Active Transportation Safety - Projects & progress
WSDOT's Safe Routes to School and Pedestrian/Bicyclist programs
These programs provide funding to local agencies that improve safety and mobility for people walking and biking. In the 2023-2025 funding cycle, the Safe Routes to School Program received 165 applications; the Pedestrian/Bicyclist Program received 144 applications. Funding requests in these 309 applications total $483.97 million. In July 2023, 38 Safe Routes to School and 27 Pedestrian/Bicyclist program project applicants received award letters for funding for $51,907,903 and $51,755,763, respectively.
Sandy Williams Connecting Communities program
The Sandy Williams Connecting Communities program launched with the first 12 projects for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. These projects will improve active transportation connectivity for people walking, biking, and rolling along and across current and former state highways. The program focuses on high equity needs communities most affected by environmental health disparities and barriers to opportunities. The program name honors Sandy Williams, a Black community activist who worked tirelessly to reconnect her Spokane neighborhood after the construction of Interstate 90 split it in half.
As of July 1, 2022, Move Ahead Washington embedded a consistent Complete Streets approach in WSDOT projects. WSDOT's implementation of Complete Streets on the statewide network is being guided by collaboration with diverse partners, including federal, local, regional and tribal governments, community groups, transit agencies, neighbors, and business owners, with particular attention to those who rely on walking and bicycling to get around. Projects are being developed across the state.
Statewide school-based bicycle safety education program
A new statewide bicycle safety education program began in 2022. It includes funding for school-based bicycle safety education for elementary and middle school students and an out-of-school program for middle and high school students. An implementation plan and project materials have been created for this extensive program which will provide bicycle safety education to children across Washington state over the next 16 years.
Legislature takes action to improve active transportation safety
Actions by the legislature included:
- Updating the state's planning framework to require that comprehensive plans address safety for all roadway users, climate change, resiliency, multimodal level of service, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) transition plans for accessibility.
- Adding legal definitions for the terms active transportation, complete streets, population center, safe system approach, and shared-use path or multiuse path.
- Codifying the Pedestrian/Bicycle Safety grants program that has existed since 2005 through budget provisos.
- Clarifying existing law to explicitly authorize impact fee revenue to fund improvements to bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
- Strengthening driver's license reviews for drivers involved in collisions that result in substantial bodily harm.
- Imposing criminal penalties for negligent driving involving the death of a vulnerable user victim under Washington's vulnerable user law.
- Providing funds to launch multiple programs:
- two new e-bike incentive/grant programs,
- video analytics at intersections with higher numbers of active transportation crashes and injuries,
- the first phase of a bicycle highways action plan, and
- funding recommended grant levels for the Safe Routes to School, Pedestrian/Bicycle Safety, and Sandy Williams Connecting Communities programs.
- Providing funding for a pedestrian lighting study by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and sidewalk data collection by the University of Washington.
Legislature takes action to improve active transportation safety
In 2022, the Washington State Legislature made several changes to state law related to safety and mobility for people walking and bicycling. These changes incorporated recommendations from the Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council, WSDOT and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
Changes made by the legislature included:
- Expanding the Neighborhood Safe Streets Law to empower WSDOT and local authorities to lower speed limits to 20 mph on nonarterial streets without conducting an engineering and traffic study.
- Extending the "due care" standard to pedestrians to match the existing requirement for drivers to exercise due care to avoid crashes.
- Authorizing the use of traffic control devices to prioritize pedestrian and bicyclist use and limit vehicular traffic to local access.
The Move Ahead Washington transportation revenue and investment package dedicates 24% of the annual carbon emissions reduction revenue to a new climate active transportation account which is used for projects that benefit vulnerable populations in overburdened communities. These included:
- Increasing funding for WSDOT's Safe Routes to School and Pedestrian/Bicyclist programs. This supports projects to help improve safety across the state, with funding going out to communities starting in July 2023.
- Creating the Connecting Communities pilot program, a five-year, $50 million program that will restore networks and connections (such as trails, bike lanes, and places to cross) where state transportation facilities had severed them.
- Directing WSDOT to apply Complete Streets principles on projects of $500,000 or more entering design after July 1, 2022.
