Sharing the Road with Cyclists

Over the past few years, there has been more pressure from cyclists demanding that drivers share the road. Community groups are getting the attention of public agencies to include cyclist-focused initiatives in urban areas. These initiatives can be difficult to execute based on limited expansion space for roads, cyclist vs. driver demands, increased cars on the road and fixed budgets.

This has been a strong focus recently in Toronto where on average, every seven hours a cyclist is hit by a car. Since 2006, 29 cyclists have been killed in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), including a pregnant woman this past week. Community groups are pushing for more bike-inclusive infrastructure plans, such as the construction of protected bike lanes. This was implemented in Copenhagen, where 40% of the population uses bikes as their main form of transportation. In Toronto, it is 2%.

What does this mean for current traffic conditions and drivers? Updating existing infrastructure to include cyclists is a process and won’t impact drivers and traffic in the short term. Urban cities that do implement these changes will go through a modal shift where cyclists will be part of a blended transportation infrastructure.

Any changes to road infrastructure have an impact for drivers since there are space limitations. Some of these impacts could include thinner lanes or even less lanes. To start optimizing changes within urban areas, city agencies and engineers alike should focus on maximizing their return and understanding the city needs. Collecting accurate data at the busiest intersections and highways is crucial in planning for a more blended transportation system. This data on traffic volumes, flow and most heavily travelled routes can be proactively used to implement effective changes within the city.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Safety Office is revising several of their pedestrian and bicycle safety materials which will provide best practices, policies and routine maintenance. The materials are: Pedsafe: Pedestrian Safety Countermeasure Selection System; Safer Journey; Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center; A Guide to Bike SafetySafer Bicycle Journey; and The Residents Guide for Creating Safe and Walkable Communities. The FHWA is also creating Guide for Maintaining Pedestrian Facilities for Enhanced Safety.

The FHWA also has a Bicycle & Pedestrian Program which is responsible for overseeing that legislation and requirements are met by states and other agencies. Each state has a Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator in its State Department of Transportation to facilitate the increased use of non-motorized transportation, including developing facilities for the use of pedestrians and bicyclists and public educational, promotional, and safety programs for using such facilities.

Many urban areas are implementing changes in their current transportation networks to relieve already congested roads such as Seoul, Tokyo, the province of Quebec and Melbourne which is now the World’s Most Livable City. Drivers and inhabitants of larger cities are going to have to accept this modal shift in transportation infrastructures. Who knows, maybe some individuals that initially opposed the plans will even convert to the “green side” and utilize this new blended transportation network.