When local governments tackle comprehensive mobility planning, they also undertake the important task of expanding and improving infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians. By ensuring that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is safe, expansive, and comfortable, cities can make these modes of transport more accessible.
The importance of planning for safe mobility options
Given how much mobility affects equitable access to services and opportunities, impacts climate change, and influences general health and wellbeing – amongst other things – it’s no surprise that cities are increasingly investing in this area. From bike lanes and bike storage to curb extensions and shared-use paths, there is plenty of room for improvement. There is an urgency to begin implementing these changes. While more cities are making Vision Zero plans, in the US alone 6,283 people were struck and killed while walking and 857 were killed while riding their bikes, according to recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. First implemented in Sweden in the 1990s, Vision Zero has proved successful across Europe — and now it’s gaining momentum in major American cities.Vision Zero Network
But with so many options to increase safety for cyclists and pedestrians, how can your city prioritize which actions to take and what to fund first? How do you decide what’s most needed and most impactful? That’s where community engagement comes in!
Community engagement for safe mobility solutions
With so many options to choose from when creating mobility plans for your city, it’s important to first understand the issues your community is facing. Do they feel there’s a need for more sidewalks, better connectivity between public transportation stops and trails, or something else? And where in the city is this most pressing to address, are there particularly unsafe intersections that need to be updated urgently?
The best way to get a sense of the issues and potential solutions is through community engagement – after all, your residents are the ones dealing with these problems on a daily basis, so they’ve likely also thought of some innovative solutions that could benefit everyone. Some of the most common solutions communities suggest could:
- Improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure near transit stations and stops, recognizing that public transit users are also by default accessing transit by foot or bike for part of their journey.
- Create safe walking environments, with options such as good lighting, separation barriers from traffic, or access to emergency services/call boxes cited as a few of the many ways we could improve pedestrian transit.
- Reduce speed limits in busy areas, thus creating a safe space that encourages more walking and biking.
- Invest in Complete Streets by designing and maintaining transportation systems that keep in mind all users of all ages and abilities – motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and transit passengers, aka – the gold standard.
Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, jobs, and schools, bicycle to work, and move actively with assistive devices. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk or move actively to and from train stations. Creating Complete Streets means transportation agencies must change their approach to community roads. By adopting a Complete Streets policy, communities direct their transportation planners and engineers to routinely design and operate the entire right of way to prioritize safer slower speeds for all people who use the road, over high speeds for motor vehicles. This means that every transportation project will make the street network better and safer for people walking, biking, driving, riding transit, and moving actively with assistive devices—making your town a better place to live.Smart Growth America
How to engage the community on safe mobility options
If you’re ready to begin working with your community to identify mobility issues and co-create solutions, there are a number of ways you can get started. You might consider starting with a survey or poll to better understand your community’s needs, or you could go straight into mapping problem areas to visualize ideas using a community engagement platform like CitizenLab. That’s exactly what the City of Stirling did to get resident feedback on where it was difficult to walk, cycle or navigate a stroller or wheelchair in City Centre South. By asking residents to map their problem areas via their CitizenLab community engagement platform, they could easily visualize which parts of the city needed prioritization.
Whether you choose to consult your community on an existing plan or collaborate with them for the creation of a new one, it’s never too early to start engaging your community.