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.

Connecticut DOT Report Outlines Key States Pedestrian Safety Strategies

The Connecticut Department of Transportation recently issued a 24-page report outlining key tactics and programs to increase pedestrian safety statewide as both national trends and state data points highlight the need to address pedestrian fatalities and injuries.

[Above photo of Bridgeport, CT, intersection by Doug Kerr.]

Nationally, pedestrian fatalities are increasing more than any other type of traffic fatality, according to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Meanwhile, in Connecticut over the past five years, the state averaged about 58 pedestrian fatalities annually – with preliminary 2020 crash data indicating 65 pedestrian fatalities occurred on state roadways.

“Far too many families have been impacted by a crash that resulted in a pedestrian fatality or serious injury,” said noted Joseph Giulietti, Connecticut DOT commissioner, in a statement. “[We] remain committed to working with our municipal partners to tackle the challenge of pedestrian safety, which will make our roadways safer for all that use them.”

Referencing NHTSA data, the Connect DOT said there has been a 53 percent increase in pedestrian deaths nationally between 2009 and 2018. The agency said there are several “significant factors” behind that spike in overall U.S. pedestrian fatalities including:

  • An increasing number of people are choosing to walk and be active outside, increasing the number of pedestrians on the streets.
  • An increased percentage of vehicles on the road are comprised of larger Sport Utility Vehicles and pick-up trucks, which can inflict more serious injuries to pedestrians.
  • An increased use of smartphones, increasing the potential for distractions.
  • Increased incidences of impaired driving and walking.

To counteract those trends, the Connecticut DOT’s report recommends what it calls a “four-pronged approach” to help reduce pedestrian risk and thereby increase safety:

  • Reduce and better manage traffic speeds in areas with significant pedestrian activity.
  • Implement safer roadway designs for crosswalks, intersections, and streets.
  • Increase public awareness campaigns to promote safer, less risky pedestrian behaviors.

Align policies and programs that strengthen the state’s roadway safety program for motorists and non-motorists alike.

MassDOT Issues Shared Winter Streets & Spaces Funding

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is providing more than $3.2 million to support 21 municipal transportation projects – including new bike-share facilities, new sidewalks, and outdoor dining areas. That money comes from the third round of Baker-Polito Administration’s Shared Winter Streets and Spaces program.

[Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.]

MassDOT noted in a statement that this program – launched in June 2020 – provides technical and funding assistance to help Massachusetts cities and towns conceive, design, and implement tactical changes to curbs, streets, and parking areas in support of public health, safe mobility, and renewed commerce, with a special focus on the particular challenges of winter.

The agency added that more than $10.2 million in state funding has been allocated for this program so far. MassDOT said its Shared Winter Streets and Spaces program provides grants as small as $5,000 and as large as $500,000 for municipalities to quickly launch changes for safer walking, biking, public transit, recreation, commerce, and civic activities. These improvements can be intentionally temporary or can be pilots of potentially permanent changes, with MassDOT particularly focused on projects that respond to the current public health crisis and provide safe mobility for children and senior citizens as well as public transportation, open spaces, and parks projects. Communities identified as at high risk for COVID-19 transmission are also given preference for winter street funding as well, the agency said.

E-BIKE Act Would Offer Tax Credit for Electric Bicycles

Congressional legislation introduced on February 9 by Reps. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would create a consumer tax credit to spur sales of electric bicycles for commuting and recreational purposes.

[Photo courtesy Jason Vogel, via Wikimedia Commons.]

The Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment or E-BIKE Act would create a consumer tax credit that covers 30 percent of the cost of a new electric bicycle costing less than $8,000, up to a $1,500 credit.

“My legislation will make it easier for more people from all socio-economic levels to own e-bikes and contribute to cutting our carbon output,” explained Rep Panetta in a statement. “By incentivizing the use of electric bicycles to replace car trips through a consumer tax credit, we can not only encourage more Americans to transition to greener modes of transportation but also help fight the climate crisis.”

“Communities large and small are driving a bike boom [and] notably, electric bicycles are expanding the range of people who can participate and making bike commuting even easier,” noted Rep. Blumenauer, who is also the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bike Caucus. “I look forward to working with Congressman Panetta on this important expansion of cycling opportunities.”

“The League knows life is better for everyone when more people ride bikes, and we know e-bikes make biking a more accessible and easier option for more Americans,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. “We’re encouraged by congressional leadership on the E-BIKE Act, a bill that if passed will enable Americans to fight climate change and improve public health through the simple act of bicycling.”

Separately, the League of American Bicyclists recently named Tampa, FL, the number one city in the country for bicycle-friendly businesses or BFBs – a program that requires businesses to support and promote cycling to their customers, employees, and the community by providing bike parking, safety education, and promotions for retail customers who arrive by bike.

Tampa currently has 66 certified BFBs such as Tampa International Airport and Tampa General Hospital, adding nine new businesses in 2021 with six others renewing and improving their level of certification. “It’s exciting to see more and more cities such as Tampa embracing and encouraging safe, efficient multimodal transportation options,” noted Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault in a statement. “[We] appreciate this recognition from the Bicycle Friendly Business program as well as their efforts to recognize businesses going the extra mile for their employees and communities.”