Highway Design Manuals set standards for roadway design and traffic engineers adhere to them. However, they are also sometimes used as a defense to not build innovative bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure (“If it’s not in the manual then I cannot do it.”). Outdated manuals are one of the bureaucratic hurdles that can stop or water down good safety projects. PENNDOT’s Series of Design Manuals is actually a library of publications that covers everything that the agency needs to build roads.
Well, almost everything.
How the road network affects the health and well-being of the people who live near or use the road it is not found in any manual. These are issues that the PENNDOT CONNECTS initiative is trying to address.
Design Manual 2 provides basic guidance for the development of transportation projects in Pennsylvania. Effective April 21, 2021, a new publication has been added to Publication 13 Design Manual 2 called Design Manual Part 2 Contextual Roadway Design. The first chapter included in the publication is the bicycle facilities (Chapter 14). Other elements such as traffic calming, and pedestrian travel design will follow. The bicycle chapter replaces Chapter 16 in publication 13M.
Chapter 14 is far more comprehensive than its predecessor. It has good 3D graphics and borrows elements from the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, and the FHWA Small Town and Rural Design Guide. It’s very easy to read, providing a visual menu of options without getting too deep into the design details. It also covers protected bike lanes that are described in detail for the first time and shared-use paths are covered quite extensively.
The Chapter doesn’t cover everything, but it does bring PENNDOT’s guidance more in line with the City’s bikeway standards (which closely follow NACTO’s recommendations) and addresses some solutions to improve the bike-ability of suburban and rural roads. While consultants and bike advocates and City planners may be well versed in the NACTO guides, some PENNDOT project managers may be seeing these solutions the first time, in a design manual that they are required to follow.