Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities: Policy
Bicycle and pedestrian facilities are vital components in a community's transportation infrastructure. Not only do they reduce traffic congestion and pollution by providing alternate means of vehicular travel, they also provide recreational opportunities which encourage healthy lifestyles and thus enhance the quality of life within a community.
"Bicycle facilities" can be located both within and outside of roadway right-of-ways. Within roadway rights-of-way, they are either bicycle lanes or cycle tracks that provide dedicated space for bicyclists, or they are 'share the road' routes that typically include improved shoulders, signage, and sometimes pavement markings. Outside the roadway, bicycle facilities are commonly referred to as "trails" and are often part of "Shared Use" or "Multi-Use" facilities where cyclists share the facility with pedestrians and other non-motorized modes of travel such as equestrians, cross country skiers, rollerbladers, baby strollers, and those utilizing wheelchairs. Multi-Use facilities are mostly found within community parks or regional trails such as Chester County's Chester Valley and Struble Trails. "Pedestrian facilities" refers to walkways, sidewalks, paths, and trails that are to be exclusively used by pedestrians.
In coordination with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities: Design tool that describes the physical attributes and design-related factors to be considered when constructing such facilities, this 'Policy' tool will help communities define bicycle and pedestrian facilities in ordinances, identify where they may be located through the creation of a bicycle/pedestrian network plan, and suggest various planning tools that may be used for prioritization and implementation.
Bicycle and pedestrian facilities can provide the following benefits:
- Energy Conservation: Less fuel is used as a result of decreased motorized vehicle use.
- Decreased Pollution: Pollution is reduced as a result of increased non-motorized commuting.
- Decreased Congestion: Congestion on local and collector roads is reduced when increased non-motorized travel increases.
- Health benefits: Biking is healthy for those taking advantage of the facilities.
- Economic Advantages: Economic advantages will result from the fuel that is saved when bikes are used instead; and,
- The Circulation Network is Integrated: An increase in bikeability and walkability can help improve the multi-modal transportation network.
The following limitations may be associated with bicycle and pedestrian facilities:
- Lack of Infrastructure: There is a lack of sidewalks or shoulders to facilitate bicycle and pedestrian traffic on a significant number of rural and suburban roads in Chester County.
- Lack of Storage Facilities: There is a shortage of safe and secure bicycle storage facilities at many commercial and institutional facilities and shower/changing facilities for employees who wish to commute to work via bicycle.
- Safety Conflicts: Potential conflicts or safety issues can arise among pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, especially in congested areas or on roads with little or no separation between uses.
- Inadequate Ordinance Support: The lack of pedestrian facility standards within ordinances to assist in walkway and trail development and implementation can limit the use of these facilities.
- Funding: Securing funding for bicycle and pedestrian facilities and related projects can be difficult; and,
- Education and Enforcement Issues: The lack of education, enforcement, and encouragement of bicycle/pedestrian facilities can hinder their use.
How to Use This Tool
Bicycle and pedestrian transportation planning is more than creating segregated paths or lanes; it is an effort that should consider many alternatives to provide for safe and efficient non-motorized travel. Separate paths and lanes can augment the existing system in scenic corridors or places where access is limited, but existing corridors that often need only relatively inexpensive improvements must serve as the basic system to provide for the travel needs of pedestrians and cyclists. These types of improvements and facilities are discussed in this section.
The following is a brief outline of the facility types described in further detail within the Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities: Design eTool.
- Bicycle Facilities: These facilities are limited to bicycle use only.
- Shared Roadway (with limited, inconsistent, or no shoulder)
- Shared Roadway with Paved Shoulder
- Bike Lane
- Supplemental Striping and Signage Treatments: In addition to the shared roadway and bike lane facilities, supplemental signage, roadway treatments (striping, coloration, or texture) can be added to these facilities when warranted.
- Share the Road
- Sharrow (i.e., a pavement marking that increases driver awareness of shared roadway arrangements)
- Signed Bicycle Route
- Bicycle Boulevard
- Cycle Track
- Shared-Use Facilities: These facilities accommodate users of different modes on the same facility.
- Shared Use/Multi-Use Trail
- Mid-Block Crossing
- Pedestrian Facilities: These facilities are limited to pedestrian-use only.
- Internal Walkway
- Social Path/Trail
- Use-Restricted Path
Establish the Need for Facilities
Differences in the abilities and purposes of pedestrians and cyclists must be understood before planning for transportation improvements. Whether the individual is walking or cycling, his or her purpose can generally be divided into utilitarian or recreational categories. The utilitarian pedestrian or cyclist has a specific goal of reaching a destination in the shortest amount of time with as few interruptions as possible. The recreational pedestrian or cyclist either enjoys the view at a relaxed pace or with a faster-paced, aerobic workout with an occasional rest stop. New pedestrian and bicycle facilities, therefore, should be designed to accommodate the needs of the anticipated mix of users.
