by Nicole Fox, PE
Even though it’s been around since 1956, you might not know that May is National Bike Month. And it’s the perfect time to celebrate that here in the Northeast where it’s FINALLY starting to warm up and I don’t need to dress like Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” to go outside. But National Bike Month means more to me than just a reason to spend the day in the great outdoors doing something I love – it represents one of the reasons I became a Transportation Engineer.
I firmly believe that roads are meant to be shared by cyclists, pedestrians, motorists, and anyone else who needs to get from Point A to Point B. When I design a road, I think about more than just vehicular traffic. I think about adequate space for separated bike lanes, wide sidewalks, accessibility (ramps, multi-sensatory signals, material selection, etc.), cycle tracks, connectivity, and, of course, safety for all. Taking motorized vehicles off the road and creating space for alternate modes of transportation creates so many benefits for us all. There are both physical and mental health benefits to peddling, scooting, walking, jogging, etc.; less vehicles means less emissions, which is good for the environment; and fewer vehicles also means less traffic – and I don’t think anyone will complain about less traffic! Creating these safe environments is a particular passion of mine, and I feel very lucky that I am able to design and then use the spaces I design.
As I talked with more and more of my coworkers, I learned that I was not alone in this devotion to multi-modal transportation. What started as an excuse to bike together outside of work has now developed into a team of like-minded traffic and transportation engineers: The Active Design Group. We share ideas and collaborate on designs that promote communal space. A big part of what we do, and one of the things we enjoy the most, is collaborating with communities to learn about what works best for them. These stakeholders might be organized interest groups, local policy makers, or individuals who are avid cyclists. Each community (and, really, each road) has unique needs. It is imperative to the design process that the voices of those that use the roads and trails are heard. We always want to design safely and within the context of the space.
I encourage everyone to celebrate National Bike Month in a way that is appropriate for you and your environment. Maybe this means biking to work one day if that is something you can do safely (this year, National Bike to Work Day is May 20th), maybe it’s riding with friends or family on an off-road trail, or maybe it’s just even learning that there is such a thing as National Bike Month! However you celebrate, know that there are Transportation and Traffic Engineers looking out for your safety, and I hope you enjoy the ride!
About the Author
Nicole Fox, PE is a Project Manager with experience in all phases of transportation design and planning. Her practice includes rail trail design, new location trails, bicycle and pedestrian planning and scoping, as well as sidewalks and on-road bicycle lanes and cycle tracks. Nicole also volunteers her time to Girls on the Run, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. Nicole is also the co-chair of Women in Transportation’s Transportation-YOU Committee, which focuses on middle school and high school outreach.