NACTO & Cities for Cycling: Big Cities, Fancy Guide, Simple Idea

The National Bike Summit provided an incredible opportunity to learn about a million different bicycle and transportation issues that are going on around the country. In the heaping pile of literature that I accumulated in forty-eight hours, one of the more intriguing items that I discovered was a leaflet and DVD for NACTO. If you had asked me what NACTO was last Monday, I would have scratched my head and shrugged my shoulders.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has been around for fifteen years and is currently comprised of fifteen of America's largest cities.   DC, NYC, Chicago, Boston, Portland and San Francisco are member cities, to name a few. If you were to ask me why I had never heard of NACTO, I'd again be scratching my head and shrugging my shoulders.

National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)
Photo: NACTO

NACTO's mission is to encourage "the exchange of transportation ideas, insights, and practices among large central cities while fostering a cooperative approach to key national transportation issues." In other words, by sharing best practices among the US's largest cities, and also using the combined influence of these major metropolitans, each city can be more efficient and effective in its transportation planning, and the overall impression that these cities make at a federal level can be greater.

While NACTO looks at the overall transportation picture in urban settings, one of its primary initiatives is Cities for Cycling.   Janette Sadik-Khan, the president of NACTO as well as the commissioner of the NYC DOT, understands that including bicycle infrastructure in a city's transportation plan is key to creating livable communities. "We have to do everything we can to build out strong transit lines, to build out strong bikeways, to build out places where people want to be," states Sadik-Khan.

New York Colored Lane
Photo: NACTO

As evidence of the organization's efforts to compile and share information, the Urban Bikeway Design Guide is a comprehensive set of instructions produced as part of the Cities for Cycling program, covering everything from designing bike lanes to signals and signage. The Guide is intended for planners in urban areas, although there is a note of caution on the website that each individual situation is unique.

The list of contributors and consultants for the Guide is impressive. If an association is going to create a reference for integrating bicycles into a city's transportation plan, it should have representatives from Portland's, Seattle's, New York City's, San Francisco's, DC's, and Boston's DOTs as well as consultants from Bikes Belong, Alta Planning and Design, and even Copenhagen and the Netherlands. And the Guide does. The information contained within each section of the Guide is also impressive. If you are looking for detailed, extensively researched guidance, this is it. If only finding funding was this straightforward.

Bike Signal
Photo: NACTO

Of course, NACTO is opposed to the proposed cuts to the federal transportation budget. The organization makes the smart argument that reducing funding for transportation projects on a national level will have a negative economic impact on US cities. With all of these powerful cities sharing their knowledge and fighting for funding, we're set. Right?

Well, it's a start. Having a living document (the Guide will be continuously updated online, according to NACTO) will save future planners time and money, two resources that are very often in short supply in the alternative transportation world. If today’s best-case scenario is staving off proposed transportation funding cuts, then pooling resources to become a more efficient movement overall will continue to be critically important.

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