Considered the earliest mode of travel in human history – walking continues to play an important role in the transportation planning process. As resources for planning and constructing roadways decrease, pedestrian-focused projects will continue to increase in importance. The increased focus on pedestrians in the planning process can be linked to various benefits ranging from improved health associated with increased physical activity to reduced vehicle emissions and fuel use. Pedestrian planning extends beyond access and features – safety is also an important consideration. Sidewalks, crosswalks, and roadway design all impact pedestrian travel and safety. The map on the right depicts existing pedestrian facilities (sidewalk, greenway or multi use path); click the image to enlarge. The printed version of the new Bike Walk Run Wake Forest brochure is available at town hall and here for download.
Federal legislation and regulations require the inclusion of pedestrian policies and projects in transportation plans. As a recent policy statement by the U.S. Department of Transportation notes, the primary goal of a transportation system is to safely and efficiently move people and goods. Walking is an efficient transportation option for most short trips. Where convenient connections to transit – like bus and passenger rail - exist, pedestrian trips can easily be linked to significantly increase trip distance. The policy recommends pedestrian projects be given the same priority as other modes of transportation and cautions that walking should not be an afterthought in roadway design.
The NCDOT Safe Routes to School Program is a federally funded program initiated through the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) in 2005. The legislation establishes a national SRTS program to distribute funding and institutional support to implement SRTS programs. SRTS programs facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools. The Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation at NCDOT distributes SRTS funding through a competitive application process. The state of North Carolina has been allocated $15 million in Safe Routes to School funding for fiscal years 2005 through 2009 for infrastructure or non-infrastructure projects. Non-infrastructure projects include education or encouragement programs to increase walking and biking to school. Infrastructure projects include the construction of pedestrian facilities within 2 miles of an elementary or middle school.
In 2008, Wake Forest applied to NCDOT for SRTS infrastructure and non-infrastructure grants. Only 22 municipalities and agencies across the state received grant awards. Wake Forest received $331,000 from the federal Safe Routes to School program to implement projects at Wake Forest Elementary and Wake Forest-Rolesville Middle Schools.
Planning staff works in conjunction with local elementary and middle schools, and the NC Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School Coordinator to develop and implement safe walking and bicycling in this community.
Under North Carolina law, pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections and driveways. However, pedestrians must act responsibly, using pedestrian signals where they are available. When crossing the road at any other point than a marked or unmarked crosswalk or when walking along or upon a highway, a pedestrian has a statutory duty to yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway. It is the duty of pedestrians to look before starting across a highway, and in the exercise of reasonable care for their own safety, to keep a timely lookout for approaching motor vehicle traffic. On roadways where there is no sidewalk, pedestrians should always walk facing traffic.