Restoring the Human Habitat Where You Live

I’m wrapping the last sustainable community class I will teach in a program that is ending and this article was just what I needed today as I consider what worked, what didn’t and where we go from here.
I am the planner teaching transportation and land use from an active healthy community perspective to grad students in a Community Economic Development program. The payoff for me in this Adjunct gig is in the application of these principles in small communities across Arkansas-communities that would otherwise continue on their car-centric ways. Students go on to Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development Agencies and I work to arm them with the ideas I have borrowed from the signers of the Ahwahnee Principles on to the present with more than a few trips back further to Mumford and others. I am sure to insert personal heroes like Dan Burden and John Norquist and other friends, like Dan Zack, when they have something new that I can share.
These students have grown-up with an understanding of the argument in favor of protecting the natural habitats of various species. Applying that understanding to their own species is the fun part for me. There is a fair amount of denial, where students have grown-up in communities where there is no alternative to driving to connect their daily origins and destinations. We utilize the sort of data you provide here to consider the impacts to human health and well-being that are implicit in the sorts of choices students will make in their lives and careers. We look at the unspoken marriage of Euclidean Zones and private automobiles and consider the outcome should cars become too expensive to continue to provide the necessary connections in the scheme.
We tease out a human habitat model that provides the option to be active in your daily life in a more Transit Oriented landscape where access and mobility are an option through colocation as well as transportation. We look at the scale of the street and the interface of the built environment to encourage walking and lingering. So, we know how to restore the human habitat.
But, the one concern that I have no answer for without radical change is housing affordability in these very desirable locations. As these landscapes become more desirable, there is increased competition between the people and businesses that want to locate there and the price of all properties is driven higher. A robust transit option, together with more walkable livable neighborhoods, pretty much ensures that my students can’t afford to live wherever “there” is (or the sort of compromises they would have to make to insinuate themselves are not possible).
We can blame people attracted to these landscapes who are driving prices higher but some of those people are former residents who are being attracted back by the new amenities. We can blame individual communities for the lack of affordable housing and we can create the sort of lotteries that create winners and losers, but these responses can never achieve the sort of scale necessary to address the problem. Whatever the policy response, it needs to be scalable to create human habitat that supports our species across the economic spectrum.
To tease out options, we discuss the concepts shared by the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis in their Housing Trilemma
article. In all of this, it becomes pretty clear that land use and transportation planning are creating a sort of have and have not dichotomy wherever we look. These are Economic Development students, so the concept of scarcity is not new. They usually agree that any solution needs to address supply and demand of the sort of livable walkable transit-oriented habitat that is in such demand that residents are priced out.
A modest proposal: Take the sort of approach to Transit and Transit Oriented Development that we have taken in promoting private auto use over the last century. But, instead of the 1939 vision of General Motors (start at 8:30 or so on the video) and Norman Bel Gaddes  that yielded a brutalist autocentric  landscape, we can develop landscapes that promote human interaction-landscapes that provide all of the elements necessary to ensure human health and wellbeing. These do not need to be sterile Disneyfied landscapes, but can instead incorporate the science available today to create places that fill our hearts and allow us to engage in our communities.
I’m going to Spain in May and my objective is to linger, walk around and ride a bike to experience the human habitat there. In cities like Sevilla, and even in new-towns-ghosttowns like Valdeluz, cycling and walking infrastructure are intentionally included. This intentionality is what seems to be lacking here.  The places that include this sort of basic human infrastructure here are being loved to death and average people are being excluded based on price. This is not an equitable solution. Communities need to serve everyone from eight to eighty and when they don’t, isolation is the outcome. We have seen before that accommodations designed for one small group, can have incredible benefits for the entire community and that will be the case here.  Predicting your lifespan and your health knowing only your zip code has implications for all of us. We need the sort of push to create these places at scale. Even a fraction of the sort of effort we saw from the automakers and Bel Gaddes back in 1939 would improve public health by restoring the human habitat.

Transportation Planning

Modeling, budgeting and facility design are usually identified as transportation planning activities by the public and practitioners alike. Working to establish a program of projects under a constrained budget or to estimate the Level of Service under a particular design can easily end-up as the focus of planners or of a planning agency. But, are these actually planning activities? And, what about the sorts of considerations that are not generally under the purview of transportation planers?

