Research: Low-Stress Bicycling and Network Connectivity | Mineta Transportation Institute Research Report

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For a bicycling network to attract the widest possible segment of the population, its most fundamental attribute should be low-stress connectivity, that is, providing routes between people’s origins and destinations that do not require cyclists to use links that exceed their tolerance for traffic stress, and that do not involve an undue level of detour. The objective of this study is to develop measures of low-stress connectivity that can be used to evaluate and guide bicycle network planning. We propose a set of criteria by which road segments can be classified into four levels of traffic stress (LTS). LTS 1 is suitable for children; LTS 2, based on Dutch bikeway design criteria, represents the traffic stress that most adults will tolerate; LTS 3 and 4 represent greater levels of stress.

As a case study, every street in San Jose, California, was classified by LTS. Maps in which only bicycle-friendly links are displayed reveal a city divided into islands within which low-stress bicycling is possible, but separated from one another by barriers that can be crossed only by using high-stress links. Two points in the network are said to be connected at a given level of traffic stress if the subnetwork of links that do not exceed the specified level of stress connects them with a path whose length does not exceed a detour criterion (25% longer than the most direct path).

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