Advancing Urban Bikeways and Inspiring Places for People-NACTO Designing Cities 2024

Alta
7 min readMay 30, 2024

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Contacts: Derek Abe, Alia Awwad, Matthew Dyrdahl, and Tom Natwick

Left to right: Audrey Cabay, Derek Abe, Alia Awwad, Matthew Dyrdahl, Tom Natwick, Stephanie Garcia

NACTO Designing Cities always shines as the forum for inspiring and advancing research for planning, design, and implementation of active transportation; placemaking; and community building. And this year’s event in Miami-Dade was no exception. As Veronica Davis acknowledged in her speech, the work we do is inspirational, but it’s not easy. That is why events like NACTO Designing Cities are so important. It was amazing to be with so many knowledgeable, talented people to break down the challenges and explore new solutions. We saw so much excitement around advances in our practice. Each conversation and action item moves us closer to a future of people-focused cities.

NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide Update, Third Edition Coming Soon!

The latest and greatest Urban Bikeway Design Guide is on its way! Bikeways and streetscapes in North America have evolved dramatically over the last decade since the second edition of the Urban Bikeway Design Guide was released, so it’s no surprise that there is a lot of anticipation for this new comprehensive resource. Alta is proud to support NACTO on key portions of this update, including new guidance on:

  • Accessibility
  • Micromobility and transit
  • Signalization
  • Intersection design

Stay tuned for more updates on this groundbreaking bikeway design guidance.

NACTO “Don’t Give Up at the Intersection” Training

Alta’s Derek Abe and Joe Gilpin of GTC led the “Don’t Give Up at the Intersection” training at the 2024 NACTO Designing Cities conference.

If you were able to attend our training to kick off the conference, you got a flavor of what’s to come in the third edition of the Urban Bikeway Design Guide. We shared this foundational material with over 70 talented and inspired planners and engineers from around the country looking to apply the NACTO intersection design guidance to their local streets. We had fantastic discussions with great questions and feedback from participants. Thank you to all who were able to join us and please keep in touch! If you were not able to make it, we hope to see you there next year.

MUTCD, 11th Edition

There was also a lot of buzz about the updates to the MUTCD, recently released in December 2023. The new edition takes a more proactive approach to integrating multimodal transportation with more environmentally forward transportation choices. We heard directly from USDOT Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg at the conference, and we echo her sentiments that the update is a step in the right direction. An important and positive part of the update is that NACTO can be adopted as the design guidance for federally funded projects on City streets! Some of the other noteworthy improvements to the MUTCD include:

  • Context is key to design. There is flexibility to design streets that are responsive to surrounding land use and multimodal needs, with strong support for applying engineering judgment to achieve better safety outcomes.
  • 85th percentile speeds should no longer be the confining standard for setting posted speed limits, but rather target speed that weighs contextual factors that fit within a safe systems approach should be the driving factor of speed limit setting.
  • Separated bikeways, protected intersections, transit lanes, and two-stage bike turn boxes are now in the MUTCD!
  • Rectangular rapid flashing beacons and bicycle signal faces have been moved out of the experimentational/conditional phase and are now included in the final rule.
  • We’ve been extensively involved in quick build guidance and implementation around the country, so it is wonderful that that there is more official leeway to support these projects with explicit permissions for including aesthetic asphalt art and guidance for treatments like quick build curb extensions. Streets are a canvas for creative solutions on safety and reimagining public spaces, and we look forward to continuing to push for positive outcomes from these types of projects.

This update demonstrates the importance of the experimentation process and continuous iteration of the manual. We look forward to continuing to improve practices that focus on vulnerable users such as protected intersections, bike signal guidance, and universal design particularly when it comes to complex multimodal intersections.

Miami-Dade Field Highlights

One of the things we look forward to most about the NACTO Designing Cities conference is the opportunity to experience and geek out on the local infrastructure with other active transportation enthusiasts from around the world. Miami-Dade County is embracing the spirit of NACTO with some wonderful projects that serve as examples for us all. In particular, field visits and walkshops of the more recent development around urban and regional trails left us very impressed. Here are some of our favorites from the walk(bike)shops and our own exploring:

Underline Linear Park and Urban Trail

During a tour of the built portion of the Underline Park and Urban Trail, participants experienced the value of green infrastructure to help capture stormwater and provide shade.

