Bikeways, roadways, and non-roadway portions of highways where bicycle travel is allowed must conform to best practices for designs and traffic controls. Best practices go beyond the, often inadequate, minimum standards. These minimum standards include those in the AASHTO Guide, MUTCD, and other associated federal, state, and local design and traffic control device standards. Such a best practices approach, which goes beyond minimum standards, is actively encouraged in federal policy documents (see below for more).
Planning, design, construction and maintenance must treat bicyclists as equal and intended design users in all transportation projects and end-of-trip facilities, including connections to bus and rail transit. Let’s examine these, as well as relevant federal policies, in more details.
1) Planning – Includes bicycling in system plans, as well as project plans and project initiation documents. Includes oft forgotten amenities, such as way-finding signage. Every non-freeway street/highway MUST be treated as a facility that bicyclists will use, and their needs must be considered. Connecting routes favored by bicyclists is also important, as well as serving the full spectrum of bicyclists. These ideas — particularly that bicycling is anticipated on all city streets — must be the top level policies in sound bicycle master plan (BMP) documents.
Planning Policy Example
City of Long Beach has the following top level policies
(click thumbnails for slide show)
2) Design – Ensuring that both the geometric layout and traffic controls used on conventional highways (non-freeway roads) conform to best practices, such as treating cyclists as drivers and not manufacturing conflicts. Such conflicts often result from placing bicyclists to the right of right turning traffic, with either freeway-like features or with bikeways at the road edge. Conflicts can also arise from bikeways that route cyclists into the door zone of parked cars, or otherwise route them into roadside hazards. Features like dual free right turn lanes, shallow angle entry/exit ramps (typical for uninterrupted flow facilities like freeways) should not be used on interrupted flow, conventional highways because they place bicyclists at a speed/movement disadvantage and decrease the safety of bicycle traffic for the convenience of turning/entering/exiting motorized traffic. Traffic signal must reliably detect bicyclists and provide the same level of service as is provided to motorists. Surface standards must ensure that highway surfaces are bicycle tire/wheel compatible. See the I Am Traffic Best Practices Guide for more on this subject.
3) Construction – Construction projects and construction zones MUST be planned with consideration of bicycle traffic. Best practices must also take into account the speed and potential conflicts in determining how bicycle traffic will be accommodated.
Construction Policy Example
An evolving practice of note is how California specifies such zones in the California supplement to the MUTCD (CAMUTCD Section 6D.101, Page 1044).
Section 6D.101(CA) Bicycle Considerations Support:
There are several considerations in planning for bicyclists in TTC [Temporary Traffic Control] zones on highways and streets:
A. A travel route that replicates the most desirable characteristics of a wide paved shoulder or bikeway through or around the TTC zone is desirable for bicyclists.
B. If the TTC zone interrupts the continuity of an existing bikeway system, signs directing bicyclists through or around the zone and back to the bikeway is desirable.
C. Unless a separate bike path through or around the TTC zone is provided, adequate roadway lane width to allow bicyclists and motor vehicles to travel side by side through or around the TTC zone is desirable.
D. When the roadway width is inadequate for allowing bicyclists and motor vehicles to travel side by side, warning signs should be used to advise motorists of the presence of bicyclists in the travel way lanes. See Section 6G.05 for more details.
E. Bicyclists shall not be led into direct conflicts with mainline traffic, work site vehicles, or equipment moving through or around the TTC zone.
Figures 6H-15, 6H-30, 6H-32(CA), 6H-36(CA), 6H-101(CA), 6H-102(CA), 6H-103(CA), and 6H-104(CA) show typical TTC device usage and techniques for bicycle movement through TTC zones.
4) Maintenance – The same level of care applied to motorists MUST also be applied to bicyclists. This includes sweeping of on street bikeways as well as off-street pathways. Road and bikeway surface conditions must be brought back to bicycle compatible surface condition when maintenance projects require asphalt/concrete removal and patching. Also important is ensuring that poor surface conditions of existing facilities are upgraded to bicycle compatible design standards during maintenance/resurfacing.
