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Month of Action Week 4: A manual for safer streets

23 Mar 2021 | Posted by | 11 Comments |

EDIT, Wednesday, May 12: The deadline to submit a comment supporting a rewrite of the MUTCD closes this Friday. We need you to submit a comment before then—it only takes one minute using the tool below!

The Federal Highway Administration has extended the comment period on the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), a document used by planners across the country for street design. We need you to submit a comment urging the FHWA to rewrite the MUTCD to put pedestrian and cyclist safety front and center.

A person biking in Washington, DC. during the Black Lives Matter Ride for Justice in summer 2020. Photo by Ted Eytan on Greater and Lesser Washington’s Flickr pool.

It’s Week 4 of our Month of Action! Thank you if you took last week’s action to share the Congestion Con with your Senators.

For Week 4, we need you to tell the Federal Highway Administration to rewrite its guide to traffic safety. 

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is a street design document used by planners across the country. Yet to date, the MUTCD has done little to help stem the approximately 40,000 traffic deaths the U.S. sees each year. This is due largely to the Manual’s overemphasis on designing for motor vehicle speed on rural highways, and failure to truly take into account all modes of travel in the places where people live and work.

The previous administration  proposed tepid changes to the MUTCD that failed to fix its deeply flawed approach. We need you to submit a comment to show support for rewriting this document. 

Submitting a comment to the Federal Register is easy. You can either download the template comment we co-wrote with NACTO here, personalize it as much or as little as you like, and submit your comment through Regulations.gov, OR, you can use this simple form below to quickly and easily send in your comment right from this page.

Don’t forget to customize your letter however you like and add in examples, your organization name (if any) to help your letter stand out from the rest.  

11 Comments

  1. Kate Bitz

    3 months ago

    Please heed the call for a revised manual that can bring more safety to our streets. It is time for a new approach.

  2. Joseph Roskowski

    3 months ago

    Dear Acting Administrator Pollack and Secretary Buttigieg:

    I write, as a supporter of America Walks (and safe streets in general), and a person who is very active in the traffic safety efforts in our community in West Palm Beach, to raise serious concerns about the current draft MUTCD under revision by the agency. The MUTCD, an obscure technical document (to “normal people” at least), is sadly a major obstacle to the kind of humane street level safety changes that are needed in my community and others across the United States.
    Grassroots advocates like myself have valuable local knowledge that is too often brushed aside by traffic engineers based on the rule-bound dictates of the MUTCD. Our engineers here really do want to build safer streets, but feel their hands are tied. To make matters worse, much of the guidance is outdated, pseudoscientific and based on the premise that speeding cars through intersections is the most important goal.

    I join America Walks and other groups to ask that U.S. DOT perform a comprehensive overhaul
    of the MUTCD, centering safety and equity. We need a rule book that is designed to support
    healthier safer communities, one that:
    ● Ensures every urban and suburban signalized intersection has basic pedestrian
    infrastructure, like curb ramps, pedestrian signal heads that display “Walk” and “Don’t
    Walk” messages and crosswalks (with LPIs)
    ● Gives local residents a voice in what kind of infrastructure is needed
    ● Gives engineers flexibility to design urban streets that are safe enough for children to
    navigate
    ● Ensure environments where people driving, walking, and biking default to inherently-safe interaction speeds
    ● Adopt modern safe designs as the default across the board, instead of the exception

    I join America Walks in asking that FHWA reframe and rewrite the MUTCD, creating a
    path for guidance that more closely aligns with the equity, safety, and sustainability
    goals of American cities, as well as those of the Biden Administration.
    Thank you,

  3. Pamela Lamberton

    3 months ago

    Equitable transportation alternatives would never have autos prioritized first. A better order might be by vulnerability. Design all transportation corridors for the safety of the most vulnerable users first!

  4. Polli Schildge

    3 months ago

    MUTCD Revision

    Dear Acting Administrator Pollack and Secretary Buttigieg:

    Asbury Park Complete Streets Coalition supports America Walks. And I personally care deeply about my community, Asbury Park, NJ, and neighboring communities in the Jersey Shore area.

    The MUTCD is an obstacle to human activity by prioritizing the level of service for vehicular traffic, and must be completely revised to change the way roads and streets are designed.

    I join America Walks and other groups to ask that U.S. DOT perform a comprehensive overhaul of the MUTCD, centering on safety and equity. We need a rule book that is designed to support healthier, safer communities, that:
    *Ensures every urban and suburban signalized intersection has basic pedestrian infrastructure, like curb ramps, pedestrian signal heads that display “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” messages and crosswalks.

    *Sets speed limits based on safety, not based on how fast drivers can speed through our cities and towns

    *Gives local residents a voice in what kind of infrastructure is needed.

    *Gives engineers flexibility to design streets that are safe enough for children, and all vulnerable users to navigate.

    I join America Walks in asking that FHWA reframe and rewrite the MUTCD, creating a path for guidance that aligns with the equity, safety, and sustainability goals of American cities, as well as those of the Biden Administration.
    Thank you,
    Polli Schildge
    Asbury Park Complete Streets Coalition

  5. Robert Rands

    2 months ago

    Stop using the dangerous revisions that have created an unprecedented spike in accidents, injuries & deaths~ statistics refused to be acknowledged by those that pushed the designs that caused this spike. Going so far to hunker-down on their poor ideas.

    It is time for truly comprehensive design, one not pushed by those with extreme agendas. To continue this failure, otherwise, is a disgrace. The shame & blood are on their hands.

