Plan4Health Nashua - Updates

What Makes a Bicycle-Friendly Street?  'Levels of Stress' Data Used to Analyze Nashua's Streets

The Nashua Regional Planning Commission (NRPC) has been "testing" the City's streets for bicycle-friendliness over the past few months as part of the Plan4Health Nashua complete streets project.  Plan4Health Nashua is also supported by the Greater Nashua Public Health Advisory Council, and was selected as a priority project for implementation in the 2015 Community Health Improvement Plan  

NRPC is one of several partners working on the Plan4Health Nashua project.  Other partners include the City of Nashua, New Hampshire Public Health Association (NHPHA) and Health Eating Active Living (HEAL NH), as well as several community organizations such as NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire (NWSNH).  The project began earlier this year with a $125, 000 grant from the American Planning Association (APA) StressOverviewto support active transportation in Nashua.  The goal of the project is to advance street planning and design that support safer and easier ways to get around for pedestrians and bicyclists.  

To help determine how suitable Nashua streets are for bicyclists, NRPC used a method that considered level of stress (LTS) data for bicycle suitability.  This method 
was first used last year in New Hampshire as part of a New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) pilot project.  For the Plan4Health Nashua project, an LTS score was given to every segment (i.e., street or road), approach, and intersection in Nashua to help determine how easy or difficult it is for bicyclists to get around the City.

Segments, approaches, and intersections are given an LTS score from 1 to 4, with 4 being the most "stressful" - or least suitable for bicyclists.  Several criteria are taken into consideration when calculating the LTS score, including the presence of a bike lane, street and shoulder width, traffic signals, presence of a median or pedestrian island in a cross street, speed limit, and on-street parking.  

The NRPC analysis identified five areas within the City – including the Tree Streets and French Hill neighborhoods – which show high LTS scores, indicating they are less bicycle-friendly. These five neighborhoods represent 50% of the Nashua population, and include areas with the greatest social, economic, and environmental disparities according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

In addition to the quantifiable attributes this methodology provides, LTS scores can be adjusted for other things that commonly affect a bicyclist’s comfort level, including lighting and overall feeling of safety, pavement conditions, steep hills, and, of course, traffic volumes. NRPC is reaching out to the community to help make adjustments to the LTS data based on these factors.

NRPC will be conducting a similar study for walkability over the next few months. Once completed, the bikeability and walkability data will be used to analyze gaps in neighborhoods where riders and pedestrians can’t easily get to destinations because of high-stress links and crossings. This information will ultimately be used to develop a guidebook to help inform future planning in Nashua.  

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