Prioritization means identifying potential projects and ranking them from most to least desirable. There are four factors to consider when prioritizing improvements:
Level of demand. How many people would use a facility if it were improved. In general, this increases around higher density areas, such as business districts and higher-density residential areas, and around attractions, such as schools and parks.
Degree of barrier. This can range from minor (pedestrians must take a less direct route than desirable) to a total barrier (“you can’t get there from here by walking or bicycling”). This is sometimes measured using Level-of-Service ratings of walking and cycling conditions.22
Potential benefits. This refers to the benefits that could result from increased walking and cycling on that corridor. For example, improvements that encourage more nonmotorized commuting may be considered to have more value to a community than improvements that are used primarily for recreational cycling and walking.
Cost and ease of improvement. This includes the incremental financial costs of the project, and any increase in future maintenance costs.
This information can be presented in an evaluation matrix, such as the one below. Note that “cost” is inverted into “affordability” so all criteria can be ranked from high (best) to low.
It may be desirable to develop a more quantitative evaluation process. Each criterion can be assigned points from zero (worst) to 5 (best). These are then added to create total points for each project. More sophisticated strategies for prioritizing pedestrian and bicycling improvements are described in Appendix 3. Rankings can be done by a small group of technical experts, a technical/public committee, or through a public survey. This exercise should result in a list of projects ranked from highest to lowest priority.
Table 5 Project Evaluation Matrix Example
Budgeting and Evaluation23
Once projects are prioritized, the next step is to develop an implementation plan and budget proposal. The implementation plan should identify the order of tasks needed to implement each project, and who is responsible for that task. It should identify projects that are contingent on other activities, such as a path that would be built as part of a larger development, or a sidewalk that would be added when a particular road improvement project is implemented. The proposed budget can be based on an annual estimated expenditure, such as $100,000, or 5% of the transportation budget, or it can be based on a goal to implement all priority projects within a certain time frame, such as 10 years.
Some project may require special grants. Local jurisdictions can often apply for regional, state, provincial, or federal funds to implement pedestrian and bicycle projects. It is important to become familiar with appropriate grant programs, and maintain project proposals that are ready for submission. Contact your Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO, for information visit www.ampo.org) or state/provincial transportation agency for more information.
Don’t forget to budget for maintenance. Preventive maintenance reduces hazards and future repair costs. Use life cycle cost analysis to evaluate expenditures, such as the net value of using a higher quality, longer-lasting material. A good rule of thumb is that 5% of infrastructure replacement costs should be spent on annual maintenance. For example, if a bridge costs $100,000 to construct, $5,000 should be budgeted for its maintenance each year.
How much funding should be devoted to walking and bicycling facilities24
Many people assume that motorist pay for roads through fuel taxes so it is unfair to devote road resources to bicycle and pedestrian facilities. It is sometimes suggested that cyclists should be charged a special license fee to fund their facilities. However, the local roads that are used most by pedestrians and cyclists are actually funded by local taxes that everybody pays regardless of how they travel. Since nonmotorized travel costs less to accommodate and motorists tend to travel far more kilometres per year than non-motorists, households that drive less than average tend to pay more taxes than the roadway costs they impose, while those that drive more than average tend to underpay their roadway costs.
It could be argued that, at a minimum, pedestrian and cycling programs should receive funding comparable to their portion of travel. For example, if 5% of trips on local streets are made by pedestrians and another 5% are made by bicycle, it would be fair to devote at least 10% of local transportation expenditures to nonmotorized transport. (As discussed later, most transportation surveys underestimate nonmotorized travel by ignoring or undercounting short tips, non-work trips, travel by children, and access links to motor vehicles.) However, there are reasons that communities may justify devoting even more resources to nonmotorized transportation:
Nonmotorized transport programs have historically been underfunded so there are unmet needs.
Nonmotorized transport serves both transportation and recreation purposes, so it deserves funding from two municipal budget categories: transport budgets for transportation-oriented facilities such as sidewalks, wider curb lanes and bike lanes, and recreation budgets for recreation-oriented facilities such as trails.
If possible, a minimum annual municipal budget allocation should be established. Additional funding may also be available from other sources, such as regional transportation budgets, the provincial Cycling Network Plan, and federal environmental or infrastructure funds.
Budgets and implementation programs should be flexible to allow for changing needs and opportunities. For example, scheduled maintenance or repairs on a particular roadway could allow pedestrian and cycling improvements to be included at minimal extra cost. In such a situation it may be sensible to change the plan’s priorities to take advantage of such an opportunity.
It is important to consider early in the planning process how projects will be evaluated. This determines what data that should be collected before changes are implemented to allow before-and-after analysis. Project evaluation can help to assess whether program goals and objectives are appropriate, whether they are being met, whether a project is cost effective, and whether priorities, criteria and design factors should be changed.
World Health Organization Charter on Transport, Environment and Health
Lack of physical activity is one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of mortality in Europe. On the other hand, walking and cycling as daily activities can promote health by providing physical activity, decreasing noise, and air pollution.
The health benefits of regular physical activity can be summarized as:
50% reduction in the risk of developing coronary heart diseases (i.e. a similar effect to not smoking).
50% reduction in the risk of developing adult diabetes.
50% reduction in the risk of becoming obese.
30% reduction in the risk of developing hypertension. 10/8 mm Hg decline in blood pressure in hypertensive subjects (i.e. a similar effect to that obtained from antihypertensive drugs).
Other effects include reduced osteoporosis, relief of symptoms of depression and anxiety, and the prevention of falls in the elderly.
A total of 30 minutes’ brisk walking or cycling on most days of the week, even if carried out in 10–15 minute episodes, is effective in providing these health benefits.
The average trip by walking in Europe is about 1.5 km and the average cycling trip is about 3.5 km, each taking about 15 minutes to make: two such trips each day would be enough to provide the recommended “daily dose” of physical activity.
Certain patterns of transport have a broad range of effects on mental health, including risk-taking and aggressive behaviors, depression, and post-traumatic psychological effects of crashes.
High levels of traffic can cause social isolation and limit interpersonal networks of support, factors which have been found to be associated with higher mortality and morbidity in the elderly.
Children who have the opportunity of playing unhindered by street traffic and without the presence of adults have been found to have twice as many social contacts with playmates in the immediate neighbourhood as those who could not leave their residence unaccompanied by adults due to heavy traffic.
The fear of collisions is reported by parents as being the main reason for taking children to school by car. This hinders the development of children’s independence and reduces their opportunities for social contact. It also has an influence on children’s attitudes towards car use and personal mobility in adulthood.
The lack of physical activity, including walking and cycling, is associated with mental ill health, including depression.