  • What about land use, where zoning implies the availability of transportation inputs sufficient to connect the various zones-industrial, commercial, residential, open space?
  • How does the Little Rock, AR residence, pictured here, compare with a rural or suburban home located in a residential development?
  • Will the residents of this housing unit require more, or less transportation inputs in their daily lives?
  • What mix of transport ion services will they demand?
  • What policy implications flow from the varying housing choices made by residents across the region?

These are generally divided out as properly being  land use planning concerns, but they impact transportation; just as a new beltway in a rural community impacts land use.

We are starting  another semester of Transportation Planning in the CED Program at UCA, and these are the weighty concerns that we will consider further as the semester unfolds.  If you were enrolled in the land use class in the fall, some of this will sound familiar, because they really are two sides of the same issue: planning and shaping the human habitat.

The resources on this page are meant to help you connect the many and varied aspects of transportation planning. The Twitter Feed focuses on topics as diverse as equity and renewable energy, or housing costs and population growth. Treat this material more as a wave than a garden hose and let’s get busy.


Complete Streets: Getting to Yes the Memphis Example

If a prescription slip from the doctor were a cure I would just need to get that slip of paper or the electronic script to the Pharmacist and I would be well. But, we all know that is not how it works.

The prescription is  only the very first step in curing the illness and putting life back in order.  And, the same sort of process is at work if your goal is to Complete Your Streets. That bit of paper or electronic script that is your Complete Streets Policy is only the beginning.

Once you have a Complete Streets Policy you can’t just “put the bottle in the medicine cabinet.” Your prescription will do you no more good on the self than your Complete Streets Policy will if it is left on a shelf at city hall or down at Public Works.  You have to take your medicine and the community needs to follow its plan to change the way it does business out in its streets.

To carry the analogy one step further, you have to be sure that you follow the doctor’s recommendations: no overdosing or skipping doses . Out in the street that means that you don’t need one great street or two, you need a network of streets that serve everyone in the community. And, since you are connecting origins and destinations, streets that do not connect for all users just are not complete-no matter how nice the cover of the plan or policy looks on your shelf

Take a look at this video from Memphis to see how local leaders in that City and County worked to bring Complete Streets to their community. This is coalition building that will give your efforts the shot you need you need for success.

It is worth noting that Barbara McCann is now the Director, Office of Safety, Energy & Environment at USDOT, while Toks Omishakin, Assistant Commissioner/Chief of Environment & Planning TNDOT is a planner and the former Bike-Ped Coordinator at the City of Nashville, TN.



Even if you create miles of cycletracks there will still be road user conflicts at every driveway and street corner.  Beyond Engineering, there are better options on LAB’s list of Es:

  • Encouragement,
  • Education and
  • Enforcement.

A Share the Road campaign could well help everyone figure out their role in a more active, healthy community.

Grand Rounds-Walking path, one way cycle track & one way street with shared lane

In communities, the collective underlying assumptions that need changing generally remain unspoken.  Officially or unofficially assessing this collective mindset can save future frustration and conflict for everyone and get more folks active.

Here are three broad questions that can start to tease out assumptions regarding bicycling and walking:

  • What does it mean to walk or ride a bike in this Community?  
  • Where do bikes belong?
  • Are walkers welcome?

Taking a critical view of walking and cycling facilities to ensure safety

Take the time to observe your community and you will begin to see what is needed to move the place where you live or work toward a more active and livable community model.

Here are a few markers I look for, but feel free to add to this list from your own observations:

  • Are bicyclists out on city streets?
  • Are people out walking?
  • Are destinations accessible to cyclists or walkers?
  • Are signals and other elements of infrastructure designed to accommodate cyclists and walkers?
  • Do retailers, employers and landlords accommodate cyclists and walkers by providing walks, racks, lockers and showers at destinations?
  • Are bikes recognized as more than a recreational device in conversations with advocates and community leaders?
  • Do local leaders in the cycling community recognize the transportation potential of bicycles?
  • Do bicyclists embrace walking as a component of active healthy transportation?
  • Do you see a broad crosssection of cyclist types on the street: utility riders as well as Lycra racers and “lifestyle” cyclists?

When news about walking and bicycling breaks in the local paper or on local blogs, how are the stories categorized: Recreation? Transportation? Community Design? With Gary Toth in Long Beach

As they become more Active and Healthy, communities generally move from:

  • Little or no bicycling activity,
  • To recreational activity in selected corridors–a greenline, a riverfront or a lakefront shared-use path or network,
  • To a more generalized use of bicycles across the entire community for both recreation and transportation, and finally
  • To a transit connected community where the health and community development benefits of a blend of walking, cycling and transit work to everyone’s advantage.

