The U.S. National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has created a new urban bikeways design manual, based in large part on designs that have been innovated or adapted by their member cities (which includes bike-friendly notables such as New York, Portland, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Seattle among others).
The guide is geared towards practitioners and provides detailed design guidance for each treatment. For policymakers the guide also includes information on the benefits of each design as well as other cities that have already implemented them in order to demonstrate precedence and potential for success.
NACTO states “The intent of the Guide is to offer substantive guidance for cities seeking to improve bicycle transportation in places where competing demands for the use of the right of way present unique challenges.” Accordingly the manual breaks down the elements of each design into required, recommended, optional categories, recognizing that real-world practitioners will likely have to adjust the designs to local conditions.
It is all too rare that city governments take the time to document their best practices and the work that NACTO has done capturing this information from some of the nation’s leading bicycling cities is remarkable. The resource has already received kudos from the US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who joined NACTO President and NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan at a press conference to announce the new manual.
This guide, in addition to being a valuable resource to cycling professionals, is also another example of ways that cities are changing national discourse and policy around sustainable transportation. While many of the designs in the manual are similar to ones that have been in use in European cities for decades, most of them are not directly referenced in the current versions of the US’s AASHTO Guide to Bikeway Facilities or the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Both of which many American traffic engineers still treat as bibles for their work. Hopefully having the US DOT’s Secretary’s seal of approval on the guide will help bring more progressive cycling design treatments into the mainstream across the US and in other non-European cities as well.