Develop a Community Bicycle and Pedestrian Network Plan
Establishing a vision of how walking and bicycling fits into the overall transportation system of a municipality or region is important in developing a safe, efficient, and enjoyable walking and cycling network. The network should be composed of pedestrian and bicycle routes including motor vehicle roads with little traffic such as residential and access streets. Trips connected with school, shopping, work, errands, outdoor recreation, and leisure should be possible by foot or by bicycle throughout the network.
The following steps describe the planning process that a municipality should follow to develop and establish a pedestrian and bicycle network as part of the transportation component of its comprehensive plan:
- Inventory the System: The existing roadway system, in addition to any existing pedestrian or bicycle facilities, should be evaluated according to the condition, location, and levels of use to determine if they warrant incorporation into the network. The inventory should identify improvements necessary to update the entire proposed network and include factors such as peak-hour traffic counts, the number of traffic lanes, bus routes, outside lane width, average operating speed, pavement conditions, accident data, right-of-way widths, major barriers, parking, frequency of traffic signals, and geometric features such as the frequency of driveways, railroad crossings, and significant grade changes. The results of this inventory will help establish which existing or new roads will be sufficient to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle facilities and to identify hazardous roadway conditions such as poor surface conditions, dangerous intersections, railroad crossings, utility covers, unimproved intersecting streets, drainage grates, bridge-related hazards, construction sites, or unresponsive traffic signals.
- Identify Pedestrian and Bicycle Travel Corridors: The actual travel patterns of pedestrians and bicyclists are directly influenced by their perception of the surrounding environment. An uncomfortable or threatening condition such as a dangerous intersection will cause walking pedestrians alter their route, choose a different travel mode, or not make the trip at all if they have a choice. Bicyclists can have similar responses to poor road surfaces or other dangerous conditions. The transportation planner must then establish where the pedestrians and bicyclists are traveling now and where they would travel if they were given the choice or opportunity. Peak trips to various locations, and the identity and frequency of visits to those locations, must be investigated to establish existing pedestrian or bicycle traffic movement.
- Evaluate and Select Specific Routes: The next step is to select specific routes within the corridors (as established in Step 2) that can be designed or adapted to accommodate all pedestrian and bicycle traffic and provide access to and from the locations (also established in Step 2). In addition, it should be determined which routes may or may not be appropriate for use as a bicycle route, a pedestrian route, or a combination. This step should involve the input of community residents to identify and select primary and alternate routes. The reality of adapting a particular route to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians may vary widely depending upon the type of facility design treatment selected in Step 5. For example, a less direct route may become the primary option if comparatively few, inexpensive, and easily implemented improvements are required. The selection of a primary or alternative route is a function of several factors, including, but not limited to:
- Whether the specific route meets the needs and expectations of the anticipated users;
- Whether the route alternative meets the criteria discussed in Step 1;
- The possible cost and extent of necessary improvements; and,
- The opportunity to implement improvements in conjunction with planned road improvements.
Vertical height needed to accommodate cyclists is about 8 feet. All design features which a cyclist will pass under should be set above this height, including signage, underpasses, etc. The width of bicycle tires (0.75-2.50 inches) and their minimum contact width (0.5 inch) should be considered as leaves, sand, grit, or other road debris can compromise traction and increase braking distance. The average cyclist, under most circumstances (flat terrain, windless) can maintain a cruising speed of more than 12 mph, while trained cyclists can maintain speeds in excess of 18 mph. Average speed can affect size and frequency of necessary signage, grade and surface treatment of hazardous trail condition, such as railroad crossings, sharp turns and storm grates, and the width and number of lanes necessary to safely accommodate projected traffic and allow passing of slower uses such as walkers and joggers by faster uses.
Bicyclists are sometimes difficult to see in traffic, especially in the dark or in the rain. Planners should take this into consideration when planning and designing lighting, striping, and other safety and boundary issues. Also, an effort should be made by engineers and designers to provide better visibility for motorists and to take typical bicycle and rider dimensions into account.
The factors listed above must be carefully studied and taken into consideration when choosing the appropriate facility options. This creates a very large selection of facility options that vary greatly according to local, state, and federal regulations and roadway and climatic conditions in certain communities and regions. Several agencies and institutions have published manuals that discuss the process and designate specific design requirements and details for pedestrian and bicycle facilities. The names of such manuals from this region and around the country are included in the references portion of this eTool.
