Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Project development

Environmental process | Environmental review

Active Transportation (Walking and Biking)


Providing safe, comfortable, and convenient pedestrian and bicycle facilities is a MnDOT priority. This bicycle and pedestrian guidance provides methods for improving safety for all road users and ensuring that MnDOT complies with the MnDOT Statewide Bicycle System Plan (2016), MnDOT District Bicycle Plans (2019), the MnDOT Statewide Pedestrian System Plan (2021), the Bicycle Facility Design Manual and Minnesota Walks: A Pathway for Safe, Convenient, and Desirable Walking and Rolling for All (2016), which summarize the federal guidance, state legislation, and departmental policy regarding pedestrians and bicycles in the highway right of way.

When to use this subject

Pedestrian and bicycle facilities on all projects

Consider pedestrian and bicycle facilities on all projects. From small town business districts to shoulders on rural roads, walking and bicycling are important parts of the state transportation system. These needs should be considered and addressed on projects of every scale.

The Minnesota Statewide Bicycle System Plan (2016) and Statewide Pedestrian System Plan (2021) established goals that align with the Minnesota State Highway Investment Plan (MnSHIP) and Statewide Multimodal Plan. You can review these documents for more information.

MnDOT has substantial authority and responsibility to provide facilities and encouraging walking and bicycling, pursuant to state legislation. Federal policy also supports and funds those directions. The overriding impact of the applicable legislation is to require consistent facilities for Active transportation in Minnesota roadway projects that utilize state or federal funds. The legislation also protects current walkable and bikeable roads, shoulders, and trails by requiring the replacement of such facilities that a road project otherwise removes.

State Environmental Policy (Minnesota Statutes, section 116D), which governs the activities of all state agencies, makes such things as the provision of safe, comfortable, and convenient pedestrian and bicycle facilities an extremely high priority in areas where their use is likely. Minnesota Statutes, section 160.25 requires a bikeway program that includes policy, planning, guidelines, coordination, and reviews.

For specific process information, see the other guidance page and/or contact the individual on the contacts page.

The difference between pedestrians/bicycles and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

While complimentary, there are critical differences between meeting the requirements for ADA accessibility and meaningfully improving access for people walking and bicycling in Minnesota. Meeting ADA compliance is about constructing infrastructure that meets specific standards for usability by people with disabilities. Improving conditions for walking and bicycling also benefits people with disabilities, but goes beyond achieving specific design standards. Improved facilities for people walking and bicycling include improving access to critical destinations are a benefit to all users of the transportation system. Minnesota Walks includes information about priority destinations that were identified through extensive community engagement in 2016.

How this subject fits into the overall project development process

Pre-scoping engagement activities should include a discussion of pedestrian and bicycle activity and needs with local stakeholders.

From the beginning, involve local partners in conversations about how people walk and bicycle through the community. MnDOT should rely on its statewide and district-level bicycle and pedestrian plans as a guide, but should not assume that these plans provide a full picture of bicycle and pedestrian needs. Involve district planning staff in a robust pre-scoping engagement program that is of great value to setting expectations for projects and fully understanding needs as they unfold.

By planning for pedestrian and bicycle facilities in the pre-scoping and scoping phase, and fully integrating them throughout the highway project development process, we can achieve safe and effective facilities in the completed project. Address any bicycle or pedestrian impacts in the environmental document.

The Office of Traffic Engineering conducts active transportation scoping for upcoming projects. The scoping recommendations are developed by conducting field walk and produces a report highlighting bicycle and pedestrian facility improvement recommendations. The active transportation recommendations are primarily targeted for projects while they are in the CHIP, but can be developed on other timelines by request. To coordinate active transportation scoping, contact the Office of Traffic Engineering.

Office of Transit and Active Transportation's (OTAT) Planning Unit reviews and responds to all Early Notification Memos (ENMs) as part of the environmental review process. Submitting an ENM well in advance of a Level 1 early layout can help project managers identify pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure requirements and speed up the project development process.

For all projects with Level 1 layouts, OTAT's Active Transportation Unit reviews the layout in conjunction with the Geometric Design Support Unit (GDSU) and typically submits our comments as an attachment to theirs. You can also request this office to review Level 2 or Level 3 layouts, as needed.  

Organizations involved