copyright 1996, Tracy-Williams Consulting
Balancing Engineering, Education, Law Enforcement, and Encouragement
in Local Bicycle Programs
By John Williams & Kathleen McLaughlin, Adventure Cycling Association
(published February 1993 as Case Study 11 of the National Bicycling and
Walking Study; FHWA)
The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 has
given transportation officials a new mandate to consider alternatives to
the single-occupant motor vehicle in their planning. Now because of growing
concerns with environmental quality and traffic congestion, local agencies
are encouraged to support the non-motorized modes: pedestrians and bicyclists.
Section 217(d) of Title 23 of the U.S. Code now states that "Pedestrian
walkways and bicycle transportation facilities to be constructed under this
section shall be located and designed pursuant to an overall plan to be
developed by each metropolitan planning organization and State and incorporated
into their comprehensive annual long-range plans."
Further, ISTEA makes available a wide range of funding opportunities for
providing for bicycle transportation. Monies from the Surface Transportation
Program, the Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality Program, and the National
Highway System, for example, may be used for bicycle facilities.
Yet, what can and should be done for bicyclists? And what mixture of elements
is needed in a community? While there are no definitive answers to these
questions, the past 20 years have given some idea of how to proceed. In
this study, the authors attempt to condense a wide range of literature and
field experience in order to describe the process of determining the appropriate
mix of engineering, education, enforcement, and encouragement in a local
bicycle program. The purpose of such a program is to encourage safe bicycle
In the process of researching this Case Study, we have interviewed program
staff from the communities of Boulder, Colorado; Dallas, Texas; Davis, California;
Eugene, Oregon; Gainesville, Florida; Madison, Wisconsin; Missoula, Montana;
New York City, New York; Palo Alto, California; and San Diego, California.
Many of these communities are known for their high levels of bicycling.
We have also relied on our own experiences with such programs and an extensive
review of the program literature.
This report contains examples from the communities listed above. However,
the steps suggested for creating a mixed engineering/education/enforcement/encouragement
program were not derived from any of their approaches. These programs evolved
during the formative years of the bike fields. While most originally reflected
the state of the art and approaches common to the 1970s, they have changed
dramatically as the field has matured.
To understand how they produced the mix of elements they now have requires
an understanding of, among other things, local politics. For example, it
is not intuitively obvious why an engineering department's bicycle program
would run one community's bike registration program and recovered bike room.
However, the first of these elements became part of the program for survival
reasons in the face of a hostile city council; the second was taken on as
part of a growing and increasingly cooperative relationship with the police
department. If one were setting up a new 4-Es program, such oddities of
the political process would likely be undesirable additions to the mix.
This report is intended as a brief guide for communities interested in assembling
such a program in order to solve their own problems, take advantage of their
own opportunities, and further their bicycle transportation goals.
Why it's important
Historically, providing for bicyclists meant providing bicycle facilities.
This was the focus during the early phase of program development in the
U.S. but by the late 1970s, it was replaced in some progressive communities
like Boulder, Colorado, and Madison, Wisconsin, with a more comprehensive
"4-E" approach, combining engineering and planning with enforcement,
education, and encouragement.
By then it had become clear that simply providing a bicycle-friendly road
or trail environment, as important as it is, cannot solve all bicycle problems.
Some safety problems, for example, may be more easily solved through programs
than through facilities. To understand the importance of the other elements
of a comprehensive program, consider this example:
This hypothetical example points out the importance of going beyond the
old focus on facilities alone to include other aspects as well. It suggests
the potential roles that agencies such as the police department, the school
district, and private parties like the local television station and newspaper
can play in improving the bicycling situation in a community. It is important
to keep in mind that some elements may not contribute directly to increased
numbers of bicyclists. However, these elements are important for other reasons,
How to mix the 4-e's
How, exactly, can a successful mix of engineering, enforcement, education,
and encouragement be determined? The answer is that participants from a
wide range of agencies and groups must get involved in the process. The
Geelong, Australia, model is a good one to illustrate this point. The Geelong
Bikeplan Team included members from the enforcement community, roads department,
safety agencies, school system, and bicycling community. In assembling their
comprehensive program, the project managers enlisted the help of those who
would, ultimately, be responsible for implementing it.
This is the process suggested here. A "bike plan task force" should
be assembled to mold and steer the program. The following structure is suggested
for the task force. While the same department or group may be represented
on several subcommittees, this would not necessarily require different individuals.
Individual members should deal with those program aspects within their areas
A possible task force structure
Education and awareness
Should the task force mix bicycle and pedestrian considerations?
