Active Transportation modes such as walking and cycling serve an important access and mobility role for individuals, serving both utilitarian and recreational needs on a stand-alone basis or as part of a multi-modal trip in combination with a primary vehicular or transit trip. Rochester’s efforts to improve conditions for walking and bicycling have been recognized by the national Walk Friendly Community program and the League of America Bicyclists.
Rochester was first designated as a Bronze-Level Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC)in 2010 and was re-designated in 2014 and 2018.. Rochester with the assistance of ROCOG worked closely with the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) to earn recognition for Rochester as one of the first Bicycle Friendly Communities in Minnesota in 2010. Rochester is again eligible for redesignation renewal for the next four years.
The League of American Bicyclists is a non-profit organization that works nationally and with local communities, universities, businesses, and states to promote bicycling for recreation and fitness as well as a mode of transportation for routine daily trips. Designation as a BFC is awarded based on an assessment of local actions including development of on and off-street bicycle facilities as well as establishment of local programs and services that support safe and convenient bicycle travel. As part of the BFC program, the LAB conducts an assessment of community efforts relative to bicycling infrastructure and safety as well as efforts targeting education of users and promotion of bicycling. Rochester is striving to improve facilities and conditions for bicycling as noted in the League's feedback and Report Card on the 2018 BFC application submitted by Rochester. Among the factors the LAB highlighted included:
- Rochester should continue to expand the on-street bike network to increase overall network connectivity.
- Efforts should continue to ensure smooth transitions for bicyclists between the local and regional trail network and the street network.
- Design of all bicycle facilities should conform to current best practices and guidelines – such as the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide or AASHTO Bicycle Design Guide.
- On roads with posted speed limits of more than 35 mph, it is recommended to provide protected bicycle infrastructure, such as cycle tracks, buffered bike lanes or parallel 10ft wide shared use paths.
- Bicycle-safety education should be a routine part of primary and secondary education, and schools and their surrounding neighborhood areas should be safe and convenient for biking and walking.
- Offer bicycling skills training opportunities for adults more frequently.
- Expand public education campaign efforts promoting the Share the Road message.
- Promote cycling by offering or supporting more family- and women-oriented community and charity rides, free bike valet parking at events, and bicycle-themed festivals, parades or shows.
- Encourage more local businesses, agencies, and organizations to promote cycling to their employees and customers and to seek recognition through the Bicycle Friendly Business program.
- Encourage Rochester Community and Technical College to promote cycling to students, staff, and faculty and to seek recognition through the Bicycle Friendly University program.
- Expand efforts to evaluate bicycle crash statistics and produce a specific plan to reduce the number of crashes in the community.
Rochester with the assistance of ROCOG first applied for and was designated as a Bronze-level Walk Friendly Community (WFC) in 2014 and re-designated in 2018 for five years. The designation is up for renewal in 2022.
The Walk Friendly Community is a program of the national Pedestrian-Bicycle Information Center (PBIC), whose mission is to improve the quality of life in communities through expanding opportunity for safe walking and bicycling as a viable means of transportation and physical activity. The PBIC is maintained by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Rochester was designated as a bronze level Walk Friendly Community (WFC) due to its outstanding engineering practices, extensive trail system, and commitment to improving the pedestrian environment.
As part of the WFC program, the PBIC conducts an assessment as part of each designation or re-designation request. Among the items highlighted in their 2018 WFC program review were:
- Rochester continues to actively modernize high volume pedestrian corridors with safety improvements and pedestrian amenities. Several downtown projects have been completed, with projects currently underway for enhancement under the economic development initiative "Destination Medical Center" (DMC), including "Heart of the City".
- The extensive trail network in Rochester anchored by the Rochester River Trail System provides a high amenity system serving many areas of the community.
- Rochester City does an excellent job of including pedestrian provisions on over 80 bridges throughout Rochester.
- WFC encourages completion of the downtown "City Loop" concept proposed in the City’s Downtown Destination Medical Center Plan to expand trail connections and intersection improvements for both pedestrian and bicyclists in the downtown core of the city.
- Rochester should continue to expand its program to install ADA accessible ramps on all four corners of intersections throughout the city as part of its sidewalk maintenance program.
- WFC commends Rochester’s for its adopted Complete Street Policy and application of the policy on street construction and preservation projects.