Program overview

  • Promoting walking and biking: A bicycle and pedestrian master plan describes a community’s commitment and approach to improving conditions for walking and biking. By making walking and biking safer and more accessible, bicycle and pedestrian master plans may increase physical activity and the use of active transportation.

  • Assessing existing conditions: A master plan provides a comprehensive picture of the existing bicycle and pedestrian facilities in a community. As part of this analysis, local governments identify gaps in the existing bicycle and pedestrian network, allowing them to prioritize future improvements. Typically, general statistics on active transportation and traffic safety are also collected (e.g., collision data, modal share).

  • Integrate community outreach: When developing a master plan, communities generally create opportunities for key stakeholders, like pedestrian and bicycle advocates, to be included in an on-going capacity (e.g., through an advisory committee). The general public is typically invited to provide input at key decision points, often through outreach meetings, online surveys, design charettes, and more.

  • Set objectives and action steps: A master plan describes a community’s long-term vision for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and enumerates specific policies that will achieve that vision. To concretize these objectives, a master plan also includes design guidance for configuring bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Most often, these guidelines reflect national design standards, such as those established by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

  • Plan for implementation: To aid implementation, a master plan often includes a list of prospective capital projects ranked by criteria like cost, level of community support, ease of implementation, or benefit to traffic safety. A plan also typically lists the major funding sources a community plans to leverage for each prospective project.

Cost per Participant
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Multiple studies with less-rigorous designs provide some evidence for bike and pedestrian master plans as a strategy for increasing physical activity and active transportation use. 

  • Identify maintenance needs: When assessing the conditions of their bicycle and pedestrian facilities, local governments should note outstanding maintenance issues. Doing so facilitates short-term interventions (e.g., removing debris, repairing pavement) to improve a community’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, while planning for longer-term improvements (e.g., filling gaps in the network) continues.

  • Prioritize connectivity to activity centers: As a community prioritizes projects in its master plan, special weight should be given to projects that increase connectivity to key activity centers, such as schools, libraries, transit stations, or employment clusters. These factors can be incorporated into the criteria used for ranking capital projects.

  • Coordinate with surrounding communities: Residents regularly move between jurisdictions, particularly in geographically smaller communities. As such, when drafting a bicycle and pedestrian master plan, local governments should consult with plans from surrounding communities. Alternatively, local governments may develop joint plans to better integrate their active transportation networks.

  • Account for equity: In many cities and counties, pedestrians and cyclists who are low-income or people of color are hurt or killed in traffic collisions at higher rates than their higher-income or white peers. Typically, these disparities are due to lower-quality infrastructure in lower-income or predominantly minority neighborhoods. As a community prioritizes infrastructure investments, ensuring equitable access to safe pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure should be a goal.