- Funding several community pedestrian/bicyclist projects and directing WSDOT to prioritize them based on benefits for overburdened communities.
- Establishing a statewide schoolbased bicycle safety education program.
The legislature also expanded the use of automated traffic safety cameras for enforcement and dedicated the fines collected to active transportation safety:
- To include automatic detection of speed violations in school walk areas, public park zones and hospital speed zones; and
- To allow cities to add additional cameras based on population in locations that meet specific safety criteria (including the completion of an equity analysis).
WSDOT updates Highway Safety Improvement Program Implementation Plan
WSDOT's 2021 Highway Safety Improvement Program Implementation Plan, released in summer 2021, includes a chapter specific to active transportation. It is intended to address the increasing trend of fatal and serious injury crashes for those who walk and bike by identifying factors associated with crash potential, equity and demand. To prioritize safety investments, it proposes using analysis completed as part of the Active Transportation Plan to identify locations on the state system that are considered transportation gaps. These gap locations are places where infrastructure and traffic control treatments that serve people walking and biking are needed. Proposed modifications to address the identified need include proven treatments such as traffic safety cameras in school zones, changes to road configurations, bike lanes, sidewalks and a variety of intersection improvements.
Active Transportation Safety Council discusses meaning of safety
In 2020, the Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council began a series of discussion papers entitled "Whose Mobility Matters?" The group's first paper was published on the subject of allowing the "due care" standard to apply to people who walk on roadways.
As of August 2021, members of the ATSC were working on another paper in this series to expand understanding of how proposed actions affect safety for all. Traffic safety is often understood in the immediate, individual context—a person's risk of being struck by a driver, for example. As the ATSC is now discussing, whether or not a person feels "safe" on the street is also a function of the roadway's design, maintenance, and operations; the treatment they receive based on characteristics such as race, gender, or disability; their exposure to pollutants and emissions; and other systemic and societal forces affecting health, well-being, and the ability to participate fully in community life. This discussion fits into the governor's directive to apply an equity framework as well as the principles in the Healthy Environment for All Act passed by the legislature in 2021.
In addition to this series, the ATSC develops papers examining technical issues. The group's first report, Automated Traffic Enforcement Systems: A Key Component for Increasing Safe Walking and Biking to Schools, was also published in 2020. A paper on "All Things Speed Related" will be forthcoming in 2021, building on the concepts in the speed management work group's policy framework.
WSDOT publishes Part 1 of Active Transportation Plan
WSDOT published Part 1 of its Active Transportation Plan in May 2021. The plan approaches assessing level of traffic stress based on roadway characteristics for state routes with an emphasis on reducing the potential for crashes in population centers. It is also the first statewide plan to lay out an equity framework for understanding where crash history aligns with state and societal history, reinforcing how essential it is to address the effects of this legacy.
WSDOT approached development of the ATP by building on earlier work around pedestrian safety such as the 2018 Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, funded by Federal Highway Administration. To implement one of that plan's action recommendations, WSDOT staff led a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency work group that developed policies and guidelines around speed management for injury minimization. The resulting framework is publicly available on the WSDOT pedestrian safety web page, along with additional speed management resources.
As part of developing the ATP, WSDOT studied route directness as a tool for understanding active transportation networks in population centers, and how highways can act as barriers to active transportation users. Based on FHWA's Guidebook for Measuring Multimodal Network Connectivity, the tool calculates a Route Directness Index that quantifies the amount of out-of-direction travel required to cross a state highway—essentially the "detour" created by lack of safe crossing opportunities. A final report from the study is now available on the WSDOT website.
WSDOT has begun plan implementation with an emphasis on data and decision processes that support safety. As one example, WSDOT is refining how it calculates some of the quantitative evaluation methods such as RDI and Level of Traffic Stress. The agency is also exploring incorporating roadway data from local transportation systems. The overarching goal is to create an easy-to-use interface that allows both use and updates of data to inform planning, scoping, design, and operations.
