey included new questions on the inclusion of certain bicycle infrastructure on state roadways. Below is a chart showing how many states reported the presence of four types of bicycle infrastructure on state-controlled roadways:

Unfortunately, some states still report that they do not have official endorsement of modern infrastructure treatments for bicyclists and pedestrians. Six states reported that the state has not adopted any facility design guidelines that include bicycles and/or pedestrians. Without facility design guidance in place state planners, engineers, and designers lack the tools to meet community needs regarding safe and comfortable bicycle infrastructure.

States DOTs can play an important role in spreading best practices throughout their state. It is great to see that many of the most Bicycle Friendly States have adopted innovative and context-sensitive design standards, like the NACTO USDG. We look forward to continued state action in this dynamic space as state DOTs and communities work together to develop solutions that provide safe and comfortable bicycle networks.

Read more about our latest Bicycle Friendly State ranking!