The Met Council plans for regional bicycle and pedestrian networks that connect across jurisdictions, seeks solutions for improving regional barrier crossings to bicycling and walking, and partners with other agencies and non-profits to improve access to jobs and opportunities.
Walking and bicycling are essential parts of the regional transportation system. Bikers and walkers incorporate exercise into their day, and often take transit as part of their trips. On a household level, people who walk or bike reduce their own transportation costs; at a national level, they reduce our dependence on non-renewable energy sources. And for some, walking and biking may be their only transportation options.
Walking and bicycling trips tend to be relatively short, averaging about one-quarter to one-half mile for walking, and between one and three miles for bicycling. Local governments lead the development of bicycle and pedestrian systems based on guidance from the region’s long-range transportation plan.
The region has an extensive bicycle system with many miles of on street bike lanes and a robust network of off-road trails. Cities and counties, along with the state and federal governments, have all made significant investments in regional bikeways.
Current trends in bicycling and bicycle planning include:
- Developing safer bicycle infrastructure that supports cyclists of all ages and abilities, including an increasing emphasis on bikeways that are protected and separated from traffic.
- Improving potential crossing locations for physical barriers to daily bicycle trips identified in the Regional Bicycle Barriers Study, like freeways, rail lines, and rivers and streams.
- Increasing mobility for cyclists with electric battery-assist bikes, or e-bikes. E-bikes enable users to climb hills easily and ride longer distances.
Pedestrian infrastructure — sidewalks, trails, lighting, and intersection design — is key to making places easier to reach, and creating inviting and safe places for people of all ages and abilities.
For people who do not drive, walking or traveling by wheelchair can be essential to meeting daily needs, as well as an important part of active living. Barriers, like a lack of sidewalks, poor snow and ice removal, and wide, busy roadway intersections can limit opportunities to walk to places like the store or to the nearest transit station.
Important priorities in planning for pedestrian traffic, and safe and accessible walkways:
- We are all pedestrians. Depending on who we are and where we live, it may be challenging to walk safely in our communities. For people who have a disability, children, older adults, and people living who live in lower income communities, it can be more difficult to walk where they need to go. It is a goal that our transportation networks work safely for all of us.
- Pedestrians are overrepresented in the region’s deaths from traffic crashes compared to the percentage of trips made by walking, reinforcing the need for improved pedestrian safety.
- Thirty years after the Americans with Disabilities Act, challenges remain for people who have disabilities. Communities must build transportation infrastructure that protects the civil rights of people with disabilities.