Guide to Best Practices

Scoping and Background Research

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Scoping and Background Research

Scoping involves identifying the range of issues to be considered in the planning process. It is important to do this early. For example, it would be inefficient if a year into the process you discovered that your pedestrian plan should have incorporated Universal Design (accommodating the widest range of users, including people with various physical limitations) or integration with public transit service. It may be helpful to prepare a background report that provides an overview of pedestrian and bicycle planning issues. It could include available information on:

  1. Existing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and programming.

  2. Area demographics.

  3. Bicycle and pedestrian collision statistics.

  4. Travel surveys, pedestrian/cycling questionnaires.

  5. Information on stakeholders (i.e., cycling groups).

  6. Nonmotorized planning and facility development resources.

  7. Current and developing planning documents.

  8. Existing design and engineering standards.

  9. Existing safety education and enforcement programs.

  10. Known or proposed road, site, park, or trail projects affecting walking and cycling.

  1. Measuring Current Nonmotorized Travel7

Some nonmotorized travel data may be available from existing travel surveys and traffic counts.8 However, most travel surveys and traffic counts under-record nonmotorized trips. Many exclude walking trips altogether, and they often undercount short trips, non-work trips, travel by children, and recreational trips. Automatic traffic counters may not record nonmotorized travelers, and manual counters are usually located on arterial streets that are less heavily used by cyclists than adjacent lower traffic streets. In fact, most trips involve nonmotorized links. For example, trips classified as “auto” or “transit” trips are often actually “walk-auto-walk,” or “bike-bus-walk” trips, yet the nonmotorized components are often ignored, even if they occur on public roads.

One study finds that the actual number of nonmotorized trips is six times greater than what conventional surveys indicate.9 In 2000, the Southern California Metropolitan Transportation Authority increased the portion of nonmotorized travel in their models from about 2% of regional trips (based on conventional travel surveys) up to about 10% (based on more comprehensive travel data from the 1995 National Personal Transportation Survey).
Information on current walking and cycling travel can be gathered using:

  1. A general travel survey designed to elicit sufficient responses concerning nonmotorized travel. For example, “travel” should be clearly defined to include walking and bicycling trips. Short, non-work and recreational trips, and trips by children should be counted.

  2. A special survey targeting cyclists and pedestrians (such as survey forms distributed through bicycle shops, sport clubs, recreation centres, colleges, and schools).

  3. A survey handed out to cyclists and pedestrians as they travel along a street or path.

  4. Traffic counts that gather information on pedestrian and bicycle travel. These can include photoelectric counters installed on trails, electronic counters installed on cycle paths and bike lanes, and manual counts. Volunteers from pedestrian and cycling organizations may also be mobilized to perform manual counts for nonmotorized travel.

Pedestrian and bicycle travel surveys should attempt to gather the following information:

  • Who – Demographic information such as age, gender, residence location, employment status, and income.
  • Where – Origin and destination of trips, including links by other modes (such as transit).

  • When – Time, day of the week, day of the year, and conditions, such as weather, road conditions, and traffic conditions.

  • Why – Purpose of trip. What factors affected travel choice (for example, would a cyclist have chosen another route or mode if road conditions or facilities were different).


Nonmotorized Transport Survey Questions10

  1. Are your neighbourhoods designed to promote walking and cycling to get to school, work, recreation, transit, and retail outlets? Are these facilities used?

  2. If these facilities are not used, what improvements might be made to make them more accessible?

  3. Is street lighting adequate?

  4. Are sidewalks maintained, repaired, and cleared of snow in the winter?

  5. Are bike lanes part of the roads?

  6. Does your community master plan include facilities for cycling and walking?

  7. Are there cycling organizations in your community promoting the use of bicycles?

  8. Are there bicycle racks at transit stations and outside municipal facilities?

  9. Do school organizations promote walking, cycling, and safety programs for both?

  10. Do schools and workplaces provide secure bicycle parking?

  11. Are local government officials aware of the walking and cycling needs of neighbourhoods?

  12. What measures could be taken to calm traffic in your residential neighbourhoods?

  13. Can community groups be encouraged to organize bicycle safety workshops?
  14. Do local businesses support walking and cycling to their stores?

  15. What groups might be involved in forming partnerships to promote active transportation in your community?

  16. Are residents in your community encouraged to keep sidewalks clear of snow for those who want to walk?

  17. Is there bicycle parking near shopping areas and other destinations?

Pedestrian and bicycle collision data can help identify barriers and hazards to nonmotorized travel. Locations with frequent pedestrian or cycling crashes indicate some combination of high risk or heavy use, both of which can justify facility improvements. Pedestrian and cycling collisions tend to be underreported, so a variety of data collection methods may be needed.11

If possible, travel data should be recorded in a format that can be Geographic Information Systems (GIS) coded. Since nonmotorized trips tend to be short, fine-grained mapping is important. Most traffic models use zones that are too large to capture such trips and maps that are too large to illustrate all pedestrian and cycling facilities. However, conventional traffic models can be modified to predict nonmotorized travel.12

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