On Wednesday, May 25th, 2011, the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) hosted a two-hour webinar on the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. The NACTO Guide, which has, since its release in March 2011, been the subject of consistent debate and speculation among practitioners, raises the bar for bikeway design and engineering practices in the United States. The guide introduces, for the first time, a national standard for separated on-street bikeways, bicycle signals, bike boxes and other mainstream, internationally accepted best practices. The webinar featured presentations by Mia Birk of Alta Planning & Design, Robert Burchfield and Roger Geller of Portland, OR, and Hayes Lord of New York City, a group whose compounded efforts have paved the way for better bikeways across North America.
With over 500 sites participating, and well over 800 total participants, the webinar was a ringing endorsement for the guide, which is already empowering practitioners all across the country to push the design boundaries when implementing their bikeway networks. Kit Keller, APBP’s Executive Director, began the session by offering some context for the webinar as part of APBP’s ongoing commitment to the implementation of FHWA’s 2009 International Scan Report and the promotion of best practices for road safety and bicycle facility design. Following Keller’s introduction, Mia Birk led the audience through the NACTO guide’s evolution and, more broadly, the movement pressing for more innovative bikeway design across North America. Birk’s presentation was succeeded by that of Robert Burchfield, city traffic engineer for the city of Portland, Oregon, who launched into a detailed overview of the guide. Though Burchfield did not delve into all of the guide’s nitty-gritty details, he offered a comprehensive review of most of its contents, as well as an inspirational send off calling for the guide’s adoption and implementation by city and state DOTs.
The final two presentations focused on the application of the design principles which shaped the NACTO guide. Highlighting a case study of a problematic intersection close to a highway on-ramp, Roger Geller, bicycle program coordinator for Portland, made a striking comparison between what the current AASHTO and MUTCD toolkit permits, and what the NACTO Guide advocates. Geller’s perspective was echoed by the presentation of Hayes Lord, who demonstrated how New York City’s protected on-street bike paths have not only made streets safer and boosted cycling levels, but have even, in certain cases, improved the flow of motor vehicle traffic. At the end of the presentations, Joe Gilpin, a principal actor in the technical composition of the guide, moderated a question and answer session which drew well over a hundred questions from the audience. During the Q & A, Bruce Friedman of FHWA, who oversees the MUTCD approval and experimentation process for bicycle facilities and coordinated with NACTO during the development of the guide, offered positive feedback to the presenters on the webinar.
New design manuals, including the NACTO Guide, CNU/ITE’s Walkable Thoroughfares Manual, and a burgeoning collection of state and local Complete Streets Design Guides, have signaled a sea change in traditional traffic engineering and American street design. Together, they have stoked a reevaluation of the purpose and potential of the street—a street which stands at the junction of debates on public health, climate change, mobility, and urban design, and is proving itself to be the crucible of our societal values and ambitions.
To view the presentation slides from the webinar, please see here.
To download audio from the presentation, see here.
For questions about NACTO or the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, please contact [email protected].