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Active Transportation: Policy, Planning, and the Pandemic

May 19, 2021 09:00 AM
By: Roy Gothie

​In December of 2020, PennDOT completed its first Active Transportation Plan. The intent of the plan is to support a safe, high-quality, connected network of trails, sidewalks, bikeways and roads for people who walk and bike, regardless of age, skill, ability, race, or ethnicity.  

Developed in coordination with the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the plan emphasizes that the policies and practices supporting walking and biking also address community health outcomes, contribute to the local economy, and promote sustainable, equitable transportation options.  

These same issues would be moved front and center for communities across Pennsylvania a few months later when most Pennsylvania residents transitioned to a new normal – working or learning from home – and limiting their time with groups. The pandemic changed everything. 

Over the past 15 months, we've learned how valuable our non-motorized transportation network is to our communities. Being able to safely and easily walk or bike to parks, trails, grocery stores and other community resources suddenly became critical to residents who were sheltering at home. But not every neighborhood is walkable or bikeable.  

As many enjoyed the physical and mental benefits of outdoor activity, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council reported trail use in Pennsylvania rose as much as 200% in 2020. Mirroring that growth, national sales of e-bikes surged 145% and regular bike sales increased 65% as reported in the New York Times. 

These changes did not go unnoticed. PennDOT accelerated the development of new design guidance for bicycle facilities [PDF] in 2020. The recently completed chapter in the design manual offers a wide array of facility types including two-way bike lanes, contraflow bike lanes, and guidance on the use of green pavement markings.   

This new material is intended to assist local and regional partners advancing their active transportation plans into targeted projects that benefit all travelers.  

While the pandemic isn't yet over, communities across Pennsylvania can take advantage of the resources developed by PennDOT and other state agencies to create safer, more connected, and healthier places to live now and for years to come.

For more details, view PennDOT's Active Transportation Plan [PDF] or check out the new Design Manual chapter [PDF].

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