A Multi-Modal Approach to Safer Communities

Building safe communities entails many different aspects, from sound infrastructure to equity in design, all just as crucial to the success of a community as the next. The benefits of designing and building roads for all cars, bikes, pedestrians, etc. are compelling – improved health, economic savings, and environmental sustainability.  As times change and the communities around us are starting to take advantage of the benefits of walking and biking to their destinations, its essential that our infrastructure supports all modes of transportation.

A Complete Streets Approach

Designing streets for their most vulnerable users, pedestrians and bicyclists, is becoming more and more critical, as the awareness that not everyone wants to or can have access to a vehicle is realized. Creating meaningful networks of multi-modal transportation, not just for recreation, will allow for all ages and abilities of bikers and pedestrians to comfortably and confidently use roadways with fewer crashes. For many projects this looks like shorter crosswalks, increased visibility, better lighting, slower speed limits, and the use of bike lanes or shared use paths.

“The public right-of-way should be just that, accessible to the general public. Meaning, we need to design what is within that right-of-way to meet the accessibility needs of all. Not every street will have all types of facilities, but planners and designers need to be thinking about all users. Safety needs to be a key aspect of all designs and we need to focus on our most vulnerable users:  pedestrians and bicyclists.” said Cody Christianson, transportation project manager at Bolton & Menk.

Redesigning streets or designing future streets means helping communities ensure each user has a safe route, instead of the traditional method of designing roads only for vehicle use. While this looks different for every community, on Southview Boulevard in South St. Paul this meant introducing improved pedestrian facilities of wider sidewalks and boulevards on both sides and ADA-compliant pedestrian curb ramps, increased street lighting, and pedestrian bump outs at intersections for shorter crosswalks. Each of these improvements not only helps bikers and pedestrians feel safer and more confident with the proper facilities, but also helps vehicles have a better view of other roadway users.

In Dakota County a 10-foot shared use path was created to fill in a major gap in the pedestrian and bicycle system along the north side of CSAH 42. In addition to the shared use path, the improvements included pedestrian curb ramps, which met ADA and recommended best practices, and curb and gutter and new storm sewer to provide for a safer trail. Promoting alternate modes of travel along CSAH 42 and the surrounding destinations provided the ability to link people to their destinations – supporting healthy living for all users.

“More people are going to be able to walk and bike for their trips, recreation, and socializing if they can feel safe doing so. By design, we can create a more accessible, human way of travel that makes a lot of economic sense, has a small footprint on the earth, and doesn’t require a lot of space or material.” said David Peterson, senior transportation planner at Bolton & Menk.

Outreach and Education

How do we make sure all roadway users are using the facilities safely and correctly? With advocacy campaigns like Toward Zero Deaths, Safe Routes to School, and Bike Month can help enormously when it comes to public awareness. At the project level, when new facilities are implemented, like bike lanes or protected intersections, its important community members know how to use them. Public outreach can be helpful on this front – open houses, bike advocacy groups, and even using local bike shops to get the word out.

As more people are taking to the streets in more ways than one, it’s important that roads are built with each mode of transportation in mind. Encouraging people to get out and bike or walk for their trips can help communities achieve their ultimate vision of being a great place to live, work, and play! We take our role seriously to ensure your residents – pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers – are as safe as possible.

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