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Bicycle and pedestrian master plans

Evidence Rating

Some Evidence

Bicycle and pedestrian master plans establish a framework to increase walking and biking trails, and improve connectivity of non-auto paths and trails in a particular locality.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased physical activity

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased active transportation

  • Reduced injuries

  • Reduced vehicle miles traveled

  • Reduced emissions

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that bicycle and pedestrian master plans increase physical activity by enhancing access to places for activity and increasing land available for physical activity (, Yang 2010, CG-Physical activity). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Infrastructure improvements supporting cycling combined with informational outreach activities such as master plans have been shown to increase cycling by modest amounts (Yang 2010). Bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure improvements such as bicycle lanes, bicycle racks, bicycle paths/walking trails, and shared bicycle programs can also promote physical activity, especially as part of a comprehensive package of interventions such as a bicycle and pedestrian master plan (). Transportation and travel policies alone may or may not lead to behavior change (CG-Physical activity). Bicycle and pedestrian master plans have also been associated with lower rates of injury among pedestrians (Kerr 2013).

Replacing automotive trips with biking and walking can reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and emissions at relatively low cost, although the long-term effect on traffic reduction is likely minor (RAND-Sorenson 2008, ). Costs for infrastructure improvements vary significantly both by locale and type of improvement, for example the median cost is $540 for a bicycle rack, $122,610 for a pedestrian wooden bridge overpass, $89,470 per mile for a bicycle lane, and $261,000 per mile for a paved multi-use trail (UNC-Bushell 2013). A Netherlands-based cost-benefit analysis suggests that investments in improved bicycle infrastructure and facilities yields positive net benefits in the long-term (). 

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Numerous states, regions, and municipalities have bicycle or pedestrian master plans, including: Arizona, Idaho, Florida, New Jersey, Vermont, Anne Arundel County (Maryland), Austin (Texas), Chapel Hill (North Carolina), Denver (Colorado), Los Angeles, New York City, and Seattle (PBIC-Sample plans). 

Walk Friendly Communities is a national recognition program that supports and encourages efforts to enhance safer walking environments, especially those using master plans. Walk Friendly Communities have been recognized in 32 states. Seattle, WA is the only platinum level community; 15 communities are recognized as gold, 14 as silver, 25 as bronze, and 17 as honorable mentions (WFC-State map). 

Implementation Resources

NCPPA - National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA). About resources & reports.

ALBD - Active Living by Design (ALBD). Increasing physical activity and healthy eating through community design.

PBIC-Sample plans - Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC). Sample plans.

PFP-Physical activity - Partnership for Prevention (PFP). Places for physical activity: Facilitating development of a community trail and promoting its use to increase physical activity among youth and adults: An action guide. Washington, DC: Partnership for Prevention (PFP); 2008.

Southworth 2005 - Southworth M. Designing the walkable city. Journal of Urban Planning and Development. 2005:131(4):246-57.

APHA-Transportation toolkit - American Public Health Association (APHA). APHA online toolkit: Transportation and health toolkit.

UNC-Bushell 2013 - Bushell MA, Poole BW, Zegeer CV, Rodriguez DA. Costs for pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure improvements: A resource for researchers, engineers, planners, and the general public. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Highway Safety Research Center; 2013.

WFC-Resources - Walk Friendly Communities (WFC), Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Resources.

ChangeLab-Healthy plans 2012 - ChangeLab Solutions, Raimi & Associates. How to create and implement healthy general plans: A toolkit for building healthy, vibrant communities. 2012.

ChangeLab-Roadmap - ChangeLab Solutions. A roadmap for healthier general plans step by step: Who does what?

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Brownson 2006* - Brownson RC, Haire-Joshu D, Luke DA. Shaping the context of health: A review of environmental and policy approaches in the prevention of chronic diseases. Annual Review of Public Health. 2006;27:341–70.

CG-Physical activity - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Increasing physical activity.

RAND-Sorenson 2008 - Sorenson P, Wachs M, Min EY, et al. Moving Los Angeles: Short-term policy options for improving transportation. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2008: Monograph Report 748.

Yang 2010 - Yang L, Sahlqvist S, McMinn A, Griffin SJ, Ogilvie D. Interventions to promote cycling: Systematic review. BMJ. 2010;341:c5293.

Parker 2011* - Parker KM, Gustat J, Rice JC. Installation of bicycle lanes and increased ridership in an urban, mixed-income setting in New Orleans, Louisiana. Journal of Physical Activity & Health. 2011;8(Suppl 1):S98-S102.

Pucher 2010* - Pucher J, Dill J, Handy S. Infrastructure, programs, and policies to increase bicycling: an international review. Preventive Medicine. 2010;50(Suppl 1):S106-25.

Kerr 2013 - Kerr ZY, Rodriguez DA, Evenson KR, Aytur SA. Pedestrian and bicycle plans and the incidence of crash-related injuries. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 2013;50:1252–8.

UNC-Bushell 2013 - Bushell MA, Poole BW, Zegeer CV, Rodriguez DA. Costs for pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure improvements: A resource for researchers, engineers, planners, and the general public. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Highway Safety Research Center; 2013.

Salon 2012* - Salon D, Boarnet MG, Handy S, Spears S, Tal G. How do local actions affect VMT? A critical review of the empirical evidence. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. 2012;17(7):495–508.

Fishman 2015* - Fishman E, Schepers P, Kamhuis CBM. Dutch cycling: Quantifying the health and related economic benefits. American Journal of Public Health. 2015;105(8):e13-e15.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

PBIC-Sample plans - Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC). Sample plans.

WFC-State map - Walk Friendly Communities (WFC), Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Walk friendly communities state map.

Date Last Updated

Jul 28, 2015
  • Scientifically Supported: Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.
  • Some Evidence: Strategies with this rating are likely to work, but further research is needed to confirm effects. These strategies have been tested more than once and results trend positive overall.
  • Expert Opinion: Strategies with this rating are recommended by credible, impartial experts but have limited research documenting effects; further research, often with stronger designs, is needed to confirm effects.
  • Insufficient Evidence: Strategies with this rating have limited research documenting effects. These strategies need further research, often with stronger designs, to confirm effects.
  • Mixed Evidence: Strategies with this rating have been tested more than once and results are inconsistent or trend negative; further research is needed to confirm effects.
  • Evidence of Ineffectiveness: Strategies with this rating are not good investments. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently negative and sometimes harmful results.