Don’t get frustrated if your community is not where you want it to be.  Just recognize the continuum, (from doing nothing, to recreation, to walker and cyclist friendly, and finally to universal accommodation); figure out your community’s location and work from there.  Same for states.



  • Are most of the bikes you see on the street in the community actually on the back of a car or truck being transported to a path or trail?
  • Are most of the walkers you see sprinting across parking lots from their cars?

The mindset that many recreational cyclists share with most motorists, and more than a few police officers and other public officials, holds that streets are for cars and riding bicycles on the street is dangerous and maybe even selfish.  Same for busy streets and walkers.

Are they all wrong?  A majority of cyclists, walkers and motorists alike:

  • Underestimate the real dangers found on shared use paths (or sidewalks), where pedestrians ALWAYS have the Right-Of-Way, and
  • Overestimate the dangers of bicycling on the roadway where cycles are considered vehicles and generally have a right to their lane.
  • Confuse the real danger of crossing conflicts that are in front of the motorist, walker and cyclist for the much less likely overtaking conflict and so support side paths instead of bike lanes and sidewalks.  Learn More 




Overtaking crashes (cars hitting you from behind) are a big concern to cyclists, motorists and planners, while walkers can walk against traffic to gain a better sense of where a motorist or cyclist is headed. But, the real dangers of crossing conflicts (cars turning in front of or into you) are generally not as well recognized.  Because of these prejudices, many advocates, local experts, and recreational cyclists ask for the wrong facility at the wrong location.

Few people recognize or consider the implications of the:

  • Very different vehicle design speeds and operational characteristics of walkers and cyclists and the conflicts inherent in those differences on shared use facilities.
  • Near continuous steering and braking inputs necessary for cyclists to operate on busy shared use paths when compared to low-speed, low-volume streets.
  • Scanning for crossing conflicts that motorists engage in, where they watch the roadway in front of them for conflicts, and how side paths place cyclists and walkers in locations where motorists are much less likely to recognize or respond to them.


That is a question that is best answered locally—in context—and in response to teachable moments as they arise.

Click on this text to find the most important bit of guidance anyone has shared to date about cycling and community policy.  As this document points out, we need to overcome our own fears and prejudices if we are going to get more people out on their bikes for both recreation and transportation.

Here are two good sources of training/information for cyclists and motorists:


A comprehensive Share the Road Campaign will include an implementation plan that lays out how your community or group will:

Federal guidance can be a bit overwhelming in its complexity, but it is generally complete:


Urban Destination draws cyclists to the street

Streets are not just for cars and trucks, they are a great place to ride your bike.  And, getting off the path now and then gives walkers and other trail users a chance to miss you a little more until you return.

Copyright 2010 Live-Active. All rights reserved.

Basic Bike/Walk Route Selection & Facility Design


Making bicycling and walking convenient, comfortable and fun ensures that active transportation is included in the daily routine in your community. 

Knowing that we can encourage or discourage bicyclists and walkers through route selection and facility design:

  • What are the tradeoffs?
  • What features do we include? 
  • What design elements do we actively work to avoid? 

The balance between effort and aesthetics is critical to encouragement and contributes to the notion that there can be just as much art as engineering involved in the development of a good bicycle or pedestrian facility.

Planning for human powered movement is context sensitive, so no one solution is appropriate at every location.  A good solution at one location can be unsafe or unappealing at another.

Transportation planners use a “design vehicle” approach.  The operational profile of walkers, cyclists and motorists reflect their mass and design speed along with their width and turning radius, etc. where:

  • The greater speed and mass of motorized road users conflict with walkers and cyclists (valnerable road users),
  • The greater potential speed of cyclists conflict with pedestrians, and
  • The ability of pedestrians to step to the right or left conflict passing cyclists.

Great facility design considers these design vehicles’ operational characteristics along with the anticipated volume of each, because a good design can be its own undoing as increased user volume dictates greater separation of modes.

Side Paths

A well designed path can provide connectivity giving a cyclist or walker access to the larger community.  These paths can allow cyclists and walkers to cut between subdivisions or across a park to avoid heavily traveled roads or simply shortcut the road and get to their destination more quickly.  But, bicycle and pedestrian experts know that side paths don’t work at every location.

This figure shows you what to look for in deciding if a path fits your needs.

