Utah DOT Seeking Public Input on Active Transportation Needs

The Utah Department of Transportation is seeking public feedback through August 28 on the agency’s overall Active Transportation Plan, so it can “better understand” the community’s needs for more bike lanes, trails, multiuse paths, crosswalks, and sidewalks for state roads.

[Above photo by the Utah DOT]

“Community input is essential in making sure we build projects the right way,” Heidi Goedhart, Utah DOT’s active transportation manager, in a statement. “Our emphasis is to build a complete transportation system where people can choose how they travel.”

The agency added that public input will help it develop active transportation plans to provide better access to trails and paths on state routes. Active transportation is human-powered transportation like walking, biking, using a wheelchair, or hand cycling and provides more options for people to access jobs, education, and other services within their communities, the Utah DOT noted.

The agency said state residents could provide feedback in several ways: By visiting its active transportation project website at publicinput.com/udotplanning and responding via a quick survey and/or pin a location on a map; sending an email to planning@utah.gov; or phoning in comments to 385-360-1900. 

Utah DOT’s active transportation efforts are the latest in a series of similar initiatives launched by state departments of transportation across the country.

The Ohio Department of Transportation, for example, recently unveiled a bicycling and pedestrian “framework” to advance statewide development of active transportation over the next five years.

The agency said its new Walk.Bike.Ohio plan – constructed over the last two years based on input from local governments, other state agencies, and the public – seeks to improve mobility, safety, and quality of life as part of “equitable investments” statewide in walking and bicycling infrastructure, maintenance, programs, and policies.

In May, the Washington State Department of Transportation made sections of its new “Washington State Active Transportation Plan, 2020 and Beyond: Part 1” available online as part of its efforts to support more transit, bicycle, and pedestrian options.

That plan assesses the needs for accessible pedestrian and bicyclist facilities, highlights safety concerns and provides the first-ever examination of state right of way and its suitability for active transportation.

In December 2020, the Kansas Department of Transportation began gathering public feedback on the state’s first active transportation plan in 25 years. The agency noted that funding for active transportation investment is included within the state’s 10-year Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program, or IKE, signed into law in early April 2020.

Ohio DOT Unveils Five-Year Biking/Pedestrian Plan

The Ohio Department of Transportation has unveiled a bicycling and pedestrian “framework” to advance statewide development of active transportation over the next five years.

[Above photo by the Ohio DOT]

The agency said its new Walk.Bike.Ohio plan – constructed over the last two years based on input from local governments, other state agencies, and the public – seeks to improve mobility, safety, and quality of life as part of “equitable investments” statewide in walking and bicycling infrastructure, maintenance, programs, and policies.

“Nearly one out of every 10 Ohio households does not have access to a motor vehicle, meaning active transportation options like walking and bicycling are necessary to meet basic needs,” said Governor Mike DeWine (R) in a statement.

“When we ensure that walking and biking are safe, convenient, and accessible options – everybody wins,” he added. “The Walk.Bike.Ohio plan puts us on the right path to do that.”

The Ohio DOT noted that recent trends in safety, health, and demographics highlight what the agency called an “urgent need” for safer, accessible, and more convenient options for walking and biking in communities across the state.

In Ohio, people walking and biking make up about 14 percent of all traffic deaths, despite making up just 2.6 percent of trips to work, with “high need” populations and areas of the state experiencing a disproportionate amount – nearly double – of the severe pedestrian and bicycle crashes.

In 2020, the agency there were 164 people killed and 469 people seriously injured while traveling along or across Ohio’s roadways on foot. From 2019 to 2020 alone, pedestrian deaths increased by 30 percent, with the most notable increases occurring at intersections with unmarked crosswalks (up 600 percent), at unmarked, mid-block locations (up 84 percent), and in circumstances involving speed (up 60 percent).

“Although the publication of Walk.Bike.Ohio is a major milestone for Ohio, it is just the beginning of the work necessary to achieve our vision,” said Jack Marchbanks, Ohio DOT’s director.

For example, an economic impact analysis completed as part of this effort found that existing trips by foot or bike could save Ohioans $12.7 billion in transportation and environmental costs over the next 20 years. Furthermore, in walking and biking rates increase by just over 1 percent statewide, an additional $5 billion in cost savings over the next two decades.

