Bicycle Level of Traffic Stress

Bicycle Level of Traffic Stress (BLTS) Pilot Project

Transportation planners with smaller MPOs and rural regional planning agencies often lack the rich datasets used by their larger urban counterparts to assess quality and connectivity of bicycle facilities. In 2018, SNHPC partnered with New Hampshire’s three other Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), the Central NH Regional Planning Commission and Plymouth State University on a Federal Highway Administration pilot grant address this problem. The grant came from FHWA’s Measuring Multimodal Network Connectivity Pilot Grant Program.

The pilot project supported regional data collection and refinement of a shared model for evaluating Bicycle Level of Traffic Stress (BLTS) and application of that model for both regional and municipal bicycle planning.

What is Bicycle Level of Traffic Stress?

Bicycle Level of Traffic Stress (BLTS) is a measure of the suitability of a given stretch of roadway for bicycling, recognizing that people have differing levels of tolerance for riding a bicycle next to automobile traffic.

The starting point for the project was collecting extensive data on the region’s road network, beyond information included in the NH Department of Transportation GIS Road Layer. This included using Google Street View and field spot checks to determine shoulder width, lane widths, speed limits and presence of sidewalks or bike lanes. These data were incorporated into the GIS road layer and allowed an initial run of the LTS model. The initial traffic stress map for the region was brought out for public comment at in-person meetings and through an interactive website that allowed respondents to comment on the stress level of individual road segments. Input from this pubic ‘ground truthing’ was then incorporated into a revised run of the model to produce the final stress level analysis.

Beyond consistent multi-region data collection and model refinement, a key project objective of the project was incorporating BLTS analysis into performance-based planning as part of project identification and prioritization; and tracking progress toward a more extensive network of low stress bicycle facilities.