Through a partnership including Miami-Dade County, City of Miami, City of Coral Gables, Friends of the Underline, a vibrant and engaged board of directors, public and private donors, and hundreds of volunteers, the Underline is becoming an example for repurposing underutilized land into community space. Green infrastructure is being brought more into the fold at NACTO, and the Underline incorporates many green infrastructure features that capture stormwater, provide shade, reduce the urban heat island effect, and beautify the communities it connects.

“I was impressed with the master plan for this park years ago. It was revolutionary to experience it! Early afternoon on a weekday, it was alive with folks traveling the corridor, kids on the playgrounds, a full basketball court, and people just taking a break. It’s such a great example of reclaiming often overlooked and underutilized space for a community, in this case beneath an elevated rail corridor.” — Tom Natwick, PE, Urban Bikeway Initiative Co-Lead

The Ludlam Trail

Reviewing plans and learning about opportunities for the Ludlam Trail during a walkshop.

This trail is a key part of the vision of the Miami LOOP’s core bikeway routes planned within a former railroad right-of-way. Located in unincorporated Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami, this trail is part of the vision to create a county-wide blueway and greenway trail system to support economic development and sustainable transportation and recreation.

“It reminds me of the (somewhat famous) Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis because of how big of a transformation this project could be for walking and biking connections in the community. I definitely plan to go back to Miami and ride it once it is built out.” — Matthew Dyrdahl, Urban Bikeway Initiative Co-Lead

Miami Beach Ocean Drive and the Miami Beachwalk

Ocean Drive two-way protected bike lane in South Beach.

You can’t go to Miami without spending some time on the beach. We were fortunate to participate in a few bike tours of the Miami Beachwalk (a major part of the East Coast Greenway). There, locals and visitors alike go for casual strolls, gather with friends/family, exercise, people-watch, and of course access the famous waters.

“It was both familiar and inspiring to hear the history of popular attractions, the hard-fought battles that were won to give the community this world-class facility, and the challenges that lie ahead to complete them. People-centered infrastructure just makes sense, and it was really amazing to see and hear how much the community has grown to embrace these recent improvements.” — Derek Abe, Urban Bikeway Initiative Lead

Boca Raton Walk- and Bikeshop at the El Rio Trail and Mizner Park

Alta’s entire Florida team helped the City of Boca Raton organize its popular walk/bikeshop that started and terminated at Southeast Florida’s commuter rail systems! The event started bright and early aboard Tri-Rail out of Miami, which took participants to the northern terminus of the El Rio Trail in Boca. There, we were met with a fleet of bikes to ride the trail. Shuttles then took everyone to Mizner Park in the heart of downtown Boca, where we experienced the history and culture of the city. Lunch was served and amazing conversations were had. Participants then walked to the Brightline Station and hopped on the train back to Miami, experiencing the great potential of transit-oriented development.

Walkshop participants at Mizner Park, Boca Raton.

“It was surreal and exhilarating at the same time to have a NACTO walkshop happen in the city I call home, and have likeminded professionals weigh in on the accomplishments and potential of Mizner Park and Downtown Boca, where Alta’s Florida office is located. Step by step, City staff and elected officials are making super impressive headways towards safer multimodal streets that are surrounded by character, economic prosperity, and endless creative possibilities.” — Alia Awwad, PE, Principal/Florida Lead/Safety Practice Co-Lead

We wrapped up the very full week at Designing Cities Miami-Dade feeling energized and motivated. BIG shout out to NACTO staff and leadership for putting on another impressive conference, and for strengthening, growing, and elevating the incredible community of practitioners this has become over the years. We cannot build good cities or transportation networks without first building our networks of people and practitioners. The future is bright, and we’re looking forward to strengthening these relationships and applying this knowledge. Can’t wait to see you all at #NACTO2025 in Washington, DC!

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