In addition to economic benefits, connected active transportation networks can also play a role in improving Ohio’s ranking of 40th in the United States for overall health outcomes and 47th for health behaviors, which include obesity and physical inactivity.

The Ohio DOT active transportation plan is also an “opportunity” to address growing mobility “needs and preferences,” the agency said. In 1983, about 46 percent of 16-year old Americans had a driver’s license, according to the Federal Highway Administration. By 2014, that number had dropped to just over 24 percent. In Ohio, the number of 16- and 17-year old drivers fell from 84,985 in 2016 to 70,678 in 2020.

Additionally, as the share of Ohio’s population over 65 continues to grow, more state residents may rely on or prefer transit and active transportation options, the Ohio DOT noted.

The hope, said the agency, is that its five-year active transportation plan will serve as a “useful tool” for decision-makers at all levels of government in Ohio as they look at ways to make the state more walkable and bike accessible. “The development of Walk.Bike.Ohio has helped us to establish a statewide vision for walking and biking, informed by practitioners and the public,” Caitlin Harley, Ohio DOT’s active transportation manager. “This plan outlines what Ohio DOT will seek to advance over the next five years in order to improve walking and biking as a transportation option in Ohio.”

Minnesota DOT Launches Statewide Pedestrian Safety Campaign

Reducing fatalities among pedestrians and improving safety for all travelers is the focus of a new statewide safety campaign launched by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

[Above photo by the Minnesota DOT]

The theme for this campaign – “Let’s Move Safely Together” – highlights safety tips that remind people to use extra caution when driving and walking. So far this year, the Minnesota DOT said 24 people have died while walking on roads statewide, while 224 people died in vehicle crashes.

The move follows the release of the Minnesota DOT’s first Statewide Pedestrian System Plan in May 2021 – a plan that provides “policy and investment guidance” to improve places where people walk across and along Minnesota highways.

“One life lost on our roadways is too many. When we work as a team and watch out for each other, we can save lives and make progress Toward Zero Deaths,” said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the agency’s commissioner, in a statement.

“That means drivers need to slow down and stop for people crossing the road,” she added. “When you’re walking, look all ways before crossing and stay alert because people driving may not see you.”

The agency is highlighting aspects of this safety campaign via its Pedestrian Safety Education website as well via social media channels and through television, newspaper, digital, and radio ads across the state now through October.

State departments of transportation across the country are ramping up efforts to address pedestrian safety needs.

For example, while a report issued in March by the Governors Highway Safety Association showed pedestrian fatalities trended up in the first half of 2020, the report also noted how several state-directed efforts are successfully improving pedestrian safety.

GHSA’s annual Spotlight on Highway Safety report found that the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate increased 20 percent in the first six months of 2020 as speeding, distracted, and impaired driving – as well as other dangerous driving behaviors – increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, pedestrian fatalities during the first half of 2020 declined in 20 states and Washington D.C. compared with the same period in 2019. Meanwhile, nine states – Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina – witnessed double-digit percentage and numeric declines in pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same six-month period in 2019. GHSA’s report noted that most pedestrians are killed on local roads, in the dark, and away from intersections – suggesting the need for safer road crossings and increased efforts to make pedestrians more visible through improved lighting and other countermeasures.

New Jersey DOT Co-Hosting First-Ever Trails Summit

The New Jersey Department of Transportation and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection are co-hosting the state’s first ever trails summit to demonstrate opportunities to create robust trail networks throughout the state.

[Above photo by the New Jersey DOT]

Kicking off on September 1st, the month-long 2021 New Jersey Trails & Greenways Summit will be a free online event aimed at broadening the conversation around trails and increasing local knowledge about the funding, design, construction, maintenance, and use of multi-use paths, trail crossings and Complete Streets.

The New Jersey DOT added that the summit would also feature a variety of webinars and online social mixers along with Saturday morning mobile workshops hosted by bicycle clubs and nonprofit organizations statewide.

“Trails are an increasingly important piece of the transportation network in New Jersey, providing safe corridors for walking and bicycling,” explained NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti in a statement. “These networks connect neighborhoods and communities while also providing important resources for public health and wellbeing.” “Trails are truly at the intersection of conservation and recreation, providing access to preserved places and scenic landscapes,” added NJDEP’s Acting Commissioner Shawn LaTourette. “This inaugural summit will allow trail planners, builders, and advocates to gather, share resources, and collaborate on a ‘future-focused trails vision’ that incorporates climate resilience and promotes environmental justice.”

