WalkBikeNC is the most innovative statewide pedestrian and bicycle plan in the United States. It is North Carolina’s first statewide plan to define a transformative vision for improving conditions for people walking and bicycling. The Plan is built around a five-pillar framework: Safety, Health, Economy, Mobility, and Environment.

Jason Reyes, Durham, United States

THE PROBLEM: Most urban, suburban, and rural areas in North Carolina (NC) are designed for the automobile, creating environments that are not conducive or safe for walking. NC’s communities currently lack contiguous, interconnected, and consistent facilities and services that support walking as a viable choice for transportation. WalkBikeNC addresses these factors, along with other important trends related to walkability in NC:

• On average, 162 pedestrians are killed in NC every year
• NC is ranked as the ninth worst U.S. state for walking, and the fifth worst for childhood obesity
• 13% of all traffic fatalities in NC are bicyclists and pedestrians
• By 2030, NC will be the seventh most populous state in the U.S. (ranked tenth in 2010)
• By 2040, NC’s total population will be 75% urban (from 60% in 2000)

THE PROCESS: WalkBikeNC addresses these trends by involving people from every part of the state in developing recommendations. The process was unprecedented in terms of engagement and collaboration, including:

• More than 30 organizations in partnership between government and private sectors
• More than 20 committee and management meetings with state legislators, state agency staff, metropolitan and rural planning staff, non-profit advocacy groups, and funding partners
• 15 focus group meetings and three regional workshops with urban planners and advocates
• Public outreach at 16 festivals and events across the state, including public input maps, education materials, and dialogue with a diverse range of North Carolinians about how to improve conditions for walking
• A project website and interactive map for sharing site-specific comments across the state (the website was also linked to social media)
• Total participation from more than 16,000 residents, both in-person & through online participation

THE SOLUTION: The result of this broad participation is a blueprint for creating walkable and bikeable communities throughout North Carolina, especially in the state’s rapidly growing urban areas. WalkBikeNC is making walking an integral part of NC’s transportation network, improving urban mobility and reducing traffic congestion. The Plan calls for greater investment in walking and biking infrastructure, improved transportation equity and choice, connectivity among transportation modes, and coordinated land use and transportation planning. Other key features of the plan include:

• A clearly defined set of trends that make the case for walking, including a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) and an Economic Benefits Analysis
• A design toolbox of innovative pedestrian treatments, allowing state and local engineers to see a broader range of applicable design solutions
• 37 program recommendations (non-infrastructure) that promote health, safety and active living through walking and bicycling, such as Walkable Community Conferences, a ‘Watch for Me NC’ pedestrian campaign, and Active Routes to School programs
• Context-sensitive recommendations for retrofitting the vast network of existing state and local streets, thereby improving the quality of public spaces and increasing liveability and walkability
• An implementation framework that outlines partnerships, strategies, recommendations, performance measures, and action steps for each of the plan’s five pillars (Safety, Health, Economy, Mobility, and Environment).

Today, WalkBikeNC is implemented by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), with the continued support of other public, private, and non-profit partners. The WalkBikeNC.com website serves as the public portal for the plan, and provides tools for stakeholders to work together in creating a more walkable future for communities across the state.

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