The Importance of Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety

By: Tony Montanaro, PE

The Greater Birmingham Regional Planning Commission hosted the Federal Highway Administration’s Designing Streets for Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Workshop on February 20th and 21st. I had the opportunity to attend as a representative of Sain Associates, along with other consultants and individuals from local municipalities and organizations.

The two-day workshop was centered on bicycle and pedestrian-focused designs and how to safely accommodate alternate forms of transportation within our roadway planning and design. In 2010 then-Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said, “This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized… We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.” A full decade later we still have a long way to go in the Birmingham region to provide an integrated network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

On the first day of the training, we studied pedestrian safety. Did you know that the number one factor leading to greater safety for pedestrians and reduced crash severity is vehicle speed? Roadway speed can be reduced using various methods and means, but pedestrian safety needs to be all-encompassing. Pedestrian-prioritized traffic signals can help the cause with pedestrian leading intervals, as well as pedestrian-focused site design of local businesses with vehicle access to the rear of the building.

The second day of training highlighted bicycle safety, and the instructor explained that it is not one size fits all. The “Lance Armstrongs” of the world who ride alongside traffic need entirely different accommodations than the family with training wheels heading to the park. Thus, a 4-foot bike lane next to 35mph traffic may not be the best accommodation in the vicinity of a park.

The Regional Planning Commission also presented on a couple of local programs. Principal Planner Mike Kaczorowski gave an overview of the APPLE program and explained how it has been applied in two local projects:  10th Street and 13th Avenue Intersection Improvements and the 18th Street Road Diet. Community Planner Hunter Garrison presented on the Birmingham B-Active Plan. It was great to hear how the Birmingham area is prioritizing alternative modes of transportation. We’ve got a long way to go to achieve Secretary LaHood’s vision but we are making progress.

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