Second part of Active Transportation Plan to address performance metrics
The Active Transportation Plan Part 2—scheduled to be complete at the end of 2021—covers policies, strategies, actions and performance metrics. The draft safety performance metrics being considered in the draft plan include:
- Eliminate pedestrian and bicyclist traffic crash fatalities
- Eliminate fatal and serious injury pedestrian traffic crashes involving people 65 years or older
- Injury minimization speed limits — increase state route mileage with posted speeds of 25 mph or less in population centers
- Lower Bicyclist Level of Traffic Stress
- Lower Pedestrian Level of Traffic Stress
- Increase Miles of Bicycle Facilities - facility length
- Increase Miles of Pedestrian Facilities - facility length
- Non-signalized intersection crossings - Level of Traffic Stress lowered
- Ramp crossings - Level of Traffic Stress lowered
- Eliminate transportation disparities
- Reduce air pollution emissions
- Increase grant making to high-need communities
WSDOT estimates that 37% of state highways in population centers have sidewalks, but data is incomplete
For the ATP, WSDOT estimated that 37% (449 miles) of state highways in population centers had some sidewalk present. However, this estimate was based on incomplete data—as of October 6, 2020, the agency estimated that approximately 308 miles of state highway in population centers had not yet been evaluated for sidewalk presence. Additionally, evaluation for sidewalk presence does not include information about the width of the sidewalk, presence of buffers, or ADA suitability.
Understanding the availability of sidewalk is critical to developing pedestrian Level of Traffic Stress measures. While useful for high-level, statewide estimation of pedestrian gap presence in population centers, the data currently available does not allow a given location to be assigned an LTS score based on sidewalk presence or absence.
WSDOT using equity criteria to evaluate applications for its active transportation grant programs
In evaluating applications for the Pedestrian and Bicycle Program and the Safe Routes to School programs for the 2021-2023 funding cycle, WSDOT found relatively few jurisdictions had submitted proposals in locations that rank high on equity factors such as the percentage of children eligible for free or reduced-cost school meals. Because of the Healthy Environment for All Act, one of the agency's goals going into the next round of these programs is to have them better address equity disparities. Increasing the number of applications with proposals in locations that rank high in equity factors, as well as applications from high-need communities that have not applied in the past, represents increased opportunities for the people who live in these communities.
Proposed changes in the process, such as greater outreach and support to local agencies that serve a higher proportion of people of color and lowincome populations, will be outlined in the December 1, 2021 PBP and SRTS status report to the legislature.
WSDOT updates Target Zero highway safety plan
In 2019, WSDOT updated its Strategic Highway Safety Plan, Target Zero. The updated plan includes a chapter on pedestrian and bicyclist safety, which notes the importance of engineering approaches in reducing or eliminating the potential for a serious or fatal crash to occur. Recommended strategies include:
- Speed management focused on injury minimization to save lives for all roadway users;
- Expanded and improved crossing opportunities;
- A complete active transportation network;
- Improved safety for children walking or bicycling to school; and
- Improved data and performance measures.
The Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council has identified these as priorities in past legislative reports.
Target Zero also includes a chapter on the Safe Systems Approach. WSDOT is participating in an implementation work group with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and other partners. The group is evaluating the many strategies listed in Target Zero to identify those that will provide the largest return in lives saved, and will identify next steps for implementing those strategies.
Active Transportation Safety Council to recommend increase in traffic safety cameras around schools
As of June 30th, 2020, 15 local agencies in Washington state use automated safety cameras in school speed zones. The safety cameras work by capturing a picture of the license plate of anyone speeding through a school zone and results in a speeding ticket being issued.
The Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council intends to recommend allowing the use of automated traffic safety cameras in school walk zones (the one mile road distance around Washington state schools). Automated traffic safety cameras are currently allowed in school speed zones, as well as at intersections and railroad crossings. Communities that have used the automated safety cameras (such as Seattle, Spokane, and Kirkland) have seen significant speed and crash reductions at locations where the cameras have been installed. The recommendation would also designate the revenues from the automated enforcement to other traffic safety improvements near schools, such as sidewalks.
According to the Washington State Student Travel Survey, 38% of children who live within a mile of their school walked or biked to school in 2019. The amount or speed of traffic along routes to school were among the top reasons why parents did not allow their children to walk or bike to school.
