The University of Tennessee, Knoxville


Small Town and Rural Multimodal Networks

by Airton Kohls (Source: FHWA) 

In many small towns and rural communities, active transportation (any form of human-powered transportation) is even more common than it is in urban areas. However, infrastructure to support active transportation is often limited or absent. Many small and rural communities are located on State and county roadways that were built to design standards that favor high-speed motorized traffic, resulting in a system that makes walking and bicycling less safe and uncomfortable. These roadways can be retrofitted and redesigned over time to provide a transportation network that better serves the safety, health, and economic interests of the community.

This FHWA guide is a resource for practitioners developing and promoting multimodal networks in small and rural communities. The opportunities for road design highlighted in this document build on a broad range of existing national design guidelines and references. This guide translates existing street design guidance and best practices for bicycle and pedestrian safety and comfort to the rural context, and provides examples of how to interpret and apply these design practices to create safe, accessible, and comfortable multimodal networks.

Some of the common transportation challenges in small towns and rural areas include roadway operations of agricultural vehicles on auto oriented roadways, lack of transportation options, constrained terrain, state highways being often the main street, climate and maintenance. To address these issues, this FHWA guide proposes several mixed traffic facilities, for example bicycle boulevards, yield roadways and the use of advisory shoulders. In addition visually and physically separated facilities are also proposed as well as opportunities for speed management, school connections, multimodal main streets and bridge retrofits.

To download a free copy of FHWA Small Town and Rural Multimodal Networks, go to


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