Federal Government Plans New Bike Research


By Charles Pekow –  Federal research on bicycle safety will include riding down some new paths in the new five-year plan. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is developing an FY 2024-2028 Strategic Agenda for Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation that realizes research must meet with changes in infrastructure. New research for “vulnerable road users” will include initiatives focusing on ebike trails as infrastructure, economic benefits, and encouraging local governments to promote biking, among other priorities. FHWA also plans to study the relationship between bike riding, walking and undefined “rolling.”

Riders on Salt Lake City’s 9-Line Trail. The trail is a key part of Salt Lake City’s cycling infrastructure. Photo by Dave Iltis

The plan includes looking at how new technologies can improve safety for these users, such as vehicle-to-everything communication, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and automatic driving. Emerging technology can help road users detect bicycles as well as alert bike riders to hazards ranging from potholes to road closures caused by traffic incidents.

In addition to improving safety, FHWA’s research plan will also include equity among various groups (income, ethnicity), climate change and connecting trail networks.

Safety priorities include looking at ways to improve roadway design (such as making crosswalks as clear as possible), and designing transit stops to better coordinate them for cyclists trying to reach mass transit. FHWA also wants to further explore how managing speed limits can improve safety for vulnerable users.

FHWA also sees the need to design and share better assessment tools. “Many agencies struggle with having little to no multimodal exposure data, and no well-accepted national method exists for estimating vulnerable road user demand,” the plan says.

See FHWA’s Vulnerable Road User Research Plan at https://highways.dot.gov/sites/fhwa.dot.gov/files/FHWA-Vulnerable-Road-User.pdf

Separately; FHWA is proposing rules to clarify definitions for what Highway Safety Improvement Program grants can be used for. The rules clarify bicycling as safety priority. A public comment period expires April 22, 2024. See https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2024-02-21/html/2024-02831.htm.


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