  6. Tammy Higgins

    2 months ago

    We are all pedestrians at one time or another. The safety of those who bike, or walk needs to be ensured by the creation of non-motorized infrastructure. One should not have to risk their life if they should walk, or bike. It is a not just a matter of safety but a matter of freedom and liberty to choose how one wishes to travel, or if a person has no choice. My son while riding his bike was struck by a driver who drove off. He was critically injured and in ICU. It is a terrible tragedy for us personally, but it has a cost to society too. His medical bills were approximately $327,000 so far. Multiply that number by how many people are struck every year and survive. The medical costs alone could be spent on infrastructure and save pain and suffering to countless families. Bills like this make all of our healthcare more costly.

  7. David Eagleton

    2 months ago

    Their needs to be an abundance of Federal Transportation funding for Separated/Protected Bikeways and Multi – Use Paths to realistically provide safe access for ALL Users, of All Ages, of All Abilities, to avoid unnecessary dangerous and very deadly conflict with 2,500 pound motorized vehicles.

    Their is Zero, 0, Zip equity for Pedestrians, Bicylists, and Disabled Individuals by miserably failing to plan, design and implement proven safe traffic calming physical infrastructure elements on the network of roads throughout the United States.

    Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO’s) across the country refuse to implement traffic calming measures in the award of grants. Consequently, MPO’s to award STP, CMAQ, and TAP grant applications that solely pave, pave, and re-pave roads for the use of non-motorized vehicles EXCLUSIVELY.

    Perpuetuating Dangerous By Design, Car Centric MPO’s are an absolute majority of the Problem, exacerbating outdated, dangerous, and very deadly roads more and more everyday.

  8. Christine Berthet

    2 months ago

    It is critical for the MUTCD to be bifurcated in a city, suburb and high away guidelines .
    But the most important thing the Secretary of transportation could do is announce that the MUTCD Does too apply to cities and suburbs and is NOT a requireimt. just advice.

    this can take NO time while rewriting the manual will take for every ..

  9. BRUCE DUGHI

    2 months ago

    I have some specific requests based upon my very frustrating experience with my Alameda County Public Works.

    Center lines–Research shows that the ambiguity of no or minimal center lines increases passing distance between car and bicycle. I have experienced this myself. Public Works defaults to double yellow everywhere, which discourages drivers from taking the adjacent oncoming lane to pass even when it is empty. We need to reduce the amount and severity of center lines.

    “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs–There needs to be a stronger recommendation for this important sign because I have difficulty in even getting our Castro Valley CHP to believe it. With frequent rotation of officers, I have to educate them all individually. This sign should accompany all sharrows and should be more frequent, along side the “Bike Route” sign. I still get push back from Public Works on installing these signs.

    Sharrow placement. The present recommendation of 11′ from curb is dangerous. Not only does it endanger the cyclist on the right with the door zone, but often opens up the cyclist on the left for lane sharing or splitting with cars. Drivers are tempted to squeeze into narrow gaps within the same lane or barely use the adjacent lane–super dangerous. For years, Alameda County Public Works thought 11′ was ok because they latched onto that number from the MUTCD even though it was presented as a minimum. People take what you say literally! It took years to get them to center the sharrow in the lane. I often need to ride left of center to discourage dangerous passing so even centering is often inadequate. We also need much higher frequency of sharrows to communicate to drivers, including police, that cyclists can be there.

    Good execution of sharrows and “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs are especially important with municipalities like mine who are reluctant to install better infrastructure like protected bike lanes. They refuse to make any trade off to the car and so they complain there is not enough space.

    White Line to Delineate Parking from Unimproved Sidewalk–Please make this more explicit as I struggled to get Public Works to paint simple, intuitive white lines at the intersections of street parking and our poorly delineated rolled asphalt curbs that define our dirt sidewalks. Drivers think they can park over the curbs and onto the sidewalk just because the curb is not vertical and made of cement. Again, even the police refuse to enforce no parking on the sidewalk without better delineation such as a simple white line. I even got approval from one of your authors to use the white line in this context and there is still resistance.

    Continued reliance on the 85th percentile approach to setting speed limits over a safe systems approach. This is particularly dangerous along some of the very curvy canyon roads I ride.

    Dangerous Traffic Light Cycles–Living in a suburban environment, most of our lights intentionally schedule cars to cross pedestrians at the same place/time. This puts the onus on the more dangerous road user, the driver, to avoid the pedestrian. Last year, a 6th grade girl died in a cross walk on her way home from school because a driver did not yield to her as they both proceeded thru green lights. I have had so many close calls myself with this double booking, all in the name of moving cars at the expense of pedestrians.

    Double vs Single Pedestrian Ramps–MUTCD needs to prioritize double ramps to shorten walking distance and make the pedestrian more visible to drivers. Double ramps also eliminate ambiguity to which street the pedestrian wants to cross. This is another struggle I have with Public Works.

  10. Les Miklosy

    2 months ago

    The California Department of Transportation Caltrans does not follow it’s own complete streets directives (DD-64). If MUTCD is also out of compliance with multi-modal design features, how should Caltrans approach maintenance and operation of national highways and arterials in California? State and Federal highway design should be aligned with multi-modal design and follow their mandated directives.

  11. Megan

    2 months ago

    I added in a comment about being a mom in Detroit and how sad it is that my 10 year old can’t bike the 1.5 miles to her best friend’s house because of an unsafe street in between. I asked them to think about my city kids when they make their decisions.