Minnesota DOT Unveils First Statewide Pedestrian Safety Plan

The Minnesota Department of Transportation released its first Statewide Pedestrian System Plan on May 26 – a plan that provides policy and investment guidance to improve places where people walk across and along Minnesota highways.

[Photo by Minnesota DOT]

The plan identifies current priority areas for investments while laying out specific strategies to improve walking availability and accessibility statewide for the next 20 years.

“This plan provides an important framework and will help ensure we are meeting the needs and interests of people, today and into the future,” explained Minnesota DOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who serves as chairperson of the AASHTO Committee on the Environment, in a statement.

“Creating safe places for people to walk is essential to improving equity and mobility, addressing climate change, and ultimately providing a better quality of life for everyone,” she said.
Kelliher added that the agency’s Statewide Pedestrian System Plan offers policy direction, identifies investment need, and provides technical guidance to improve the state transportation system for people who walk. It also sets performance measures to track progress towards creating a better pedestrian system and identifies strategies to protect people walking from the effects of climate change.

The Minnesota DOT noted that work on its pedestrian plan begin in February 2019 and included two public engagement efforts that reached 2,700 people statewide. The agency also installed seven pedestrian safety demonstrations projects across Minnesota to highlight certain safety measures in action to the public.

“This plan helps [us] identify opportunities and implement the right strategies on projects to make walking safer and more convenient for all Minnesotans,” noted Tori Nill, director of Office of Transit and Active Transportation within the Minnesota DOT. “While the plan doesn’t tell us exactly what to do in every situation, it does provide the tools we need to make those decisions and make sure pedestrian safety is included on every highway project,” Nill said.

Two cyclists riding bikes on a bike lane.

WSDOT Issues Part One of Statewide Active Transportation Plan

The Washington State Department of Transportation recently made its new “Washington State Active Transportation Plan, 2020 and Beyond: Part 1” available online as part of its efforts to support more transit, bicycle, and pedestrian options.

[Above photo by WSDOT]

The plan assesses the needs for accessible pedestrian and bicyclist facilities, highlights safety concerns and provides the first-ever examination of state right of way and its suitability for active transportation.

WSDOT released a draft of part one of the plan in December 2020 and received more than 630 responses during an eight-week comment period. Those comments helped WSDOT identify policy topics for part two of the plan, scheduled for release later in 2021.

More people than ever are walking and bicycling statewide, according to WSDOT’s multimodal transportation dashboard, both as alternatives to transit use and to maintain physical and mental health during the pandemic. At the same time, “vulnerable road users” such as bicyclists and pedestrians now make up about 21 percent of all traffic deaths – far out of proportion to the fatality rates for other modes of travel, noted WSDOT Secretary Roger Millar.

“Whether you drive, bike, walk, or roll, the state’s highway rights-of-way serve as the backbone of our transportation system,” he said in a statement. “In the engagement for this plan, we heard very clearly that state routes need to connect people, not separate them. With this plan, we have new understanding to help us work with our partners to create complete, safer, and more accessible networks for each and every one of us, regardless of how we get around.”

Part one of the plan addresses those steadily increasing vulnerable road user fatalities and identifies driving speed and roadway crossings as top factors. It also:

  • Examines the effects of past infrastructure decisions on safety and mobility, particularly in places where those decisions affected transportation access and health.
  • Provides a first-ever needs assessment of the state system for active transportation use and estimates the cost of improvements in population centers.
  • Describes the concept of statewide bikeways and trails network.
  • Offers using “level of traffic stress” as a data-based evaluation tool for state right of way and population centers when analyzing the effects of land-use change. Level of stress is a method to objectively measure roadway characteristics that affect people’s ability to use active transportation.  

NCDOT Seeks 2021 Bicycle/Pedestrian Grant Applications

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is now accepting applications from municipalities across the state for its 2021 Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant Initiative, which seeks to support the development of comprehensive bicycle or pedestrian plans. The deadline for applications is June 30.

[Above photo by the NCDOT.]

In terms of specifics, NCDOT said in a statement that while all North Carolina municipalities are eligible to apply for that funding, counties with populations of less than 50,000 could apply for a bicycle or pedestrian plan while smaller municipalities with populations of less than 10,000 can apply to develop combined bicycle and pedestrian plans.   

