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TxDOT: Road Projects Need To Be Bike and Pedestrian-Friendly

Monday, April 04, 2011 - 05:42 PM

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has adopted a new policy: all road projects must make room for pedestrians and bicycles, not just cars. In some cases this would require building narrower car lanes to make room.

The new rules mean Houston should start seeing more bike and pedestrian-friendly roadways in the future. TxDOT’s requirements come a year after the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a policy statement underscoring the importance of integrating walking and bicycling into transportation projects.

TxDOT says its new mandate emphasizes its commitment to invest in projects that cater to those on bike and those on foot. Under the guidelines, any shoulder on a new or reconstructed road must be at least 14 feet wide.  That will give cyclists a tad more space to ride since the norm has usually been between 11 and 12 feet.

Tom Beeman, an engineer with TxDOT’s Design Division, says the wider lane will also give cars more room, “to either maneuver around [cyclists] or move into the other lane a little bit." He believes the extra couple of feet will create a safer environment for all modes of transportation. "That would be our minimum design," he notes.  Where feasible, says Beeman, more feet of pavement can be saved for bike and pedestrian use.

Beeman says a road's main lanes may become slightly narrower in some cases to allow for a wider shoulder.  TxDOT will also be adding more sidewalks and widening existing ones in some places to make it easier for people to walk on a continuous route.

So why has TxDOT decided to revise its policy? Well, according to Beeman, "The world’s changing. A lot of people are now walking, or they’re using bikes for fitness, or to commute just to cut down on the gas price. The cost of gas is going up so they may be taking shorter trips or living closer. We’re developing communities that are much more dense and we have all modes of transportation that we’re trying to provide for."

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