Plan4Health - Five Nashua Neighborhoods Identified as "Stressful" for Bicyclists

'Level of Traffic Stress' Data Used To Analyze Nashua's Streets
Five Neighborhoods Identified As "Stressful" for Bicyclists
 CONCORD, NH (September 23, 2015) - 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. The NRPC analysis identified five areas within the City - including the Tree Streets and French Hill neighborhoods - that have high Level of Traffic Stress (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. 

Map of Nashua with LTS data overlay. Areas in orange and red indicate higher levels of traffic stress for bicyclists.
"What this project is trying to do is look at the level of traffic stress and answer questions such as where are people going, where do they want to go, how stressful is it, and what strategic, low-cost improvements can be made to make walking and bicycling less stressful," said Nicholas Coates, active living coordinator of HEAL NH, an initiative of the Foundation for Healthy Communities in Concord, NH. 

LTS looks at how stressed people might feel on the road when riding a bicycle versus Level of Service, the traditional evaluation approach which focuses on moving vehicles efficiently. Several criteria are taken into consideration when calculating the LTS score, including the presence of a bike lane, street and shoulder width, traffic signals, if there is a median or pedestrian island in a cross street, speed limit, and on-street parking.

The 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.
In addition to the quantifiable data the LTS methodology provide, scores can be adjusted for other variables that commonly affect a bicyclist's comfort level, including lighting and overall feeling of safety, pavement conditions, steep hills, and traffic volumes. 
Coates said the team is now working with NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire to bring the maps to the residents and businesses of the five neighborhoods to see if the LTS data matches the public sentiment regarding stressful areas.
"These stressful street crossings around the City are barriers to people choosing to walk or bicycle to get around," Coates said. "Broken links to the City's active transportation networks can make neighborhoods feel like isolated islands and prohibit people from being more physically active."

This project is part of a growing "Complete Streets" movement that is gaining traction around the country. More than 700 U.S. towns, cities, counties, regions, and states have made official commitments to Complete Streets policies. Four New Hampshire communities have adopted Complete Streets: Concord, Dover, Keene, and Portsmouth.

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 develop a guidebook to help inform future planning in Nashua.  
About Plan4Health Nashua
Plan4Health Nashua began in early 2015 with a $125,000 grant from the American Planning Association to 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.The project is supported by the Greater Nashua Public Health Advisory Council, and was selected as a priority project for implementation in Nashua's 2015 Community Health Improvement Plan. Plan4Health Nashua is a collaboration between planning and public health professionals, including the Nashua Regional Planning Commission, the City of Nashua, New Hampshire Public Health Association (NHPHA), and Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL NH).