New Bikeway Design Guide Could Bring Safer Cycling to More American Cities

Better bicycling infrastructure could be coming to a city near you thanks to an initiative of the National Association of City Transportation Officials. NACTO’s Cities for Cycling committee today released its anticipated Urban Bikeway Design Guide, a comprehensive overview of the latest developments in bicycle infrastructure that is intended to advance state and national policy. Created for a profession that prizes design standards, the document has the potential to spur widespread adoption of bike infrastructure that makes many more people feel safe riding on the street, leading to big increases in cycling for transportation, as well as gains in pedestrian safety.

This bike box in New York gives cyclists more visibility at intersections -- a design treatment recommended by NACTO's new Bikeway Design Guide. Photo: ## Cities for Cycling##

The guide is the result of months of study by engineers, planners and academics from fifteen major U.S. cities. It offers comprehensive design instruction on the latest in cycling infrastructure innovations from Europe and stateside, such as bike boxes, bike signals and separated cycle tracks.

“NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide gives American planners and designers the tools they need to make cycling accessible to more people,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City transportation commissioner and president of NACTO. “These guidelines represent the state of the art and should be adopted as the new standards around the country.”

Planners hope their recommendations will be incorporated into the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials’ design guidelines. Design manuals by these standard-bearing organizations thus far ignore some of the cutting-edge bike treatments that have been adopted in cities like Portland and New York, as well as European cities. As we reported earlier this week, this makes funding and planning for these potentially life-saving projects difficult and time consuming, particularly for smaller cities, NACTO officials said.

In the meantime, Cities for Cycling is encouraging local communities to adopt its recommendations. Already, the states of Washington and Texas are looking to make NACTO’s standards official, sources say.

“NACTO’s Cities for Cycling Urban Bikeway Design Guide is perfect for any city looking to start a bike program at the highest level,” said Boston Transportation Commissioner Tom Tinlin.

The Bikeway Design Guide offers four different treatments for bike signals, three physically-protected cycle track designs, four types of striped bike lanes and a variety of intersection treatments and signage recommendations. Guidelines are divided into three categories: required, recommended and optional.

Design guidance on one-way cycle tracks, for example, would require a symbol and arrow marking as well as “preferential lane” status, as defined by the guide. Colored pavement for the track is considered optional.

The guide was developed with input from transportation officials from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

17 thoughts on New Bikeway Design Guide Could Bring Safer Cycling to More American Cities

  1. (i) That bikelane is always full of salmon. And it gets pretty dangerous too since it’s so narrow. That being said, this bike lane is really good, as a traffic calming measure alone, because you get all the cars coming off the WillyB, who head up clinton street, and they’d fly if they could.

    (ii) El Cibao (in the picture in the upper right) has the best Chicken with Rice and Beans for only $6.

  2. This is really exciting! Especially the bit of news about Washington and Texas adopting this, especially given the size and political pull of Texas. The more states that adopt this, the more definitive it becomes. I wonder if other states are far behind. I’m looking at you, New York and California.

  3. Kevin,

    You clearly have not ordered and tried to use the CROW manual. It’s difficult and expensive to obtain, and hard to find the information you need inside, as it’s designed by and for Dutch engineers. In a country where these type of designs are not common in most people’s experience, the accessibility of NACTO’s guide is amazing. Anyone can go online for free and quickly see and comprehend the design guidelines and what a street might look like. This is how design standards should be written and distributed in the 21st century.

    This a huge foot in the door for a rapid expansion of cycle tracks and state-of-the-art bicycle facilities in the US. Very exciting!

  4. Awesome! For those in California, I look forward to the Complete Street Design Manual by Snyder & Associates.

  5. When will the DMV drivers’ guides to the Vehicle Code be including these new street configurations? Streetsblog is the only place I’ve seen references to “Bike Boxes” so far. I would guess that most drivers check for updates only when their licenses are up for renewal, or when the news media publish “new laws going into effect Jan 1 (or July 1)”.

  6. J,

    Yes, the CROW standards are by and for professional engineers and project managers.

    If you are saying that it would be useful to have an easily-accessible translation into laymen’s language, then I would agree.

    If you are saying that the engineers designing multi-million dollar projects cannot afford to buy a book, then I would not agree.

  7. I was reading this set of so-called “standards.”

    Among other things, it endorses door zone bike lanes. Yes, road design where the most dangerous place on the entire road to ride a bicycle is in the bike lane.

    “When placed adjacent to parking, a solid white line marking of four inch width should be used between the parking lane and the bike lane to minimise encroachment of parked cars into the bike lane.”

