Lesson Learned from the Pandemic: Communities Need Safe & Accessible Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities

Communities across the country experienced sharp increases in sidewalk and trail use during the pandemic. An entirely new group of users were exposed to these facilities as they found themselves looking for ways to get out of their homes, which had also become their school, office, restaurant, and gym.

Pedestrian and bicycle facilities are beneficial in many ways: they improve personal health, decrease environmental impacts, and enhance community. As our country adapts to more people working from home, more products delivered to the front door rather than purchased in a store, and emphasis on personal health, these amenities in our communities and neighborhoods become even more important.  

Unfortunately, the number of pedestrians struck and killed by drivers has increased 45% nationwide over the past decade, according to Smart Growth America. Their Dangerous by Design report shares alarming statistics and urges policymakers to institute changes to make streets safer for all users. Traffic safety experts, like LJB’s Veena Madineni, P.E., PTOE, RSP2I, will point out that even though traffic volumes decreased over the past year during the pandemic, roadway fatalities did not. To counteract this, policy makers are working to address distracted driving, and engineers are striving to make our infrastructure as safe as possible. 

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has recognized this challenge, and in 2020 engaged LJB to help develop Ohio’s inaugural Pedestrian Safety Improvement Program (PSIP). The program allocated $10 million in funding to Ohio’s largest cities for assistance in implementing proven pedestrian safety countermeasures in their highest-risk locations. LJB provided guidance on the applicability of countermeasures to specific conditions, and assisted cities in estimating improvements at each site. During the first year of the program, the LJB team assisted the cities of Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown to plan, design and prepare construction plans for countermeasures at 528 locations for implementation in 2021 and beyond.

Currently, the federal government is developing stimulus and infrastructure bills to provide additional funding to our communities. With more people walking and riding, remember to consider those uses in your project programming. LJB’s experience gives us unique insight into effective ways to use funding to maximize safety benefits for all users through infrastructure projects.

Knowing the benefits that a safe, accessible, and walkable environment will bring, take this opportunity to enhance your community with these funds. Contact us to help you get started!

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