New laws focus on pedestrian, bicyclist safety
During the 2020 session, the Legislature passed several bills related to safety and mobility for people walking and bicycling. These include:
- SSB 6208 "Safety Stop" - Beginning on October 1, 2020, this bill gives people bicycling the option to treat a stop sign as a yield after confirming that it is safe to enter the intersection. Stop sign signals on school buses and at railroad crossings will still require a complete stop. Washington becomes the fifth state in the nation to legalize the Safety Stop, following Idaho, Delaware, Arkansas, and Oregon.
- HB 2587 Scenic Bikeways Program - This bill requires the Parks and Recreation Commission to establish a scenic bikeways program for the designation and promotion of bicycle routes of notable scenic, recreational, cultural, or historic value. WSDOT will coordinate U.S. Bicycle Route identification with this new program where appropriate.
- HB 1793 - This bill will allow the City of Seattle to use automated traffic safety cameras for enforcement of laws that make it illegal to block an intersection or crosswalk or travel in restricted lanes such as those marked for use only by public transportation vehicles.
- SB 6493 - This bill is a technical fix to the 2019 enabling legislation for the Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council. Information on the ATSC and its 2019 report.
WSDOT studies state highways as barriers to active transportation
Beginning in 2019, WSDOT undertook a Federal Highway Administration-funded study to examine the extent to which state highways act as barriers and/or deterrents to active transportation. The study calculated a Route Directness Index that indicates how far out of their way people need to travel in order to cross a state route. RDI information complements previous work that established the Level of Traffic Stress associated with state route crossings due to characteristics such as high traffic volumes, number of travel lanes, and posted speed, WSDOT intends to use LTS and RDI data to identify and prioritize areas in need of new or improved crossings for pedestrians and bicyclists.
WSDOT makes progress on Active Transportation Plan
Throughout 2019, WSDOT conducted planning, outreach, and analysis of state routes in order to update the agency's Active Transportation Plan. The ATP will meet state and federal statutory requirements ( RCW 47.06.100).
The ATP builds on and integrates previous work, including the findings and recommendations in WSDOT's 2018 Pedestrian Safety Action Plan . The Safe Systems Approach highlighted in Target Zero in WSDOT's analysis of active transportation needs is embedded in the ATP. The ATP also incorporates recommendations made by the Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council in its reports to the legislature, including an emphasis on complete networks, infrastructure investment in underserved areas, and improved collection of facilities data. The plan supports other WSDOT plans and is designed to contribute to the Highway System Plan now under development.
WSDOT's ATP uses Level of Traffic Stress analysis to identify gaps in the the active transportation network. WSDOT is only the third state DOT in the nation to use Level of Traffic Stress in its active transportation assessment.
The plan also identifies needs using evaluation criteria for safety, equity, and demand to determine where future improvements can contribute most to safety, opportunity, and participation. The ATP focuses on population centers—the places where people are most likely to want or need to walk or bike for short trips.
ATP outreach identifies safe biking, walking facilities as top concern
WSDOT invited public input on the ATP through a variety of channels, including an online open house, social media, in-person presentations and focus groups, and questionnaires. The agency received responses from thousands of Washingtonians.
In its analysis of the responses received, WSDOT found that the top concern of two categories of respondents—people who walk and bike now, and people who would increase their use of active transportation if they felt safe doing so—was safer facilities that provide complete connections.
The ATP will be out for public comment in fall 2020. To be notified when the plan is available, subscribe to the E-News .
Target Zero safety plan helps identify problems
Washington state is not currently on track to meet the pedestrian and bicyclist safety goals set forth in its strategic highway safety plan, Target Zero. The plan calls for zero traffic fatalities or serious injuries by 2030, but both have increased since 2016.
In the forthcoming 2019 Target Zero report, emphasis areas for pedestrians and bicyclists based on 2018 data prioritize crossings, speed management, and the need for safe, complete infrastructure, among other strategies. Of the fatal and serious injury crashes involved pedestrians in 2018:
- 62% occurred when the pedestrian was crossing the street
- 65% occurred where there were no traffic controls (stop signs, traffic signals, etc.), and
- 73% occurred on roads with a posted speed of 30 mph or higher
New laws focus on pedestrian, bicyclist safety
In the 2019 session the legislature passed Senate Bill 5710, merging separate pedestrian and bicyclist councils into the Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Advisory Council. The ATSAC will continue to analyze data and make recommendations with the aim of reducing pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries.
