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As communities invest in developing multi-modal transportation systems, improvements to facilities for people walking and biking can often be delayed due to the construction costs and environmental impacts of elements such as street widening to accommodate bike lanes and sidewalk construction.


As public works professionals one of our core responsibilities is to leverage our existing assets to safely and efficiently serve our communities. The question of how we allocate our rights-of-way may be our greatest opportunity to leverage existing assets to provide additional transportation services.


The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has developed a number of guidance documents which illustrate ways to leverage existing street space to serve people walking and biking while providing safe and convenient facilities for people driving.  Most of the treatments consist of signs and markings coupled with thoughtful design and outreach to your communities.


The first resource from FHWA, “Incorporating On-Road Bicycle Networks into Resurfacing Projects” discusses practical ways to change the configuration of streets while performing pavement preservation projects. At the City of Eugene this approach has been one of the most impactful ways of adding or improving bicycle facilities within our City.


The second resource, “Small Towns and Rural Multimodal Networks”, while created for transportation professionals in small towns and rural counties, also provides examples of treatments that may be appropriate for narrow city streets. One innovative concept known as “advisory shoulders” or “advisory bike lanes” is particularly applicable for low volume, low speed streets with good sight distance.


Advisory shoulders takes an existing narrow two-way street and allocates usable shoulder space on each side of the street ,delineated by a skip stripe, and a center lane used by two-way motor vehicle traffic. When no bicyclist or pedestrian occupies the shoulders people driving can use the shoulders to safely pass oncoming vehicle traffic.  An example of this configuration can be seen below.

While advisory shoulders are used widely in European countries such as the Netherlands they are relatively new to the United States. Currently an approved request to experiment is required from FHWA to install advisory shoulders.


This concept is further explored by Alta Planning and Design in their white paper, “Advisory Bike Lanes in North America”.


So next time you are scratching your head about how to help improve walking and biking in your community without breaking the bank, browse to these resources to find low cost best practices to help your community meet their goals to provide safe and cost effective transportation options.


Please use the links in this article to access copies of these resources at the C4S Sustainability Toolkit.


Matt Rodrigues
Chair, APWA Center for Sustainability (C4S)
Principal Civil Engineer, City of Eugene