Guide to Best Practices

Road Design, Reconstruction and Maintenance Requirements

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Road Design, Reconstruction and Maintenance Requirements

As roads are redesigned or reconstructed, there are often opportunities to better accommodate bicycle and pedestrian travel at minimal cost. Engineering policies and staff knowledge can be improved to ensure better consideration of cyclist and pedestrian needs. 50 Examples include:

  • Policies to ensure that pedestrian and cycling facilities will be given high priority in new construction and rehabilitation.

  • The adoption of current standards for the design of pedestrian and cycling facilities incorporated into roadway projects (such as AASHTO standards).

  • Policies that increase right-of-way for bicycle and pedestrian facilities when appropriate.

  • Polices that provide sufficiently wide curb lanes and paved road shoulders to accommodate cyclists on new and reconstructed arterials and highways.

  • The training of planning and engineering staff in pedestrian and cycling design.

  • Traffic management and traffic calming programs.

  • Repair and maintenance programs that provide adequate surface quality for road shoulders, railroad crossings, and storm drain grates that are safe for cyclists, traffic signal sensors that recognize cyclists, and high standards for pedestrian crossings.
  1. Municipal Laws

Municipal by-laws regulate the actions of residents of the municipality. Bylaws can be changed to provide more safety for nonmotorized travel, and to establish development and design standards that consider pedestrian and cycling needs. For example, bylaws may:

  • Require citizens to clear snow and trim trees along sidewalks on their property.
  • Require construction companies to provide safe and well-signed alternate pedestrian and bicycle routes when construction occurs on walkways and roads.

  • Allow child cyclists to ride on sidewalks, provided they yield to pedestrians. Note: While not ideal, children generally travel at low speeds and do not have the skills to deal with traffic on the roads.

  • Require bicycle parking and allow reductions in automobile parking requirements where walking and cycling are likely to reduce vehicle use.

  • Require adequate pedestrian facilities in new developments, such as sidewalks on both sides of streets, and public paths that connect the ends of new cul de sac streets.

  • Specify road and parking facility designs that accommodate walking and cycling, and control vehicle traffic volumes and speeds where appropriate (see sections below on “traffic calming” and “livable community” for specific design guidelines).

  1. Major Projects and Site Plan Agreements

If major urban infrastructure is planned, construction and development guidelines should ensure that opportunities to provide bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure are considered. For example, work on a public utility right-of-way may provide an opportunity for a new path, or improvements to a bridge may allow pedestrian facilities to be widened at minimal cost.
Development proposals for residential, commercial, and industrial projects often involve site plan agreements. The agreements provide the ideal opportunity to negotiate the inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian facilities into the overall design.

Development standards can incorporate “traffic calming” and “livable community” strategies, described below. This includes land use planning that provides convenient pedestrian and cycling access to common destinations, “modified grid” street patterns, relatively narrow street widths, reduced off-street parking requirements, and traffic calming strategies.

  1. Working with Neighborhood and Business Associations

Residential neighborhood and business associations may support pedestrian and bicycle improvements as part of efforts to improve their local street environments. They may be particularly interested in sidewalk improvements and traffic calming. These groups should be consulted to help identify and prioritize problems and concerns related to nonmotorized planning.
Planning departments can establish a process that residents and businesses on a particular street can use to request and fund such improvements.51 For example, this may include a list describing acceptable traffic calming strategies and pedestrian improvements, a requirement that 60% of residents or business owners sign a petition requesting such improvements before they will be considered for implementation, and funding options that may include local improvement districts (LIDs), by which property owners in the area pay a special fee to fund the project.
In some cases, neighborhood and business associations can provide sponsorships or matching funds, contribute in-kind goods and services, or volunteer labor for implementing improvements, or take responsibility for landscaping and maintenance. For example, the city of Seattle relies on residents to provide landscaping at more than 700 traffic circles that have been installed on local streets.

  1. Land Exchange, Dedication of Parkland with Private Developer

Often, developers or landowners are willing to trade part or all of their land for a more favorable site. In this way, municipalities can acquire lands that can be used for the development of bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Many municipal governments require the dedication of parkland either in the form of land deeded to the municipality or as cash in lieu. This dedication can potentially be used to provide bicycle and pedestrian facilities and linear parks. On a smaller scale, to provide pedestrian access to an adjacent street from the end of a cul de sac, the city may buy a suitable property when it comes onto the market, subdivide to provide a pedestrian right of way, develop a walkway and resell the property.

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