Earlier last month, 24-year old cyclist Emily C. Fredricks, was struck and killed by a garbage truck at an intersection in Philadelphia. The fatal altercation instigated a human chain of cyclists protesting the absence of adequate executive action to ensure the safety of bike riders in the city. But beyond the conversation around bicyclist safety in Philadelphia and elsewhere in the U.S., the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has released yet another guide on ensuring bicyclist safety and inclusion.

In 2011, the NACTO released the Urban Bikeway Design Guide in an attempt to “provide cities with state-of-the-practice solutions that can help create complete streets that are safe and enjoyable for bicyclists.” The revised guide, titled Designing for All Ages & Abilities: Contextual Guidance for High-Comfort Bicycle Facilities, addresses issues of congestion, environmental concerns and simulating local economies.

The guide details that the purpose of such a schema is generally to ensure that city streets are well equipped to ensure bicyclist safety. It aims to help cities make cycling safe, comfortable and equitable for all bike riders, focusing primarily on encouraging people of all ages and ability capacities to feel comfortable enough to traverse city streets on two wheels.

NACTO’s schema does not explicitly call for conventional bike lines, but, rather, pivots around regulating how motorized vehicles move throughout the city. The idea is that, through regulations on speed limits and traffic flow, cities will become more bicycle friendly. Rather than calling for a reduction in the number of cars on city streets, it focuses on setting speed limits at approximately 20-25 miles per hour (32-40 kilometers per hour), which will, in turn, make it easier to make changes to intersection geometry, signalization, turn lanes, and turn restrictions.

More specifically, the guide also recognizes that bike lanes, when incorporated into city planning, are not built in a vacuum. They are positioned, designed, and implemented in a manner that caters to the specificities of each city’s streets, pedestrians and drivers, thus enabling cities to become more inclusive of the needs of their cyclists as they become more bicycle-friendly.

bicyclist safety

Figure describing how as motor vehicle speed and volume increase, they magnify the frequency of stressful events for people bicycling. (CC: NACTO)

Aside from the 2011 and 2017 guides, the NACTO coupled their initiative with a guide released in 2016 titled A Vision for Transit-Friendly Streets: Cities Unveil the Transit Street Design Guide, which looked at incorporating public transit onto existing streets to transport people from neighborhoods to busy corridors. The 2016 scheme explains this alteration to city streets through developing shared transit right-of-ways, active transportation lanes and safe intersections.

Cities like Montreal are already mobilizing to make cities safer for cyclists. The city hopes its efforts will get more cyclists on the streets by 2032. And while Montreal and other cities are moving to prioritize cycling in an attempt to improve environmental and economic obstacles, other cities are still struggling to find a balance that allows motorized and non-motorized vehicles to co-exist safely and equally. NACTO’s guide serves to remind other cities that each city’s unique dynamics need not be sacrificed to make our cities safer, but, rather, that the particularities of each city can be incorporated into a plan for a more cyclist-friendly city.