Issues to Consider
Safe and Convenient Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities
Safe, convenient, and adequate facilities are essential to encourage walking or bicycle riding. The selection of a walking or cycling facility depends on several factors, including existing vehicular and pedestrian traffic characteristics, adjacent land use, and expected growth patterns. Because most roads in Chester County were not designed to accommodate non-motorized traffic, the majority of walking and cycling will take place on ordinary roads with no dedicated space for pedestrians.
In addition to the need for safe walking and cycling facilities, the cycling community requires safe and secure bike storage facilities and, in some cases, an area in which to clean up after a commute. The cost of cycling and safety equipment, especially high-end equipment often used by commuters, can easily equal or surpass the cost of a used automobile. Therefore, even though appropriate bicycle commuting routes may be available, a cyclist may choose not to commute by bicycle if they do not have a secure place to leave their bike while visiting a location such as work, school, shopping, etc.
There is an array of available bicycle storage facilities, ranging from expensive high-security bicycle lockers to light and medium security bicycle racks. Where cyclists are leaving their bicycles unattended for long periods of time (such as at a train station or shopping mall), enclosed lockers are preferred.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety (handling and following the rules of the road)
Bicyclists have a wide range of abilities. Some are advanced; these bicyclists ride frequently, are in relatively good physical condition, and may have special training (this is typical of the potential bicycle commuter). Other inexperienced cyclists may not ride their bicycles often enough to feel comfortable in traffic, or perhaps do not have strong physical capabilities. The most vulnerable group are child cyclists who do not always understand traffic rules, are unable to gauge the speed of moving vehicles, and are often not as coordinated as adults.
Municipal officials and pedestrian and bicycle facility designers need to understand the range of abilities among cyclists in order to better choose facility types and designs. It may be necessary for a municipality to supply potential facility users with educational opportunities to provide them with necessary traffic safety and bicycle handling knowledge and skills.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Facility Use Encouragement
Encouragement of the use of walking and cycling should giude the design of all pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Facility design should provide a safe, efficient, and pleasant experience that is inviting to pedestrians because increasing the use of such facilities is closely linked to a resident's perception of the experience.
A recent study for the Federal Highway Administration's National Bicycling and Walking Study reveals that the presence of on-road bicycle facilities is a major factor in a person's choice to commute by walking or bicycling. The FHWA publication entitled Selecting Roadway Design Treatments to Accommodate Bicycles further describes the importance of designating bicycle facilities, particularly to encourage the 95 percent of cyclists who fall into the basic and child cyclist category: "Signs and pavement markings for bicycles will encourage increased use. In addition to the obvious traffic operations benefits, signs and pavement markings have the effect of advertising bicycle use."
The following are means by which municipalities can make provisions for bicycle and pedestrian improvements within their ordinances. These planning tools can provide the framework for establishing and implementing bicycle and pedestrian facilities recommended by a network plan. Even if these facility types are not delineated by a network plan, the inclusion of one or more of these tools within an ordinance will ensure that bicycle and pedestrian facilities are considered as the municipality grows.
Municipalities should amend their zoning and subdivision and land development ordinances to include definitions for bicycle and pedestrian facilities and clarify these terms across municipal borders. It may be necessary to address inconsistencies with definitions for terms such as "walkway" and "accessway," which are included in some municipal ordinances but are not defined. It may also be necessary to delete conflicting definitions and replace wording as appropriate throughout all municipal ordinances. The following definitions may be used as a starting point for inclusion in zoning and/or subdivision and land development ordinances:
- Bike Lane: Designated travel lanes within the cartway or along the road shoulder for exclusive use by bicyclists. Bike lanes typically involve a combination of supplemental indicators including but not limited to Share the Road Signs, Sharrows, and other pavement markings.
- Bicycle Boulevard: A street corridor treatment that prioritizes and enhances bicycle travel with traffic calming measures, signs, pavement markings, and crossing improvements.
- Bus Shelter: A pedestrian amenity located at a bus stop to provide convenience, comfort, and shelter from the elements in the form of a structure such as a canopy.
- Crosswalk: A public right-of-way used for pedestrian travel across a roadway at an intersection or any portion of a block to provide safe pedestrian access to adjacent roads, lots, or public use areas.
- Internal Walkway: A designated single use facility with an improved surface, primarily for use by pedestrians, typically located outside of the road right-of-way and/or not directly adjacent to a street. A walkway is generally used for pedestrian transportation between buildings and parking areas or sidewalks, within parking lots, between buildings on a parcel or within a development, or between adjacent uses, developments, or facilities.
- Official Map and Ordinance: An independent map and ordinance enabled by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code that may identify public facilities including but limited to parks, trails, areas of open space, recreation, utilities, and other similar facilities. The Official Map gives the municipality the first right of refusal to purchase land necessary to facilitate the identified public improvement(s) and may delay a development for up to one year.
