Champion Spotlight: Huntsville, AL

This case study was written as part of our Dangerous by Design Technical Assistance program. This initiative brought together champions from across the country to advance street safety efforts through data collection and storytelling. This study was written by Larry Mason, Executive Director of the Huntsville Urban Bike Share Co-op. 

U.S. Highway 431, known as the “Highway to Hell,” is one of the most dangerous corridors in all of Alabama. It was the subject of a Strong Towns Crash Analysis Studio, organized by Larry Mason, along with US Highway 72 at University Drive and Julia Street. These dangerous stretches of “stroad” in Huntsville are typical of the dangerous by design traffic engineering seen across the city and the U.S.


Huntsville suffers from years of past design decisions that put the transportation system together, all but eliminating non-car modes and making it difficult for citizens to see how transportation could be different. Sprawl became the overwhelming style of development in Huntsville after World War II, when efforts to make Huntsville a car-centric city of the future and the placement of the central business center on top limestone caverns prevented the city from expanding upwards. These sprawling development patterns have been the perfect recipe for “stroads,” a combination of “street” and highway, “road” characteristics. This has created many dangerous corridors throughout the metropolitan area. It is a challenging reality to change, but with a new, highly mobile influx of population, there might be enough infusion of new ideas from abroad that can help to change the political landscape.

“We are trying to put more bikes on the street in the hopes that with more bikes and more biking and more pedestrians and more active transportation, we can start to make some headway with the traffic engineers, who so far really don’t want to do anything that goes beyond what the MUTCD manual tells them to do. Even though that’s mostly just guidelines, our traffic engineers don’t take it that way. They take it as the final law, which is a shame. But that’s where we’re at, and HUBS is doing its best to promote a safe by design transportation infrastructure in the city of Huntsville.” -Larry Mason, Executive Director of Huntsville Urban Bike Share Co-op

Taking Action

Huntsville Urban Bike Share Co-op (HUBS Co-op) aims to make bike commuting and active transportation as easy and frictionless as possible, building popularity for this mode of transportation that will lead to a push for infrastructure improvements. HUBS Co-op hosts community events like Bike-O-Rama, which includes a bike safety rodeo for kids, and runs an Earn-a-Bike program, fixing donated bikes to give to people in need of transportation. “We are trying to put more bikes on the street in the hopes that with more bikes and more biking and more pedestrians and more active transportation, we can start to make some headway with the traffic engineers,” said Larry Mason, Executive Director.

In May 2024, HUBS Co-op launched a new bike share system in Cummings Research Park, to make bicycles more prolific and visible in the car-centric research park. The program is designed to encourage knowledge workers in the park to consider bike commuting. However, while the road system in the research park area is marked for bikes to ride in the whole lane, HUBS Co-op finds that signage is not very effective, enforcement is non-existent, and the car traffic can be challenging to bikes and pedestrians. It is an ongoing experiment to see if increasing bike and pedestrian traffic in this area will help increase safety through visibility.

Another local organization that is working hard to change the status quo is the Huntsville Bicycle and Advisory Committee (BASC). BASC provides public education on active transportation, supports public engagement in transportation facility planning, and is seeking formal recognition from the city. Recognition could give the Committee more direct input on project design and a place in the city’s project review process. Currently, the Huntsville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is funding a much-needed update to its Bikeway Plan and wrapping up a planning and design effort for a Bus Rapid Transit corridor along U.S. Highway 72. BASC and HUBS Co-op are involved as stakeholders in the Bikeway Plan. However, the transit corridor plan has had little public involvement and the design has not yet been released for public comment, so the safety impacts of the proposal are currently unknown.

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