FHWA Proposes Rule that makes Bicycle-Friendly Streets Easier
When communities want to make their streets more bicycle friendly, they often face many of layers of opposition and challenge. Even when the popular and political will exist, existing regulations can stymie the process. This is especially true for roads within the National Highway System, but there’s new hope that these regulations will become easier to navigate.
The National Highway System (NHS) extends far beyond the interstate highways that most people might think about when they hear the name. In my community, Arlington, VA, major urban arterials such as Glebe Road are a part of the NHS. Changes to roads within the NHS must meet 13 design criteria — criteria that are focused on the needs of cars, not communities, and that were originally created for roads with speed limits over 50 mph. There is a process to have exceptions approved, but it is expensive, making bike- and pedestrian-friendly improvements more difficult and costly.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the federal agency that regulates the NHS, has proposed removing 11 of the 13 criteria for lower-speed sections of the system. This proposed rule change will make it far easier for communities with NHS roads to improve those roads in implementing their own complete streets policies and bicycle-friendly goals.
Picture: Glebe Road in Arlington, VA. Also known as SR 120 and part of the National Highway System. Source: Greater Greater Washington
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has been doing many things recently to improve bicycling and walking through its Safer People, Safer Streets initiative. This has included the release of a report, Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding, Design, and Environmental Review: Addressing Common Misconceptions, which addresses 10 misconceptions that often prevent or slow construction of safer roads.
The League has submitted comments in support of this change.