State issues Active Transportation Plan for those who bike, walk and roll

Photo courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation.

A statewide strategy and needs assessment for people who bike, walk and roll in Washington is now available online. According to a Washington State Department of Transportation press release, the plan comes just as Congress has enacted new federal initiatives – with programs in active transportation, safety and healthy streets – and the state is beginning to consider how new revenues from climate-related sources might be invested.

Gov. Jay Inslee noted that the plan addresses multiple challenges facing the state. “We need a greener future for our children and grandchildren and walking and cycling represent the cleanest and greenest modes of travel,” said Gov. Inslee. “We also need to make our system accessible for those people who can’t drive and who rely on walking or rolling to transit to get where they need to go—these multimodal journeys also contribute to our climate goals. I’m proud of our state for creating a bold plan to create safer and more accessible active transportation connections for all Washingtonians.”

The Washington State Department of Transportation completed its plan with a two-part process, releasing “Washington State Active Transportation Plan, 2020 and Beyond – Part 1” in May 2021, then collecting public comment on two final chapters this fall and compiling both sections into the full plan. The plan serves as a compass for charting the way toward a truly multimodal transportation system, the press release said.

“Active transportation plays an essential role in a fully multimodal transportation system,” said state Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar. “Almost 30% of the trips we take each day are less than a mile in length, yet we often drive because there is no safe alternative. We need to make it safer for people who are just trying to cross the street or ride their bike to school or work or to the store. With this plan, we’ve pointed the way to where and how we could invest in the system that works for everyone, no matter how they get around.” 

According to the press release, every Washington resident uses active transportation connections at some point in a trip, whether crossing the street from their parking spot to their destination, walking to a bus stop or bicycling to school or work.

  • The plan assesses the needs for accessible pedestrian and bicyclist facilities, highlights safety concerns and provides the first-ever examination of state right of way and its suitability for active transportation.
  • It provides new metrics for tracking and reporting progress that emphasize the importance of complete and accessible walk/bike facilities and connections to transit and other modes, particularly in overburdened communities.
  • It calculates the environmental, health and economic benefits to society when people shift trips from driving to walking or cycling.
  • For consideration of future investments, the plan lays out a rational approach to prioritizing safety and operational performance needs on state highways as part of the overall networks people use to reach their destinations.
  • It incorporates the Safe System Approach, which emphasizes using engineering approaches that acknowledge humans make mistakes and that crashes with greater impact force are more deadly, especially for vulnerable road users.

The plan notes that improvements for people walking, rolling or cycling provide more information to drivers as well. It provides examples such as pedestrian-scale lighting and crossing visibility so drivers can see and stop in time. It also includes designs that provide a “self-enforcing road” to help people drive at the appropriate speed for a place with a mix of destinations and people walking or cycling.

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