What’s Your Role?
What’s Your Role?
As a transportation professional, you can promote active living by helping to improve pedestrian, cycling, and transit spaces in your community. You can work with partners to plan and design streets, sidewalks, paths, and transportation facilities to make them safe and accessible for people of all ages and abilities.
Most Americans use streets, sidewalks, or transit networks to move around for daily needs. However, many people don’t use active transportation options like walking, bicycling, or taking transit because they think it is unsafe, unavailable, or unreliable.
Transportation professionals—like engineers, planners, public policy analysts, and researchers—can help address these concerns by designing, building, and maintaining safe and convenient places where people can walk, cycle, wheelchair roll, and use public transit.
Better infrastructure means that people have more ways to get regular physical activity. For example, people who use public transit can walk or bike to and from bus stops or transit stations. And more physical activity means better health and quality of life for residents, as well as economic and environmental benefits for communities.
You can use the following strategies to encourage physical activity in your community:
Design, build, and maintain transportation infrastructure that responds to community needs and makes it safe, easy, and appealing to use active transportation to get to everyday destinations.
- Make it easy for people to use active transportation by providing:
- Crosswalks and traffic-calming elements like curb extensions, median islands, and mini-circles.
- Street amenities like benches, water fountains, public toilets, and lighting.
- Landscaping that creates appealing green spaces, like trees planted in public right-of ways.
- Make it easy for people to walk or wheelchair roll by providing trails and wide sidewalks that are buffered from traffic.
- Make it easy for people to bike by providing buffered and protected bicycle lanes, separated bike paths, and networks of low-speed, low-volume bicycle-safe streets (sometimes called “bike boulevards”).
- Build and expand public transit systems that are safe, efficient, accessible, and easy to use.
- Support transit-oriented development that is equitable, community-driven, and supported by policies that preserve affordability and do not displace long-term residents.
- Use short-term demonstration projects to give residents a chance to try out new pedestrian and bike facilities and traffic-calming elements. These projects can use low-cost materials like paint, signs, and planters. Collect data to inform permanent construction.
- Make streets safer by considering the social, economic, aesthetic, and safety needs of residents and collecting their input. This approach contrasts with the traditional practice of prioritizing automobiles.
- Add low-cost pedestrian, bicycle, and transit improvements to routine construction and maintenance projects when possible. These projects can include painting, repair, and resurfacing of roadways and utility work.
- Offer incentives to private companies to include pedestrian, bicycle, and transit upgrades in their development, construction, and improvement projects.
- Keep existing streets, sidewalks, bicycle facilities, and trails free from hazards, such as holes, uneven surfaces, parked cars, overgrown vegetation, snow, and ice.
Promote safe, convenient, and equitable access to active transportation for people of all ages, races, backgrounds, income levels, and abilities.
- Use health equity impact assessmentsexternal icon that bring together people of all backgrounds to evaluate transportation systems, policies, practices, and programs to ensure that they serve all people.
- Adopt policies, such as Complete Streets, that require the routine design and operation of streets that are safe for all users regardless of age, race, ability, or mode of transport.
- Adopt design guidelines and standards that reflect best practices in equitable pedestrian, bicycle, and transit-oriented design. See Resources section for guidance documents.
- Include factors related to equity, transit options, and active transportation in the selection criteria for transportation projects. These factors may include the age, income, race, disabilities, health status, and rate of car ownership of the population that will be served, as well as the percentage of people who walk, bike, or use public transit.
- Use performance measures that prioritize equity in access, safety, and efficiency when assessing roadway and transportation systems. See Resources section for guidance documents.
- Make sure that programs designed to improve or expand transportation options have the support of the community and include specific ways to measure success.
These transportation professionals are using effective strategies to increase physical activity, transportation efficiency, and make equity a key part of their decision-making process.
