USDOT Issues Primers on Complete Streets
Equity Spotlight: Historic Redlining Tied to Air Pollution Today
FHWA Issues FAQ on AT Funding & Finance Options
Webinar on Speeding Up Project Delivery
April Showers: The Finer Points of Cycling in the Rain
What's In a Word? Distracted Driving
Infrastructure Insights From the Interwebs

Read this newsletter as a webpage here.
It has just been a few short months since the USDOT came through with guidance in support of Complete Streets. Admittedly, we've been raving about it so it may already be starting to feel old and repetitive. But there is new material being put out there all the time. And now the FHWA has released even more great info about the Complete Streets Design Approach. The linked site includes the just released document "Moving to a Complete Streets Design Model: A Report to Congress on Opportunities and Challenges," a link to the existing Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside funding program, and a shorter document entitled "Complete Streets Transformations: Six Scenarios to Transform Arterials Using a Complete Streets Implementation Strategy." The goal is to familiarize people who interact with our roads whether as designers, decision-makers, contractors, residents, or travelers with the principles being rolled out. There are still some missing elements and questionable choices being highlighted (graphics need some work!), but this continues to be a revolution in progress and as such very interesting and exciting to be a part of.
We're learning more every day about how "getting over it" is not an option. New studies are showing that the legacy of historic redlining carries on with very concrete harms into today. The practices of the past which affected bank loan availability and involved contract sales and purposeful disinvestment and exploitation of entire neighborhoods and the people forced to live there are still actively, adversely, and disproportionately impacting low-income and minority residents today. As Faulkner wrote: "The past is never dead. It's not even past." Those previous financing blockades and methodical processes of segregation now track to present-day air pollution. You can check out research on this topic from writing either from researchers in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Public Health or from statisticians. The bottom line is that past actions have current impacts.

How does this tie in to transportation? Isn't it just history, land use, law...? It means that the people most impacted by the ever-rising tailpipe emissions from our current motor vehicle fleet do not have the financial freedom to move somewhere else. It also means that the people producing the bulk of the emissions are not in turn subject to their health impacts -- until you start thinking about how we are all suffering from overloaded health care and insurance systems with prices going haywire. Better transportation options could improve health and the bottom line for everyone.
We're keeping our eyes on the still-evolving funding situation with the IIJA (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) but that is really a detailed list of federal programs and doesn't give people context to understand how active transportation projects fit into the larger ecosystem of transportation work, nor do the one page program descriptions provide the background for people new to the field to understand the different ways of structuring funding. So the Federal Highway Administration, FHWA (also a part of the USDOT), has updated and expanded a compilation of information about different streams of funding and a variety of financing strategies: check out the Active Transportation Funding and Finance Toolkit!

Because there are so many options, even this "cheat sheet" is a bit overwhelming, but remember that this is a good problem to have! Give yourself a little time to review the page. Maybe break it down into smaller chunks and just look at it one segment at a time.
At the end of 2021, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC out of UNC Chapel Hill's Highway Safety Research Center) put on a webinar entitled "Leap Not Creep: Accelerating Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Improvements." The program includes five presenters from a range of contexts, from federal to urban to rural. As with the FHWA Active Transportation Funding and Finance Toolkit referenced above, the webinar reviews some of the nuts and bolts of what goes into making projects happen slower or faster on the finance, bidding, and procurement side.

This also ties in to a program created but not funded as part of the IIJA, the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program. The program is set up as part of the overall act but expected to be funded through the yearly transportation appropriation (like all our other transportation infrastructure). It proposes to jumpstart active transportation networks in communities -- whether moving ahead with extensive networks in cities or focusing on critical but missing spines in less dense areas -- with substantial awards.
How's your active April going? Are you giving #30DaysOfBiking a try? Running into some rain? "April showers" and all...

We don't want to leave you high and... wet... so we want to point you to some resources for learning to ride no matter the weather. After all, there's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing! You might find it's time to outfit your ride with fenders (a real game-changer!) and yourself with some breathable, stowable rain gear. That might look like a raincoat, but you might also want to consider the rain cape. Or, from that same Bicycle2Work website, here's a longer discussion of what it takes to cycle to work in the rain, considering everything from prep and best practices on the road, to shower facilities or lack thereof and post-ride bike care.
We've mentioned distracted driving in the context of April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but what is distracted driving anyway? You can check out wikipedia, but this is a great condensed run-down from a law office in Houston, TX:

"Distracted driving is any activity an operator of a motor vehicle is engaged in that both distracts them from their primary task of driving and increases their risk of an accident. In other words, distracted driving is any activity diverting a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. There are four types of driver distraction:

  • Visual – looking at something other than the road
  • Auditory – hearing something not related to driving
  • Manual – manipulating something other than the steering wheel
  • Cognitive – thinking about something other than driving.

All distractions endanger the driver, passengers, and others on the road.  Distractions come from four general sources:

  • Associated with the vehicle – controls, displays, navigation systems
  • Brought into the vehicle – cell phones, computers, food, animals, grooming aids
  • External to the vehicle – signs and displays, scenery, roadside features
  • Internal to the driver’s mind – daydreaming, “lost in thought”

The most alarming of these distractions is the one that requires the driver to take his visual, manual, and cognitive attention away from driving: TEXTING." Or, we might add, almost anything else involving manipulating a touchscreen/smartphone!
There are different ways to respond to today's high gas prices. On the one hand we have releases from strategic petroleum reserves, subsidies being sent to drivers, and pushes for increased fossil fuel extraction. Some of those are quick fixes; some will take longer to have an impact. But they are all about doubling down on our vulnerability to the volatility of those legacy fuel markets. Another strategy is to become less subject to that erratic pricing and the market as a whole. Shifting our mode of travel for individual trips and eventually transforming our transportation networks to promote use of other modes are more sustainable options in the long term. What's more, they free up finances to be invested in the local economy.
Sticker Shock
That price at the pump can pack a punch. Much nicer to just pedal past! Or even to convert that cost of consumption into a durable good in the form of a bike. (Caveat: this is not US dollar pricing!)
Long-term Outlook
It's not just about the cost of a fill-up. As we've seen from reports on transportation-burdened households, the costs of car ownership are myriad. It all adds up, even with a modest motor vehicle. E-bikes may seem pricey compared to "acoustic" or "analog" bikes, but in comparison to a car, they're economical.
Safe travels near and far!
Sam Pearson
M: 781.366.0726
PA Walkworks | Website