The Iowa Bicycle Coalition applauds the Iowa DOT’s efforts to adopt a complete streets policy as a starting point for improving bicycle and pedestrian facilities.  We emphasize this policy is a starting point and expect an evolution in language to smooth the implementation snags which will no doubt occur.

The new policy is a new paradigm for the Iowa DOT.  Projects now begin with the inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian facilities and it is up to the DOT to prove why they don’t need to be included.  Whereas, the old policy would only add facilities if they were proven to be needed.  This is a dramatic shift of procedure for the Iowa DOT and will require trust from the user and the employees within the system to assure the policy works for the benefit of Iowans.

There are a number of safe guards with in the policy to assure compliance. Projects that do not contain bicycle and pedestrian accommodation will be subject to an exception process and must be approved by the Iowa DOT director or designee.  There is an advisory council that will be assembled to examine public reports on exceptions.  The advisory council will recommend policy changes.

The language of the policy requires the DOT to “shall consider” the bicycle and pedestrian facilities.  While we would prefer stronger language to require more than consideration, the Iowa Bicycle Coalition believes the intent of the policy maybe more important than the language.  The process is rigorous to determine exceptions and it is intended to be transparent with opportunity for review and examination.  We are willing to trust the Iowa DOT to put their full effort into the policy and not let it gather dust.

What may be of particular importance is the exception threshold generation system.  One of the components is documentation of bike routes, either by local bike plan or by other documented use.   Bike routes identified at the website become very important to the process. We see other opportunities like Strava heatmaps to provide data on trip generation and use.  We don’t have a perfect system of measurement, but we need to find ways to extrapolate use of bike routes in a recreation setting.

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition is excited to see progress on this policy and the remaining bike plan that has taken five years to complete. We continue to look forward to the future with the Iowa DOT and we are encouraged by this progress.

View the policy: Proposed Complete Streets Policy_5-16-18 (PDF)