Bicycle Planning in Pennsylvaniaexternal icon
Officials in Montgomery County outlined their vision for improving the county’s bicycle infrastructure in a plan called Bike Montco. The plan describes key goals and objectives for a more complete, equitable bicycle network that uses existing state, county, and local streets and trails. Officials also integrated this plan into the county’s comprehensive plan to help guide future land use and overall growth and development.
Reimagining a Bus System in Texasexternal icon
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County recognized the need to update the bus system that serves Houston and the county. No major changes had been made in three decades. Extensive public outreach gave residents input into a comprehensive plan to remake the system and led to broad support. The updated system provides greater access to frequent transit service, connecting one million people to workplaces and other destinations.
Pop-up Demonstration Projects in Illinoisexternal icon
The Chicago-based Active Transportation Alliance made temporary pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements around greater Chicago to show residents how they could work. These pop-up projects used low-cost, high-visibility designs and materials to create or enhance crosswalks, curb extensions, median islands, and mini-circles.
Gateway 1 Corridor Action Plan in Maine
Representatives from 20 towns in Maine came together to preserve the scenic and rural character along Route 1. This coastal highway goes through each town and is important to each town’s economy. The partners developed a plan to reduce traffic congestion, provide public transportation options, reduce rural habitat loss, link residents to workplaces, and increase local jobs.
Active Transportation Projects in Tennessee pdf icon[PDF-936KB]external icon
The Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization revised its scoring and selection process to focus on active transportation projects designed to improve the health of residents. Officials added elements related to health, safety, and social equity, which helped them prioritize residents and parts of the city that had been overlooked in the past.
- Creating Walkable & Bikeable Communities pdf icon[PDF-62.5MB]external icon
This document can help community leaders and elected officials in rural, suburban, and smaller urban cities learn about the range of options for bicycling and pedestrian facilities in their communities. It provides tools, techniques, and samples to help strengthen the link between land use planning, street design, and active transportation and to increase options for cycling and walking.
- Guidebook for Developing Pedestrian and Bicycle Performance Measures pdf icon[PDF-8.55MB]external icon
This guidebook is designed to help communities develop walking and biking performance measures that can fully integrate pedestrian and bicycle planning in ongoing performance management activities that support community goals related to equity, health, and safety.
- Incorporating On-Road Bicycle Networks into Resurfacing Projects pdf icon[PDF-54.7MB]external icon
Roadway agencies can use this workbook to add bicycle facilities as part of road resurfacing projects. It includes cost considerations and case studies of successful projects.
- National Physical Activity Plan: Transportation, Land Use, and Community Design pdf icon[PDF-9.39MB]external icon
The National Physical Activity Plan provides policy and programmatic recommendations to increase physical activity. It includes strategies and tactics that communities, organizations, and individuals in the transportation, land use, and community design sectors can use to support physically active lifestyles.
- Pop-Up Placemaking Tool Kitexternal icon
This publication provides an introduction to pop-up placemaking and demonstration projects, including planning steps; recommended materials; beginner, intermediate, and advanced design “recipes;” and approaches to bike lanes and parklets.
- Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guideexternal icon
This guide outlines planning considerations for separated bike lanes (also called cycle tracks or protected bike lanes) and provides a menu of design options.
- Small Town and Rural Multimodal Networks Guideexternal icon
Transportation professionals in small towns and rural communities can use this guide to apply national design guidelines in a rural setting. It includes case studies and focuses on how rural communities can make gradual improvements and contribute to innovation despite geographic and fiscal challenges.
- Urban Streets, Bikeway, and Transit Street Design Guidesexternal icon
These guides share methods that cities can use to create Complete Streets that are safe and enjoyable for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users. They are based on the practical experience of the most multi-modal cities in the world. Each method includes required, recommended, and optional elements and practical examples.
- Vision Zero: A Health Equity Road Map for Getting to Zero in Every Communityexternal icon
This brief recommends ways for communities to advance health equity through Vision Zero, a growing movement among cities nationally and internationally to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and severe injuries within a designated time period.