The National Academies

NCHRP 08-149 [Anticipated]

Impacts of Active Transportation Network Gaps

  Project Data
Funds: $450,000
Staff Responsibility: Ann M. Hartell
Fiscal Year: 2021

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected to be available on this website. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

The USDOT signed the Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations on March 11, 2010. This policy encourages transportation agencies to proactively provide convenient, safe, and context-sensitive transportation programs and facilities that accommodate people of all ages and abilities, including people too young to drive, people who cannot drive, and people who choose not to drive. For those populations that rely on active transportation modes, the presence of any “gaps” in the network makes it difficult to travel safely between origin to destination. It may also impact the demand for active modes and be a factor in first and last mile decisions when accessing public transportation. Research that assesses the economic, quality of life, and health impacts on individuals with access to connected and disconnected active transportation networks is needed.
Research into the impact of a connected active transportation network would be useful to several key groups. The strategic plan of AASHTO’s Council on Active Transportation seeks to “identify gaps that prevent people from accessing a complete, connected network for walking and bicycling” in collaboration with the Committee on Planning. AASHTO’s Council on Highways and Streets aims to “improve safety on the nation’s transportation network” in cooperation with other AASHTO bodies. The first goal of FHWA’s 2016 – 2021 Strategic Agenda for Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation is achieving “safe, accessible, comfortable, and connected multimodal networks.”
Research and case studies listed in TRID and published by TRB, FHWA, AASHTO national/ international universities have outlined various methods to address active transportation network gaps.  Many of these studies consist of recommendations on how to implement policies and improve intersection designs to help pedestrians and bicyclists feel more comfortable using the transportation system. However, existing research does not explore the short- and long-term impacts of closing network gaps, which include economic, social, and public health factors.
The objective of this research is to understand the causes and impacts of gaps in the urban and rural active transportation network exist, including gaps in the United States Bicycle Route System (USBRS). It should also examine what designs and/or policies have been used to address the difference between various active transportation users to include pedestrian, bicyclists, e-bikes, and personal conveyance users (“Personal conveyances” are defined by NHTSA as roller skates, inline skates, skateboards, baby strollers, scooters, toy wagons, motorized skateboards, motorized toy cars, Segway-style devices, motorized and non-motorized wheelchairs, and scooters for those with disabilities).
With a clear understanding of the cause of these gaps and how they impact communities, the research should identify organizations that are undertaking efforts to reduce gaps, those that are completing their urban and/or rural networks (including the USBRS), and what barriers remain. The research should identify which actions organizations took to eliminate the gaps and explain the impact of closing them. This may be accomplished by researching past and current statistics to determine a community’s economic and social impacts.
These impacts should be summarized in a report that includes economic, health, and social impacts cities and/or states have experienced by developing complete active transportation networks, the performance indicators used, and the results. Possible performance indicators could include congestion reduction, roadway costs saving, road safety savings, user savings, parking cost reduction, reduction in air pollution and greenhouse gasses, retail sales, workplace benefits, tourism, property values, and employment levels. The research results can be presented in a manual that contains the statistical analysis of the impacts from a complete active transportation network, case studies which contains guidelines, tools and/or processes cities and states have used to identify and reduce barriers in active transportation networks that serves pedestrians, bicyclists, and personal conveyance users.
This research will help transportation organizations to better plan and prioritize the effective use of limited resources to incorporate active transportation systems. Without completed active transportation networks the “Vision Zero” goal may never be realized. Bicycle and pedestrian fatalities may continue to increase without connected networks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2019 Pedestrian and Bicycle Traffic Safety Facts reported pedestrian fatalities in 2008 as 4414, or 12% of traffic fatalities, increasing in 2017 to 5977, or 16% of traffic fatalities. Bicyclists fatalities in 2008 was 718, or 1.9%, increasing in 2017 to 783, or 2.1% of traffic fatalities, with personal conveyances accounting for 151 fatalities in 2017, or .4% of traffic fatalities. The public will benefit in that it will be provided a complete and efficient active transportation network that can be safely used. The research can assist cities and states to determine if expending resources to develop an effective network increases bicycle usage and its impact on tourism, employment, congestion, air quality, and health.
State DOT executive management, policy makers, transportation planners, designers and communication specialists will likely use this research to plan for and communicate the impacts of establishing connected active transportation networks that do not have economic, social or infrastructure barriers. State DOT’s can use the research to evaluate their active transportation networks, determine barriers, and prioritize short- and long-term improvement goals that would provide the best impact to the community. Conferences, webinars and updating current plans can be used to support implementation. Brochures and training webinars and material on steps to review current active transportation networks and establish procedures to communicate the impacts of reducing gaps.

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