Source: ODOT, Draft Chapter 7, w/permission

 A path along the river can be a great facility and nothing beats riding along a beautiful lake or down a historic rail corridor. 

But, a path with an identical cross section can be a hazard in a location where penetrations from driveways and streets bring crossing conflicts.  

The following figure shows you why a side path is not a good solution where driveways and cross streets will penetrate the path. 

Source: ODOT, Draft Chapter 7, w/permission

Since every driveway and cross street brings its own set of crossing conflicts, if you have several drives or cross streets, a side path is not your best solution.

But, before you give up on your side path take a look at options to consolidate or eliminate conflicts by combining drives or closing streets.  You may be able to reduce safety concerns at remaining drives or streets by providing more visibility, adding signage for motorists, cyclists and walkers and installing signals. 

But, don’t force a side path at a location where it is just not safe for users.  And, not to worry if that is the case at your location.  There are other tools that may provide a better solution.

Looking Beyond Segregated Facilities

Given the USDOT’s 2010 policy statement regarding Bike/Ped accommodation of cyclists and pedestrians, there is good reason for the roadway to be the first place to look when locating cycling facilities. 

Excerpt: “The DOT policy is to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects. Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems.”



According to a study (posted on our website on the Resources page under tools) sharrows, or shared use lane markings, “can be used in a variety of situations, and increased use should enhance motorist awareness of bicyclists or the possibility of bicyclists in the traffic stream. Results indicate that sharrows increased operating space for bicyclists. Sharrows have reduced sidewalk riding not only in the current study but also in a previous study.”  Source: FHWA HRT-10-44


At locations where traffic counts and speeds are low, sharrows can be combined with signage and other traffic calming tools to create a bicycle boulevard.  

Bicycle Boulevards

Bicycle boulevards generally accommodate cycles and pedestrians on low volume streets that may parallel a higher volume arterial. 

Source: City of Tucson, w/permission

If your bicycle boulevard does not included discontiguous roadway segments that can act as “natural” traffic diverters, you may need to control “cut through” auto traffic and reduce auto speeds by employing traffic calming elements.


Traffic diverters can be installed at intersections to allow through travel for cyclists while forcing auto traffic to turn.  Other solutions include installing speed tables at pedestrian crossings to slow motorized traffic.  


Source: Burden

Playing on the difference in their respective mass, speed tables slow heavier auto and truck traffic, but allow normal operation of much lighter bicycles.

The beauty of these facilities is that they work best where they are interrupted so that motorized traffic is discouraged. This one requirement makes bicycle boulevards the perfect facility to link with paths and trails that offer connectivity between subdivisions or across parks. 

Using a bicycle boulevard within the neighborhood and trails and paths between neighborhoods, results in a route that accommodates all ability levels without the expense of creating an entirely segregated facility.   

Links to more bicycle boulevard resources: 

On the Road Again

Of course, there is no reason to assume that special accommodation is necessary on most routes.  An adequate shoulder and a travel lane are more than enough in many, if not most, situations. 

Even where a dedicated facility is selected, it may be included in the overall roadway design as a lane for bicycles.

Source: ODOT, Draft Chapter 1, w/permission

Above, note the treatments in designing this bike lane.  Each design solution brings its own set of contextual considerations. 

Where on street parking is allowed, bike lanes must be located beyond the “door zone” which is the area adjacent to a parked vehicle where an opening car door would interfere with cyclist operation.  This can become an issue where the wider roadway cross-section raises issues for pedestrians. 

As with any roadway or path, crossing conflicts can be an issue at intersections and driveways.  As with side paths, these conflicts can be reduced or eliminated through use of access management techniques which can also improve traffic flow.  Below, the installation of a barrier median and consolidation of driveways dramatically reduced crossing conflicts making this block safer for ALL users.

Source: ODOT, Draft Intro, w/permission 

To avoid a “right hook” from right turning traffic in the right travel lane, bike lanes must allow right turning motorized traffic to safely move right.   

Source: ODOT, Draft Chapter 6, w/permission

Of course, bicyclists should always travel in the rightmost lane that takes them in the direction of their travel, so this arrangement would also allow a cyclist to move to the right with the auto traffic if they are planning a right turn at this intersection. 

Bike boxes are a solution that is popular in communities where cycling is well established, but this design violates the notion of equality of modes and creates significant crossing conflicts with right turning motorized traffic in communities that permit “right turn on red after stop.”  