5) End-of-Trip Facilities – Fixed bicycle parking (racks and lockers) at public and private facilities, as well as the inclusion of fixed bike racks/lockers, clothes lockers and showers at public and private employment buildings for commuters. These can be accomplished either by encouragement or in policies or ordinances (see Equality).
6) Inter-modal connections – Bus and rail racks as well as bicycle accessibility and or access to bus and rail transit stations/connections.
Per federal guidance, bicyclists are expected to be given safe and convenient facilities, to be integrated into the decision-making process, and to have state and local agencies go beyond minimum standards.
Furthermore, federal policy calls for considering bicycling as equal to other modes, ensuring choices for travelers of all ages and abilities, including bicycle access on limited access bridges, as well as going beyond minimum design standards.
Federal Policy Recommendations to State and Local Agencies
- Considering walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes: The primary goal of a transportation system is to safely and efficiently move people and goods. Walking and bicycling are efficient transportation modes for most short trips and, where convenient intermodal systems exist, these nonmotorized trips can easily be linked with transit to significantly increase trip distance. Because of the benefits they provide, transportation agencies should give the same priority to walking and bicycling as is given to other transportation modes. Walking and bicycling should not be an afterthought in roadway design.
- Ensuring that there are transportation choices for people of all ages and abilities, especially children: Pedestrian and bicycle facilities should meet accessibility requirements and provide safe, convenient, and interconnected transportation networks. For example, children should have safe and convenient options for walking or bicycling to school and parks. People who cannot or prefer not to drive should have safe and efficient transportation choices.
- Going beyond minimum design standards: Transportation agencies are encouraged, when possible, to avoid designing walking and bicycling facilities to the minimum standards. For example, shared-use paths that have been designed to minimum width requirements will need retrofits as more people use them. It is more effective to plan for increased usage than to retrofit an older facility. Planning projects for the long-term should anticipate likely future demand for bicycling and walking facilities and not preclude the provision of future improvements.
- Integrating bicycle and pedestrian accommodations on new, rehabilitated, and limited-access bridges: DOT encourages bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on bridge projects including facilities on limited-access bridges with connections to streets or paths.
- Setting mode share targets for walking and bicycling and tracking them over time: A byproduct of improved data collection is that communities can establish targets for increasing the percentage of trips made by walking and bicycling.
- Removing snow from sidewalks and shared-use paths: Current maintenance provisions require pedestrian facilities built with Federal funds to be maintained in the same manner as other roadway assets. State Agencies have generally established levels of service on various routes especially as related to snow and ice events.
- Improving nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects: Many transportation agencies spend most of their transportation funding on maintenance rather than on constructing new facilities. Transportation agencies should find ways to make facility improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists during resurfacing and other maintenance projects.
Posts in the Engineering Category
Co-author: Steven Goodridge. What would you do? You are driving your car along a narrow two-lane road when a cyclist comes into view up ahead. Of course, you are a lawful, responsible, and respectful driver. You recognize that the lane is not wide enough to safely pass within it, so you slow down. If your sight lines are limited, you follow behind the cyclist until sight lines open up. If you are approaching an intersection where you might have to stop, then you follow behind the cyclist until you are past that point as well. If there is...read more
Nick Kasoff in Ferguson, Missouri asks: Our local highway and traffic department has striped a “bike lane” on the shoulder of a busy road. Aside from the fact that it is a bike lane, there are two big problems – the concrete aprons from all the driveways extend across the bike lane (but not into the traffic lane), and much of the bike lane is split between “road grade” pavement and “shoulder grade” pavement by a meandering line. Needless to say, such pavement conditions are very unsafe for a cyclist....read more
Successful bicyclist behavior is driven by knowledge of common crash types and the behaviors needed to successfully avoid those crash types. Bicyclist behavior comes in a spectrum with three main behaviors, and in this article we aim to briefly describe the spectrum and show how those behaviors fare in common crossing conflict crash scenarios with diagrams and supportive video. There are three types of bicyclist behavior: Pedestrian behavior Avoiding the roadway by using paths, sidewalks/crosswalks, often against traffic flow Edge...read more