- Share the Road Sign: Supplemental signage added to a shared roadway to warn motorists of the increased likelihood of bicyclists.
- Shared Roadway (limited or no shoulder): A street which accommodates bicyclists and motorists in the same travel lane. Typically the travel lanes are wider than what would be designed for automobile traffic only for the associated functional classification of the road and its context. Shared roadways may be a Signed Bike Route or include other indicators such as Share the Road Signs, Sharrows, or other pavement markers.
- Shared Roadway (paved shoulder): A street with a paved shoulder or wide curb lane that accommodates bicyclists adjacent to the vehicle travel lanes. A four foot shoulder is preferable, in conjunction with applicable municipal and PennDOT guidelines. Shared Roadways with paved shoulders may be a Signed Bike Route or include other indicators such as Share the Road Signs, Sharrows, or other pavement markers.
- Shared-Use/Multi-Use Trails: A facility that is physically separated from the roadway and typically accommodates bi-directional travel by both bicyclists and pedestrians. The trail can be located within a publicly owned right-of-way, an exclusive right-of-way, or an easement. Shared use trails typically have an improved surface (e.g., asphalt, concrete, compacted gravel, etc.) and have a recommended width (per AASHTO) of 10 feet, although a minimum width of 8 feet may be used where space is constrained or in environmentally-sensitive areas.
- Sharrow: A pavement marking that increases driver awareness of shared roadway arrangements. Typically, the use of Sharrows has been approved by PennDOT; however, the approval of Sharrows is presently evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
- Sidewalk: A pedestrian-only route, typically constructed of concrete and parallel to a street that provides a means for pedestrians to travel within the public right-of-way while physically-separated from vehicular traffic.
- Traffic Impact Study: An analysis of the effect of traffic generated by a development on the capacity, operations, and safety of the public street and highway system. The Traffic Impact Study is used to determine the improvements that are necessary to ensure that the transportation network can accommodate the new development.
- Use-Restricted/Single Use Trails: Trails that are primarily used for one form of travel or by one type of user such as cyclists or pedestrians. These trails are typically paved or have an improved surface.
Official Map and Ordinance
All municipalities should adopt or amend their official map and ordinance to identify a bicycle/pedestrian network and prioritize the areas that are most in need of connection, as may be identified in a bicycle and/or pedestrian network plan. The Official Map is typically used as a negotiating tool to inform developers of intended future facilities that the municipality intends to implement when development occurs.
Traffic Impact Study
Municipalities should consider adopting a Traffic Impact Study (TIS). Potentially, a TIS could be required for all developments with different scales of TIS depending on the size or impact of the development. Each municipality will need to evaluate the criteria for when a TIS may be required.
A TIS may be required through either the zoning or subdivision and land development ordinance based on a minimum number of units, a pre-determined density, or a particular use or uses or developments that may have a significant traffic generation or impact. Municipalities should also ensure that Traffic Impact Studies include an evaluation of bicycle/pedestrian/transit needs and appropriate requirements.
It is common for municipal officials to place conditions on the approval of subdivision and land development applications. Through negotiation, a municipality can request the installation of bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The Official Map, ordinance requirements, and other planning elements such as a Comprehensive Plan and/or other adopted plans such as a Bike/Ped Mobility Plan or Greenways Plan will identify the need for these facilities so that developers are aware that the municipality will require or would like to implement these facilities when land development applications are made.
There are a number of ways to incorporate bicycle parking into ordinances. Ordinances can require a certain amount of parking spaces be dedicated to bicycle parking though the installation of bike racks. Ordinance standards can also require or encourage the installation of bike racks near the entrance to a business or use on a public sidewalk where appropriate accommodations can be made. This can be accomplished through off-street parking requirements, streetscape requirements, or incentives.
- Central Chester County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan
- Caln Township: Mobility & Connectivity Study
- New Garden township greenway plan
- Chester County Existing Trails
- Regional Multi-Use Trails (Chester Valley Trail, Schuylkill River Trail, Struble Trail)
- Trails within parks
- Trails within subdivisions
- PennDOT Design Manual 2
- PennDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Checklist- Design Process
- PennDOT- Smart Transportation Guidebook
- American Association of State Highway and transportation Officials (AASHTO)- Bicycle Facilities
- American Association of State Highway and transportation Officials (AASHTO)- Pedestrian Facilities
- U.S. DOT- Federal Highway Administration (FHWA): Bicycle and Pedestrian Design Guidance
- National Association of City Transportation Officials- Urban Bikeway Design Guide
- Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center
- Chester County Trail and Path Planning Guide
- PennDOT ADA Information Page
- 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design
- Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way: Shared Use Paths