As interest in cycling continues to grow around the region, finding safe and comfortable routes is a key question for many cyclists. The City of Decatur’s Active Living Department and the Bike Decatur advocacy group have finalized a new bike map for the Decatur area which categorizes the city’s streets based on their level of comfort for cyclists of all ages and abilities.
The map uses three colors – green for “best conditions for cycling”; yellow for “medium conditions for cycling”; and red for “most difficult conditions” – to help adults and families determine their best routes to destinations throughout the city. The map also includes the location of bike parking spaces, drinking fountains, bike lanes, challenging intersections, steep hills and bike shops, as well as many helpful tips to ride comfortably and safely.
The effort reflects a broader focus on determining how the roads and other facilities and, therefor, the comfort level of cyclists, affect the number of trips taken by riders of all abilities and experience levels. The city’s new map is commonly referred to as a “bicycle suitability map” and reflects the opinions of knowledgeable users who ride frequently in the Decatur area.
While Decatur’s effort was largely qualitative (opinion-based), recent national research has helped develop quantitative (data-based) methods for calculating the quality of bicycling facilities in an area. The formulas include many key roadway characteristics, such as presence or absence of bicycle facilities, amount and speed of vehicle traffic, posted speed limits, lane widths, roadway condition and more. These data help transportation planners see the perceived comfort of cyclists with roadways and how to make corridors more accommodating.
The ARC used a quantitative method in the region’s 2007 Bicycle Transportation & Pedestrian Walkways Plan to help determine the level of comfort for cyclists on a set of regional roadway corridors. The resulting identification used an A-F scale (like school grades) to identify comfortable or uncomfortable roadway segments. The level of comfort data can be used in conjunction with safety, demand and health data to help prioritize future infrastructure investments. ARC continues to develop the region’s capabilities in technical planning analysis for bicycle planning and expects to expand upon the suitability and data collection efforts in future updates to the region’s bicycle and pedestrian plan.