Additionally, municipalities with populations of​​ ​less than 5,000 may apply for a Project Acceleration Plan – an abbreviated plan primarily focusing on priority project identification and implementation – while municipalities and counties with populations of less than 50,000 with a bicycle or pedestrian plan already in place can apply to update their plan if it is at least five years old. 

NCDOT’s bicycle and pedestrian planning grant program – sponsored by the department’s Integrated Mobility Division and the Transportation Planning Division since 2004 – usually awards a total of $7 million on a yearly basis.

The agency added that it is hosting a short webinar on May 12 to provide further details about its bicycle/pedestrian grant program and answer questions from potential applicants.  

States across the country are broadly working on ways to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

For example, a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association showed that while pedestrian fatalities trended up in the first half of 2020, it noted how several state-directed efforts are successfully improving pedestrian safety.

GHSA’s report noted that most pedestrians are killed on local roads, in the dark, and away from intersections – suggesting the need for safer road crossings and increased efforts to make pedestrians more visible through improved lighting and other countermeasures.

The National Transportation Safety Board reported similar findings during a hearing in November 2019. As a result, that agency called for more “concerted action” from federal and state agencies to improve bicyclist safety – and, by extension, that of pedestrians – via improvements to roadway infrastructure, enhanced bicyclist conspicuity, and the “mitigation of head injuries” to bicyclists through mandatory helmet laws.

States Finding Ways to Reduce Pedestrian Fatalities

While a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association showed pedestrian fatalities trended up in the first half of 2020, the report also noted how several state-directed efforts are successfully improving pedestrian safety.

[Photo by North Carolina DOT.]

GHSA’s annual Spotlight on Highway Safety report found that the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate increased 20 percent in the first six months of 2020 as speeding, distracted, and impaired driving – as well as other dangerous driving behaviors – increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The analysis found that from January through June 2020, motor vehicle crashes killed 2,957 pedestrians – six more than the same period in 2019. Consequently, as vehicle miles traveled or VMT declined 16.5 percent nationwide during the same period in 2020, the rate of drivers striking and killing pedestrians jumped to 2.2 deaths per billion VMT — a significant increase from 1.8 deaths in 2019. 

GHSA’s report also identified significant improvements within its analysis of state-reported data:  

  • Pedestrian fatalities during the first half of 2020 declined in 20 states and Washington D.C. compared with the same period in 2019.  
  • Nine states – Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina – witnessed double-digit percentage and numeric declines in pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same six-month period in 2019. 
  • Based on analysis of 2017-2020 data, Arizona has experienced two consecutive years of declining pedestrian fatalities, while Delaware and Kentucky have experienced three consecutive years of declining pedestrian deaths.  

GHSA’s report noted that most pedestrians are killed on local roads, in the dark, and away from intersections – suggesting the need for safer road crossings and increased efforts to make pedestrians more visible through improved lighting and other countermeasures.  

In addition, during the past 10 years, the number of drivers striking and killing a pedestrian after dark increased by 54 percent, compared to a 16 percent rise in pedestrian fatalities in daylight, GHSA said. 

The group’s report further noted that alcohol impairment by the driver and/or pedestrian occurred in nearly half of traffic crashes that resulted in a pedestrian fatality. 

[Editor’s note: In a recent ‘On Time with Tymon’ video series, Jim Tymon – executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – discussed why motor vehicle crashes increased during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the overall reduction in VMT.] 

The report highlighted proven strategies employed at the state and local level to reduce pedestrian fatalities – including engineering and road design, high visibility and automated enforcement, pedestrian safety assessments and road safety audits, and education directed to children and crash bystanders. Some examples include: 

