Bike & pedestrian master plans

Evidence Rating  
Some Evidence
Evidence rating: 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.

Health Factors  

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. Plans typically include policies and planning methods to encourage alternative modes of travel, land use plans, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure development, and address traffic and safety concerns. Bicycle and pedestrian master plans can be developed and implemented by city, county, regional, and state governments and are often implemented in stages over time1

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Increased physical activity

  • Increased active transportation

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Reduced injuries

  • Reduced vehicle miles traveled

  • Reduced emissions

What does the research say about effectiveness? This strategy is rated some evidence.

There is some evidence that implementing bicycle and pedestrian master plans increases physical activity and active transportation by enhancing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and connectivity2, 3, 4. Many components of bicycle and pedestrian master plans have been shown to increase physical activity such as street connectivity improvements, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, and safety and traffic control projects5, 6, 7, especially when combined with land use design projects8. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects of master plans.

Infrastructure improvements that support cycling, combined with informational outreach activities such as master plans, have been shown to increase cycling by modest amounts7. Bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure improvements such as bicycle lanes, bicycle racks, bicycle paths, walking trails, and shared bicycle programs can also promote physical activity for both confident and non-confident cyclists2, especially as part of a bicycle and pedestrian master plan9, 10. Bicycle and pedestrian master plans have also been associated with lower rates of injury among cyclists and pedestrians4, 11.

Replacing automotive trips with biking and walking can reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and emissions at relatively low cost12, 13.

Costs for infrastructure improvements vary significantly by locale and type of improvement; for example, the median cost for a bicycle rack is $540, and a pedestrian wooden bridge overpass is $122,610. The median cost per mile is $89,470 for a bicycle lane, and $261,000 for a paved multi-use trail14. A Netherlands-based cost benefit analysis suggests that investments in improved bicycle infrastructure and facilities yields positive net benefits in the long-term15.

Case studies of cities across the U.S. suggest that master plans can guide investment decisions and help identify local funding sources to support implementation16. Bicycle and pedestrian master plans that prioritize infrastructure improvements in neighborhoods with the least connectivity2, 16, and engage community members in the planning process may help reduce disparities in access to and use of improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure17, 18, 19.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

As of 2014, twenty-six states have either a bicycle and pedestrian master plan or a standalone plan for each20. Bicycle and pedestrian master plans have also been adopted by numerous cities, counties, and regions, including: Brownsville, Texas21; Anne Arundel County, Maryland; Austin, Texas; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Denver, Colorado; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Eugene, Oregon; Los Angeles; San Diego; New York City; and Seattle1. As of 2015, 31 states and Washington, D.C. have pedestrian master plans or Complete Street policies, and at the local and regional level, 851 such policies have been adopted20. In some states, for example Utah, bicycle and pedestrian master plans include options for infrastructure improvements in urban, frontier, and rural counties where trails, lanes, or shoulders are needed for active transportation and recreation22.

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 at various levels in 29 states. Seattle and New York City have been recognized at the platinum level; 15 communities have been recognized as gold, 18 as silver, 31 as bronze, and 22 as honorable mentions23.

Implementation Resources

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

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.

HPBD - Healthy Places by Design (HPBD). Advances community-led action and proven, place-based strategies to ensure health and wellbeing for all.

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.

US DOT-PBIC - US Department of Transportation (US DOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC).

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?

Utah-BPMP guide - Burbidge S. Utah bicycle & pedestrian master plan (BPMP) design guide. Project Task Force: Utah Department of Health, Utah Department of Transportation, Wasatch Front Regional Council, Utah Highway Safety Office, Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake Valley Health Department.

PAS-Zoning 2016 - Planning Advisory Service (PAS). Planning & zoning for health in the built environment. American Planning Association (APA); 2016.

SRTSNP-Safe routes to healthy foods - Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTSNP). Healthy communities: Safe routes to healthy foods.


* Journal subscription may be required for access.

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

2 Lowry 2017 - Lowry M, Loh TH. Quantifying bicycle network connectivity. Preventive Medicine. 2017;95(Suppl):S134-S140.

3 Henao 2015 - Henao A, Piatkowski D, Luckey KS, et al. Sustainable transportation infrastructure investments and mode share changes: A 20-year background of Boulder, Colorado. Transport Policy. 2015;37:64-71.

4 Pedroso 2016 - Pedroso FE, Angriman F, Bellows AL, Taylor K. Bicycle use and cyclist safety following Boston’s bicycle infrastructure expansion, 2009-2012. American Journal of Public Health. 2016;106(12):2171-2177.

5 Cerin 2017 - Cerin E, Nathan A, van Cauwenberg J, Barnett DW, Barnett A. The neighbourhood physical environment and active travel in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2017;14(1):15.

6 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.

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

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

9 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.

10 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.

11 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.

12 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.

13 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.

14 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.

15 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.

16 Riggs 2016 - Riggs W, McDade E. Moving from planning to action: Exploring best practice policy in the finance of local bicycling and pedestrian improvements. Case Studies on Transport Policy. 2016;4(3): 248-257.

17 Lubitow 2016 - Lubitow A, Zinschlag B, Rochester N. Plans for pavement or for people? The politics of bike lanes on the “Paseo Boricua” in Chicago, Illinois. Urban Studies. 2016;53(12):2637-2653.

18 Lee 2017a - Lee RJ, Sener IN, Jones SN. Understanding the role of equity in active transportation planning in the United States. Transport Reviews. 2017;37(2):211-226.

19 Noyes 2014 - Noyes P, Fung L, Lee KK, Grimshaw VE, Karpati A, DiGrande L. Cycling in the city: An in-depth examination of bicycle lane use in a low-income urban neighborhood. Journal of Physical Activity & Health. 2014;11(1):1-9.

20 CDC-Step it up status 2017 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Status report for Step It Up! The surgeon general's call to action to promote walking and walkable communities. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2017.

21 RWJF-Brownsville 2014 - Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Brownsville, TX: 2014 Culture of Health Prize Winner. 2014.

22 CDC DNPAO-State highlights 2016 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO). DNPAO State Program Physical Activity Highlights: Montana’s Building Active Community Initiative Action Institutes & Utah’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Planning. 2016.

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

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