The legislature also passed SB 5723, an update to the vulnerable road user law that defines safe passing, increases fines for unsafe passing, and uses the revenues to establish a vulnerable roadway user education fund. This was one of the recommendations in the 2018 reports of both the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Advisory councils.
Both reports recommended development of a speed management policy. WSDOT has convened a speed policy working group with injury minimization as its goal, and will release a policy and guidelines in early 2020. Additional recommendations on topics like the development of complete networks, investment in infrastructure in underserved areas, and improved collection of asset data can be found at PSAC 2018 Report and Bicyclist Safety Advisory Council 2018 report.
WSDOT invests in safety improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists
The WSDOT Pedestrian and Bicycle Program and the Safe Routes to School Program provide funding to public agencies for bicyclist and pedestrian safety improvements. The programs are open to all public agencies in Washington and emphasize crash reduction; the SRTS program requires projects to be located within two miles of a school.
WSDOT expects to award approximately $41 million in funding for the two programs in summer 2019. From January to April 2018, WSDOT received 255 applications requesting $187.4 million from the two programs—the highest total amount ever requested.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Program completes 107 projects
In 2018, WSDOT received 135 Pedestrian and Bicycle Program project requests from 92 agencies and organizations.
More than half of the applications (59%) either called for making improvements at known crash locations or proposed projects based on the Federal Highway Administration's Systemic Safety Approach. Forty-two percent of the applications were located within areas with a greater than average percentage of people of color, and about 59% of the applications focused on low-income areas.
Since this program was created in 2005, more than $72 million has been made available for 158 projects, of which 107 have been completed. An evaluation of Pedestrian and Bicycle Program projects between 2005 and 2015 indicates a 43.8% reduction in walking- and bicyclingrelated crashes at project sites during the study time period.
Safe Routes to School completes 162 projects in Washington
In 2018, WSDOT received 120 Safe Routes to School project requests from 85 agencies and organizations totaling approximately $87.4 million.
Thirty-six percent of these applications either targeted known crash locations or proposed improvements based on the Federal Highway Administration's Systemic Safety Approach. Forty-seven percent of the applications would serve schools with greater than the state average percentage of students of color, and about 61% of the applications focused on schools with greater than the state average percentage of children that receive free and reduce priced meals.
Since 2005, $71 million has been made available for 215 projects, of which 162 have been completed. An evaluation of past Safe Routes to School projects (2005-2015) indicates a 36.4% reduction in walking- and bicycling-related crashes at the project locations.
WSDOT to update Active Transportation Plan
WSDOT expects to release a five-year update to its Washington State Bicycle Facilities and Pedestrian Walkways Plan in 2020. This plan will inform WSDOT's work both on its own roads and with its partners, guiding the implementation of changes to increase access, safety and mobility and enable Washingtonians of all ages and abilities to walk, bike and roll. The plan includes an analysis of existing facilities, guidelines for prioritizing improvements for a complete network, an assessment of asset management practices, a policy review, study of funding opportunities and development of performance measures.
WSDOT is engaging the public and stakeholders across the state in the plan update by asking them to help provide vision, policy direction and actionable, prioritized strategies for WSDOT and its partner agencies.
WSDOT works to develop pedestrian crossing plan
In 2018, WSDOT staff worked with the Federal Highway Administration to develop an action plan for implementing pedestrian crossing countermeasures at uncontrolled locations, available at Pedestrian Safety Action Plan. The plan recommends process changes to help WSDOT better understand:
- Where pedestrian crossing needs exist
- How to prioritize unmet need and make best use of existing and future funding, and
- How to obtain the right mix of effective treatments.
Washington again most bicycle-friendly state
Washington state remains the most bicycle friendly state in the nation, according to the League of American Bicyclists. LAB ranks states based on state-submitted information on policy, use of funds, state DOT surveys, and other factors. Washington has led the list since the ranking system was established in 2008. Learn more and read the Washington state 2018 Progress Report.