  • North Carolina’s “Watch for Me NC” program and New Jersey’s “Street Smart,” aim to reduce pedestrian and bicycle injuries and deaths through a comprehensive, targeted approach of public education, community engagement, and high visibility law enforcement. Evaluations of both programs indicate they have been effective in changing motorist and pedestrian behavior.
  • The Georgia Office of Highway Safety is awarding grants to implement education programs in cities with significant increases in pedestrian fatalities and where walking is the primary mode of transportation – one of a number of educational strategies identified in the state’s five-year multidisciplinary Pedestrian Safety Action Plan designed to work in consort with engineering, enforcement, and emergency strategies.  
  • The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning’s statewide campaign, “Everybody’s Road, Everybody’s Rules,” involves 12 law enforcement agencies in 12 cities to educate and engage with motorists and pedestrians. They focused on motorists making illegal turns, failing to stop at a signal or crosswalk, and not yielding to pedestrians, and spoke with pedestrians about using sidewalks where provided or walking against traffic on a roadway without a sidewalk. 
  • Delaware Highway Safety Office programs such as summer beach pedestrian high visibility enforcement and education mobilization; updated pedestrian information via its “Arrive Alive DE” website; conducting pedestrian safety outreach via Delaware Rapid Transit bus “street teams” along high crash routes, and developing “visibility messaging” to address nighttime pedestrian fatalities.

Lime Planning $50M E-Bike Investment, Network Expansion

International bicycle sharing service Lime Bike is planning to invest $50 million in new electric-powered bicycles or “e-bikes” as well as an expansion of its network in the United States to 25 additional cities in 2021.

[Above photo by Lime Bike.]

“As we build out the Lime platform to serve any trip under five miles, e-bikes are a key piece of the puzzle, providing a perfect option for medium-length trips,” explained Wayne Ting, CEO of Lime, in a company blog post.

“That’s why we’re making substantial investments to upgrade our world-class e-bike and bring it to more cities across the globe, giving riders a new and exciting way to leave the car behind,” he said. “Shared micro-mobility is playing an essential role in getting cities moving again safely so we see this as a critical moment to double down on e-bikes as an open-air, socially distanced transportation option.”

Lime noted that this investment comes after it achieved its first full quarter of profitability in 2020 and as e-bike use “surges around the world.” The firm said people took more than three million rides on Lime e-bikes in 2021 and it expects that number “to grow significantly in 2021 as people are vaccinated and return to work, school, social activities and more.”

Lime added that a survey conducted in June 2020 found that many city residents are “changing their transportation preferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many more likely to use micro-mobility options as a result of the viral outbreak. 

Lime’s investment coincides with efforts on the part of state departments of transportation across America to improve bicycle infrastructure as part of “active transportation” strategies.

For example, on February 23, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and Adventure Cycling signed a memorandum of understanding or MOU to formalize a 16-year partnership that seeks to establish more than 50,000 miles of bike routes across the country. Currently, signage for nearly 15,000 miles of bicycle routes in 31 states and the District of Columbia is established.

“This MOU highlights AASHTO’s long-standing commitment to advancing a multimodal vision for America,” noted Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director, in a statement. “Each new bike route gives people more travel options to connect with neighboring communities, recreational facilities, and tourism.” Scott Pankratz, Adventure Cycling’s executive director, added that signing this MOU comes at a time when “it is more important than ever since we’ve seen a surge in bicycle sales and cycling due to the [COVID-19] pandemic. It is exciting to see the momentum building to build bicycle corridors connecting both rural and urban America as this [national bicycle route] network prepares to tip over the 15,000-mile mark.”

Florida DOT Highlights March as Bicycle Month

The Florida Department of Transportation is kicking off its celebration of Florida Bicycle Month this March by highlight its online resources for bicycle safety and its ongoing commitment to spend $100 million on street intersection lighting for people biking and walking to improve safety.

[Photo courtesy of the Florida Department of Transportation.]

That’s because, statewide, the agency said over half of traffic crashes resulting in serious or fatal injuries to pedestrians and/or bicyclists occur during dark or dusk hours.

Begun in 2016, the Florida DOT’s five-year, $100 million effort is retrofitting existing and proposed lighting fixtures to light emitting diode or LED fixtures to boost illumination levels at signalized intersections in corridors with a high frequency of nighttime crashes resulting in serious injuries and fatalities to pedestrians and bicyclists.

The agency said that lighting upgrade effort is now also part of its Complete Streets program, adopted in 2018.

“Whether you bike to work or school, or for recreation, everyone has a right to arrive at their destination safely,” explained Kevin Thibault, Florida DOT secretary, in a statement – noting that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) recently signed a proclamation recognizing March as Florida Bicycle Month. “While taking advantage of Florida’s unique scenery and landscape, the department encourages all bicyclists to always be aware of their surroundings, follow the rules of the road, and never ride distracted,” Thibault said.