    Note that “parking,” of course, refers to car parking. Bike parking? What’s that?

  8. Continuing to read this set of so-called “standards,” I find this little gem of a bike lane standard:

    “The desirable ridable surface adjacent to a street edge or longitudinal joint is 4 feet, with a minimum width of 3 feet. In cities where illegal parking in bike lanes is an concern, 5 foot wide bike lanes may be preferred.”

    A three foot wide bike lane? Elbow to elbow, I take three feet just riding. Guess what? There’s also got to be at least 1 1/2 feet of “swerve room” to safely avoid debris or obstacles. A three foot bike lane is a dangerous joke.

    And just how is a five foot wide bike lane going to deter illegal car parking in bike lanes?

    The CROW standard for a unidirectional bike lane is 2.5 M (8 feet) with a minimum separation from cars of 1.5 M (five feet). In other words, no door zone bike lanes and adequate swerve room.

  9. These bike lanes are pretty useless without education and enforcement: joggers, dogs walkers, wheelchairs and salmon everywhere, and everybody believed they are not doing anything wrong. Plus turning cars seem to be more of a problem now too and blockage is hard to navigate around. As more people are out riding (and most do it wrong) I will be probably back in the traffic lanes. I yet have to see a driver ticketed for bike lane violation, which doesn’t come as surprise since NYPD is one of the biggest bike lane offenders anyway.

  10. Kevin,

    You’re right. CROW is the gold standard for bike facilities. It is from a country where biking is prominent everywhere and not a hot political issue. However, no US state will ever adopt a Dutch bike guidebook as its standard. No state were ever considering adopting CROW. No layperson was able to flip through CROW it and understand what is meant by these types of facilites, largely because they’ve never heard of CROW, and even if they have, they’d never go through the hassle and expense of buying it. This includes most US engineers and planners, since there was, up to now, a US bike guide, AASHTO.

    The AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, the US standard up until yesterday, recommends against pretty much all the standard Dutch items in CROW (cycle tracks, striping lanes through intersections, painted lanes, etc.) The NACTO guide now codifies these facilities and creates an US standard to build from. Yes, it can be improved, but we now have a base to start with. AASHTO was not even considering the addition of these modern types of facilites. I guess I just don’t see why you feel the need to dump all over this important step forward.

  11. This is exciting! I hope states do start to adopt this, it will makes things much more safe and I’m happy to see that something is being done. I just know of too many friends who have been in bike accidents from where I’m from (Nebraska), cars just don’t know how to share the road to cyclist. Good thing they know some great Omaha attorneys.

  12. J.,

    I criticise the NACTO guide for two basic reasons:

    1. Re-inventing the wheel was a huge waste of time, money and resources.

    2. The result was a dangerously inferior standard. It includes door zone bike lanes where the most dangerous place on the entire road to ride is in the bike lane. It includes three foot wide bike lanes next to high-speed car traffic.

    As to being expensive and difficult to obtain, the CROW standard costs 85 euros and it takes about 90 seconds to fill out the on-line order form. I don’t consider 90 seconds out of my life to be all that difficult.

    85 euros is a bit pricy. Perhaps someone should donate a copy to the NY public library system.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


America Could Have Been Building Protected Bike Lanes for the Last 40 Years

Salt Lake City is on track to implement the nation’s first “protected intersection” — a Dutch-inspired design to minimize conflicts between cyclists and drivers at crossings. For American cities, this treatment feels like the cutting edge, but a look back at the history of bike planning in the United States reveals that even here, this idea is far from new. In fact, […]

The “Cities for Cycling” Roadshow Rocks Chicago

“Cities for Cycling” is a project of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) to document, promote and implement the world’s best bicycle transportation practices in American cities. As part of the Cities for Cycling program, bikeway design experts take their show on the road, using the streets of different U.S. cities as their […]

On Eve of National Bike Summit, A Renewed Push for Separated Bike Lanes

The National Bike Summit begins tomorrow, bringing together an estimated 750 cycling advocates. They’ll hear from NYCDOT Chief Janette Sadik-Khan, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and they’ll descend on Congress in droves, plastic bike pins fastened to their lapels, to deliver a message about safe cycling access. We’ll be covering the […]

NACTO Beats the Clock With Quick Update of Bike Guide

Once again, the National Association of City Transportation Officials has proven what an agile, modern coalition of transportation agencies is capable of. It was just a year and a half ago that NACTO released its first Urban Bikeway Design Guide and today, it’s released the first update to that guide. NACTO’s guide is far ahead of the industry standard, […]