Low-Stress Walk and Bike Network Plan
What is the Low-Stress Walk and Bike Network Plan?
A connected walking and cycling network provides a safe and comfortable transportation experience, enabling people of all ages and abilities to get where they want to go by foot or bike. When people get in a car, they rarely give much thought to whether the road can get them to their destination or if they feel secure taking children with them. By contrast, getting on a bike or walking often entails crossing busy streets and mixing with vehicular traffic, which can create barriers for people who aren’t familiar with the system or don’t feel comfortable in a busy street environment.
To address these issues, the City of Boulder is conducting a planning study that evaluates the level of traffic stress within the city’s existing bicycle network. This study will identify barriers and opportunities for system enhancements. Initially named the “2.0 bicycle network” in the 2014 Transportation Master Plan, this quantitative and qualitative approach was expanded to include walking routes and access to transit and will be used to identify existing low-stress routes and provide recommendations for improved facilities for a more complete low-stress multimodal network.
Community engagement throughout this process is critical to the success of the study and planned improvements. The goal of the Low-Stress Walk and Bike Network Plan of planned improvements is to attract a broader population of people (ages 8 to 80) as confident and comfortable pedestrians and cyclists. Recommendations will include proposed multimodal routes, wayfinding to connect existing routes and specific projects needed to create a complete network.
Project Approach and Community Involvement
The following tools and strategies, ranging from direct community feedback to quantitative data analysis, will be used to collect information needed for the analysis phase of the Low-Stress Walk and Bike Network Plan.
As part of the People for Bikes' City Snapshot program, the City of Boulder utilized a fine-tuned network connectivity tool using Open Street Maps that considers current roadway conditions (for example, speed limits, traffic volume, presence and type of bicycle facilities and likely origins and destinations). This static mapping exercise will assess the level of traffic stress for Boulder’s cycling network. The BNA relies on data from two sources: The U.S. Census and OpenStreetMap (OSM). The resulting level of traffic stress map will be tested using several qualitative inputs to ensure accuracy and to determine if any patterns emerge.
Ride Report is a free, easy-to-use trip logging smartphone app built for all kinds of riders. Ride Report runs automatically in the background and detects the stop and start of each trip. Most trips taken by Ride Report users are under two miles, giving insight into errands, short commutes, trip chaining and neighborhood trips.
Ride Report users can report their experience directly by rating their ride, providing data on the comfort of their trip. Using this crowd-sourced data, Ride Report has created a Boulder Comfort Map based on people’s real experiences. This data can then be compared with the level of cycling infrastructure, bicycle map designations or judgment of a route’s stressfulness by city staff. Ride Report’s dashboard also integrates with third-party data sources, such as Open Street Map, weather data, social media demographic data and data from a city’s manual and automated bike counts.
Strava is a mobile application that is typically used by avid cyclists to record travel times, routes, elevation gain and calories burned for both recreational and commuter rides. The State of Colorado recently acquired access to Strava Metro data, which they are making available free to all municipalities and advocacy organizations in Colorado. This data will help us better understand commuter routes, preferred routes, origins and destinations and wait times for bicyclists at intersections.
Coordinating with Boulder Walks and Community Cycles, several stationary and mobile walk and bike audits will be conducted in neighborhoods across Boulder. These audits will allow community members to work with the project team directly to help determine current low-stress and high stress routes within and between neighborhoods. Staff will also provide a “do-it-yourself” walk and bike audit template for community members to utilize.
The City of Boulder collects close call reports through the city’s web-based reporting platform, called Inquire Boulder. Staff has tracked hundreds of reported close calls between 2015 and 2017 and have mapped each location. This data will be used as another means of determining potential patterns in the transit network. A direct link between level of traffic stress and close calls has been identified through recent research and may attribute to the likelihood of whether one chooses to bike or walk for transportation . Staff will also take into account the Safe Streets report’s collision analysis and mitigation strategies.
Over time, the City of Boulder has installed numerous bicycle counters as part of individual projects, and while some of the counters are contemporary and provide an easily accessible interface to monitor and analyze data, many of the counters have not been functioning or have significant gaps in the data records. Part of this project will be to review all existing counter locations, retrieve current data from older counters, update counter technology, and potentially install new equipment. This project component is currently underway and will take place through the duration of the study.
For information about the Low-Stress Walk and Bike Network study, please contact Senior Transportation Planner David "DK" Kemp at [email protected] or 303-441-1955.