Generally speaking, since we live in a democracy, local jurisdictions must have sufficient interest from their own citizens before undertaking the process of planning, designing, implementing and maintaining bicycling infrastructure projects on local roads. Federal, state and some local funding requirements dictate that when a new project takes place, it must take into account all legal users in the context of each project. Local jurisdictions have many projects in their queues at any one time. The mix of projects changes from year to year. The long term trend is to shape the transportation system so that it is multi-modal and considers all legal users, motorized and non-motorized alike. Non-motorized facilities are becoming an ever more familiar part of the transportation landscape.
Infrastructure projects (changing the roads, curbs and shoulders, signals, signs and markings) often involve lead times measured in years from concept to implementation, especially for projects requiring high-dollar funding. The question is not always whether to improve the roads, but which alternative is likely to be the best guess as to what will work well both near term and 20-30 years from now. Million dollar projects require judicious planning. Traffic flow studies, housing projections and employment estimates all enter into such decisions. Bike Friendly Kalamazoo and its participants are working on a variety of measures that takes into account these considerations, while keeping our eye on the goal of helping to make our community even more bicycle friendly. In doing so we are working very closely and in a collegial manner with local transportation planners and other stakeholders — in fact, many of our participants include those very same planners and stakeholders.
A key part of any planning effort is to keep in mind applicable professional standards. In our experience, standards that must be followed are not arbitrary or put there as impediments to slow down efforts to improve. To the contrary, they must be adhered to for good reason since have been vetted for effectiveness in important categories, such as their demonstrated ability to improve safety.
Some of the safest facilities for bicyclists (e.g., protected bike lanes) cost the most and/or require extra lane space, which resources may not be available in the near term. Where sufficient funding or room is not yet available, less costly alternatives (e.g., shared lane markings or signed bike routes) have proven their value and are approved for use by the Michigan Department of Transportation.