As you consider the placement of bike lanes, it is worth noting that, the loss of street side parking for merchants and residents can feed political opposition where auto parking is in short supply. 

These concerns can be addressed through careful attention to detail and public participation to explain benefits and costs. 

Below, is a raised lane that is intended to discourage auto encroachment.  This design could be less expensive where through traffic, in the form of 80,000 lb trucks, would not be a design consideration and the bike lane could be built to a less expensive standard. 

Source: ODOT, Draft Chapter 1, w/permission

As with the other solutions, this design is not the only answer, but it can be just what you need at a specific location. 

Links to More Resources:

From AASHTO: The AASHTO Facility Design Guide is the best first source of Facility Design. If a design is included in the AASHTO Guide you know it has been tested and found to be reliable.  These designs have been vetted by experts and voted on by State DOTs nationwide. 

From Portland: Here is a great Article from Portland describing their exciting greenways initiative.  Follow the link to read more and see if you don’t agree that these facilities are just what many of us need where we live to ensure access and mobility for cycling and walking:  New Neighborhood Greenways: ‘Bicycle Boulevards on Steroids’

From NACTO:This glossy resource is best viewed as a source of possible solutions at a problem location that is not well served by any of the approved AASHTO designs. It just keeps getting better: NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide

Given the truly urban setting, the NACTO Guide’s examples may be the best that these communities can do at these locations, but new designers beware.  NACTO includes the following language on page one of the Guide:

“The designs in this document were developed by cities for cities, since unique urban streets require innovative solutions. Most of these treatments are not directly referenced in the current version of the AASHTO Guide to Bikeway Facilities, although they are virtually all (with two exceptions) permitted under the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).”  

So, start with the AASHTO Guide and if you don’t see what you need take a close look at the NACTO guide. Used together, these resources are invaluable.

Streets that accommodate all road users-walkers, cyclist and motorists


Complete streets (streets that accommodate all road users-walkers, cyclist and motorists) can be an economic engine for neighborhoods providing spaces for walking, cycling and lingering that add to the attractiveness of local shops, restaurants and housing.  See page devoted to “the economics of active transportation.

Beyond the obvious aesthetic and economic benefit of creating active, healthy, livable streets; important safety benefits accrue to all road users under a Complete Streets Model.  You do not have to take my word for it, here is what the Federal Highways Administration had to say on January 12, 2012, in its: Guidance Memorandum on Promoting the Implementation of Proven Safety Countermeasures

“We are highly confident that certain processes, infrastructure design techniques, and highway features are effective and their use should be encouraged.”

The FHWA memo recommends use of Proven Safety Countermeasures for urban and suburban locations; including:

Proven Safety Countermeasures are known to reduce the number and severity of crashes under specific conditions.  Matching the countermeasure with the crash type can be as much an art as a science, but Crash Modification factors can predict an outcome based upon experience at other locations.  Resources for Countermeasure Selection are available for Pedestrian Crashes and Bicycle Crashes.

Complete Streets accommodate public use; including transportation.  Walking, cycling, resting, and refreshing are all part of the mix of activities that must be accommodated, along with cars.

The “street” includes the space from the store fronts on one side of the travel way to the store fronts on the other.  A complete planning process considers all of the elements that influence the experience of road users in this public space.

The National Complete Streets Coalition and the Congress for the New Urbanism are both thought leaders in the field of traffic calming and complete streets.

Each create a road map to make a community’s streets complete.

CNU’s focus on networks recognizes the value of trip reduction through integrated land use and transportation planning.

Streets are Public Places

The Project for Public Spaces focuses on streets as public spaces and promotes Placemaking as a form of urban renewal. PPS maintains a working alliance with the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.

Context-Sensitive Solutions (CSS)

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), administered by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies has issued Going the Distance Together: A Citizen’s Guide to Context Sensitive Solutions for Better Transportation

Context-sensitive solutions (CSS), is a consensus-building process that invites you to become a full collaborator in all aspects of transportation planning, from national, state, and local policy to operations and maintenance; from broad community visioning to specific project construction.

CSS is based on the principle that if transportation professionals—policy-makers, planners, engineers, designers and operators—and citizen stakeholders collaborate, all parties will have less to criticize and more to applaud.

Active Living Is The Healthy Option-Restore Human Habitat, One Step At A Time…The materials found on this site can help inform the choices you make where you live or work. Start a movement movement of your own. It is all here…