Two people biking in Washington state

The Washington State Department of Transportation recently made its new “Washington State Active Transportation Plan, 2020 and Beyond: Part 1” available online as part of its efforts to support more transit, bicycle, and pedestrian options.

[Above photo by WSDOT]

The plan assesses the needs for accessible pedestrian and bicyclist facilities, highlights safety concerns and provides the first-ever examination of state right of way and its suitability for active transportation.

WSDOT released a draft of part one of the plan in December 2020 and received more than 630 responses during an eight-week comment period. Those comments helped WSDOT identify policy topics for part two of the plan, scheduled for release later in 2021.

More people than ever are walking and bicycling statewide, according to WSDOT’s multimodal transportation dashboard, both as alternatives to transit use and to maintain physical and mental health during the pandemic. At the same time, “vulnerable road users” such as bicyclists and pedestrians now make up about 21 percent of all traffic deaths – far out of proportion to the fatality rates for other modes of travel, noted WSDOT Secretary Roger Millar.

“Whether you drive, bike, walk, or roll, the state’s highway rights-of-way serve as the backbone of our transportation system,” he said in a statement. “In the engagement for this plan, we heard very clearly that state routes need to connect people, not separate them. With this plan, we have new understanding to help us work with our partners to create complete, safer, and more accessible networks for each and every one of us, regardless of how we get around.”

Part one of the plan addresses those steadily increasing vulnerable road user fatalities and identifies driving speed and roadway crossings as top factors. It also:

  • Examines the effects of past infrastructure decisions on safety and mobility, particularly in places where those decisions affected transportation access and health.
  • Provides a first-ever needs assessment of the state system for active transportation use and estimates the cost of improvements in population centers.
  • Describes the concept of statewide bikeways and trails network.
  • Offers using “level of traffic stress” as a data-based evaluation tool for state right of way and population centers when analyzing the effects of land-use change. Level of stress is a method to objectively measure roadway characteristics that affect people’s ability to use active transportation.