Whether to combine bicycle and pedestrian considerations under one group
or keep them separate is an important decision. On the one hand, bicyclists
and pedestrians share some important characteristics, the greatest of which
is their general neglect in transportation planning. On the other hand,
the differences in physical and operational characteristics of bicyclists
and pedestrians make it imperative that each mode be considered separately.
The clearest example of this is the generally unsatisfactory experience
communities have had with mixed-use sidewalk bikeways. The Guide for the
Development of Bicycle Facilities (AASHTO, 1991) says that "providing
a sidewalk bicycle path is unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons"
including pedestrian design speeds, fixed hazards, conflicts at intersections,
and conflicts with pedestrians.
On balance, a combined bicycle-pedestrian task force can work but should
analyze bicycle and pedestrian problems and conditions separately and develop
separate goals and objectives, as well as project priorities and programs.
Other important task force ingredients
Strong mandate: The task force must have a strong mandate
for action. This mandate must come from the top and include a commitment
to encouraging bicycling as part of the overall transportation system. This
commitment may or may not require significant expenditures on specific projects,
depending on local needs. However, the example of Boulder, Colorado, is
worth considering. Their transportation plan contains a commitment to shift
15 percent of auto trips to alternative modes. This pledge is backed by
$7.2 million for proposed pedestrian-related projects and $13.4 million
in bike-related projects.
Staffed program: In addition to having a strong mandate,
the task force can benefit from the support of a staffed city bicycle program.
Such a program can work to integrate bicycle considerations into the governmental
routine, research other communities' efforts, provide a public contact,
and keep abreast of changes in the bicycle and pedestrian fields. In some
of the most progressive bicycling communities, the bike program has provided
a leadership role in creating program initiatives.
What does it take to create such a program? Typically, a bicycle program
is one of the least expensive investments a community can make. The Dallas
Bicycle Program, for example, has an annual budget of $50,000, including
salaries and expenses. Gainesville's program uses $46,000 per year from
the city's general fund. Missoula's program costs approximately $35,000
per year. In Madison, Wisconsin, the bicycle coordinator's salary, plus
approximately $2,000, comprises the program's budget.
Public participation: Active public participation is another
key ingredient to a successful program. This means, at the minimum, the
appointment of a citizens' advisory committee. Seattle's committee is well-known
for its commitment and active participation. Candidates for membership are
carefully scrutinized for their interest and expertise. Eugene also credits
a significant amount of its success to an active committee, as does Gainesville.
Most cities surveyed also benefit from the input of community groups. In
Seattle, the Cascade Bicycle Club has worked on advocacy issues for many
years and is handles much of the bicyclist education work done in that community.
In Dallas, the Greater Dallas Bicyclists have worked to improve cycling
conditions for years.
The scope of a comprehensive program
Because so little is known about the bicycling situations in most communities,
it is difficult to predict in advance what level of expenditure and program
activity will be needed to implement a comprehensive program. Until the
needs have been identified and the problems assessed, the necessary scope
of the program will likely remain unknown. However, the basic approach suggested
here is to make bicycle and pedestrian considerations part of the normal
process of governing. In many cases, this may require little extra expense.
For example, if a police officer stops a bicyclist for running a stop light,
this should not be seen as a new or extra duty. It is simply part of traffic
enforcement and it will pay the community back in terms of decreased crash
rates. Similarly, adding bicycle-related questions to a transportation needs
survey will not necessarily require large amounts of money. It allows transportation
planners to do a better job of planning for the community's travel needs
and can pay off in reduced bicycle travel demand. Finally, changing from
a dangerous drainage grate standard to a bicycle-safe design costs no more
but can reduce an agency's potential liability.
There will be some projects (e.g., a bicycle bridge) that require a significant
expenditure of funds. However, if the need is clearly documented through
surveys and studies, it can take its place in the Transportation Improvement
Program. In such an arena, its strengths and weaknesses can be weighed against
those of other potential projects.
The steps in the process
There are four primary steps in the process of mixing engineering, education,
enforcement, and encouragement to create a comprehensive bicycle-pedestrian
First, it is important to develop an understanding of the local bicycling
and walking situations, looking closely at non-motorized travel in the community,
determining its limitations and potential, current levels of use, and safety
problems. This understanding supports all work that follows.
The second step is to set realistic goals and objectives. These should be
based on data from the information-gathering step and they should be measurable
Third, participants should address those goals and objectives through the
development of an action plan. The plan should be a blueprint for the community's
work in all the elements of the comprehensive program. It should include
phasing and funding considerations.
Fourth, as work on the action plan progresses, it should be evaluated based
on its effects on the goals and objectives. Without an evaluation process,
it is impossible to determine the effects of one's work. With evaluation,
one can judge and document success, correct errors, and fine tune the program.
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