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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

This report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-05-086
Date: July 2006

Lesson 1: The Need for Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility

Picture shows sidewalk lined with trees on both sides with dappled sunlight through the trees.

Lesson Outline

  • Urban/suburban development and travel examples.
  • The benefits of bicycling and walking: transportation, environment, health.
  • Community and government support.
  • Planning trends.

Urban/Suburban Development and Travel

  • Bicycling and walking have become novelty experiences.
  • Development follows the lead of the predominant personal transportation mode.
  • Planning and zoning regulations have favored low-density, automobile-oriented development.
  • Many planners and designers still do not consider pedestrians and bicyclists.

Influence of Automobile on Design

Picture shows cars traveling on a busy street through a strip-style commercial area. There are no pedestrians, no sidewalks and no shoulder lanes to walk on.

Picture shows a broad, 5-lane road in strip shopping center. There is a sidewalk between the parking lot driveways and street. There are no trees or any landscaping. There are very few cars, and the road seems over-built.


Picture shows many shops with a broad sidewalk out front. The street is tree-lined and a man rests on a parking meter in the shade. This street is on a smaller scale than the first picture.

Picture shows repetitious suburban homes where the garages face the street. There are no street trees. There is no visual interest.


The picture on the right is an interesting street with the trees and shrubs and architecturally interesting homes. Garages and driveways are not prominent.

Benefits of Bicycling and Walking

  • Transportation.
  • Environment.
  • Economy.
  • Quality of life.
  • Health.

Transportation Opportunities

  • Half of all trips are shorter than 3 miles— a 15-minute bike ride.
  • Forty percent of U.S. adults say they would commute by bike if safe facilities were available.
  • Gallup poll—2002: Half of U.S. adults favor providing bicycle and pedestrian facilities, even if it means less space for automobiles.
References: 2001 National Household Transportation Survey, League of American Bicyclists Press Release


Picture shows cars on a narrow, one-way traffic road. There is a bike lane and one cyclist rides in the distance.

  • Air pollution contributes to 70,000 deaths nationwide each year.
  • Short auto trips produce far more pollution per mile than longer trips.
References: Harvard School of Public Health, Federal Highway Administration

Health Benefits

The top picture shows 10 people in a crosswalk, crossing a city street.

The second picture shows a crossing guard in a crosswalk, helping a few school children and their parents cross the street.

  • There are nearly twice as many overweight children as in 1980.
  • Obesity and overweight are linked to the Nation’s number one killer—heart disease—as well as diabetes.
  • Thirty minutes of routine exercise (such as walking) per day can significantly improve health.
References: Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Surgeon General

Government and Community Support

  • Federal legislation and guidance.
  • State and MPO programs.
  • Rising levels of public concern about bicycling and walking conditions.

Planning Trends

  • Complete Streets policies.
  • Trends in commercial and residential design.
  • Safe Routes to Schools programs.
  • Interconnected trail networks.
  • Roadway design that favors lower speeds.
  • More public involvement in transportation planning process.

Lesson Summary

  • Post-WW II development plans have hampered the ability to accommodate bicycle and pedestrian travel.
  • There are many reasons to encourage the use of nonmotorized transportation.
  • Currently, there is strong government and community support for walking and biking.
  • This support is leading to positive trends in planning and roadway design.



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