U.S. DOT to Publish Its Own Manual on Protected Bike Lanes

FHWA's Dan Goodman pointed to before-and-after images from New York's First Avenue retrofit to show how separated bike lanes can improve safety. Photos: ##http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/42/First_Avenue_in_New_York_by_David_Shankbone.jpg##Wikimedia## and ##http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Downtown-First-Avenue.jpg##Streetsblog NYC##
FHWA’s Dan Goodman pointed to before-and-after images from New York’s First Avenue redesign to show how protected bike lanes can improve safety. Photos: David Shankbone/##http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/42/First_Avenue_in_New_York_by_David_Shankbone.jpg##Wikimedia## and ##http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Downtown-First-Avenue.jpg##NYC DOT##

Before the end of this year, the Federal Highway Administration will release its own guidance on designing protected bike lanes.

The agency’s positions on bicycling infrastructure has matured in recent years. Until recently, U.S. DOT’s policy was simple adherence to outdated and stodgy manuals like AASHTO’s Green Book and FHWA’s own Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) — neither of which included protected bike lanes.

In 2010, the department developed a policy stating that “every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems” and that they should “go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.” That was the first hint that the agency was looking beyond the Green Book and the MUTCD, which were (let’s face it) the very minimum of standards.

The department’s new strategic plan, released last year, emphasized pedestrian and bicycle safety and highlighted the need to create connected walking and biking networks that work for all ages and abilities, which is also a focus of the secretary’s new bike/ped safety initiative.

Then last year the agency explicitly endorsed “design flexibility,” unshackling engineers from the AASHTO and MUTCD “bibles” and encouraging them to take a look at the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ urban bikeway guide and the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ manual on walkability.

Now, with a secretary at the helm who’s determined to make bike and pedestrian safety his signature issue, the agency is going further. First, the next edition of the MUTCD (expected to be released in 2016 or 2017) will have a slew of new signage and markings recommendations for bicycling. FHWA’s Dan Goodman told an audience at Pro-Walk Pro-Bike earlier this month that the updated MUTCD is expected to have everything from signage indicating how bikes should make two-stage turns using bike boxes to stripes extending bike lanes through intersections — and, of course, guidance on buffered and protected bike lanes.

But perhaps more important than the changes to the MUTCD is the fact that FHWA is publishing its own manual dedicated to the design of protected bike lanes. (Despite the fact that the guide will deal exclusively with bike lanes that are protected from traffic with some kind of vertical barrier — not just paint — they still insist on calling the designs “separated” but not “protected” bike lanes, out of recognition of the fact that even what passes for “protection” in the U.S. these days — like flexible plastic bollards — don’t offer much protection against a moving car. Streetsblog calls these lanes “protected,” however, as a way to distinguish them from regular painted lanes, which are also “separated” from traffic.)

Goodman also pointed to the Dearborn Street bike lane in Chicago as a model. Photo: ##http://gridchicago.com/2012/dearborn-streets-celebrity-status-skyrockets/##Grid Chicago##
Goodman also pointed to the Dearborn Street bike lane in Chicago as a model. Photo: ##http://gridchicago.com/2012/dearborn-streets-celebrity-status-skyrockets/##Grid Chicago##

And FHWA is collaborating with exactly the right people on the project. Carl Sundstrom from the UNC Highway Safety Research Center and Ryan Russo of NYC DOT, who presented alongside Goodman at Pro-Walk Pro-Bike, are both consulting on the new guidelines. Sam Schwartz Engineering and Kittelson & Associates, Inc. — firms which have developed specializations in protected bike lanes — are on the consultant team. NACTO and ITE are on the technical work group along with the League of American Bicyclists’ Equity Initiative and some forward-looking state DOTs, MPOs, and transit agencies.

The guidelines will discuss the pros and cons of different intersection designs, one- versus two-way lanes, and different types of protection. Sometimes cities prefer two-way lanes to one-way lanes, or using parked cars as buffers instead of concrete, specifically because those treatments create enough width to allow street cleaning equipment to go through. Hot tips like that from experienced cities will fill the guide.

During their presentation, Russo and Sundstrom genially disagreed about whether separated signal phasing or mixing zones were the best way to deal with turning vehicles. Questions like these are still open to debate. It will be interesting to see how Goodman and his colleagues treat them in the manual — whether they’ll take sides or simply present the options.

In many cases, Goodman said, it’s hard to take a definitive stand on these treatments because there’s simply no data backing up one design over another. He and his colleagues weren’t satisfied with the safety analysis they were able to perform because they simply didn’t have good data to work with. “The data is not good enough to draw specific design conclusions,” he said.

Sundstrom, however, said the little before-and-after data they do have is convincing enough to say protected bike lanes improve safety. In Sundstrom’s study of protected bike lanes, total cyclist injuries did go up, but since more people were biking, the crash rate went down on eight out of nine streets. They also saw that crashes at intersections made up 90 percent of the crashes that did occur — up from 70 percent before the facility was installed — indicating that intersections are where they need to put their focus.

Russo said they found even more striking results in New York, where crashes with injuries went down 17 percent on streets with protected lanes. Injuries to motor vehicle occupants — “wonderful beneficiaries to these projects” — went down 25 percent. And despite the fact that biking in New York has quadrupled since 2000, the total number of crashes is actually down 2 percent, and injuries and fatalities remain flat, making for a 74 percent reduction in crash risk.

The FHWA document will end with a call to action, including a plea for cities to collect before-and-after data when they make changes. But Goodman makes clear that their commitment to promoting protected bike lanes isn’t up for negotiation and that the call to action will urge cities to build them. “One conclusion to draw from our effort is that yes, separated bike lanes are part of the toolbox that you can use to create and connect bike networks,” he said, “and that’s where we’re going.”

220 thoughts on U.S. DOT to Publish Its Own Manual on Protected Bike Lanes

  1. You clearly don’t understand US history and how those who own this country think and what they’ve been up to for over a century.

  2. So your point is that road cronies replaced rail cronies? I believe I’ve mentioned that a couple times. It’s interesting how you are so concerned with the funding that pushed road politics but no concern about the funding pushing the transportation politics you like.

  3. I’ve already answered your question, oooBooo. In your rush to ignore the questions you’ve been asked, you’ve apparently missed it.

    Perhaps you can go back to find the answer. While you do that, see if you can finally muster an answer to the questions I’ve presented that actually do remain unanswered.

  4. As I thought, oooBoo.

    When all you can muster is repeating what you’ve already said, including your intellectually lazy references to platitudes, it is once again time to stick a fork in you – you’re obviously done.

  5. Nice faux would-be intellectual condescension, there!

    Only oooBooo understands the secrets to the universe! Bike infrastructure = conspiracies!

    Reminds me of Dan Maes’s totally-sane insistence that bikeshare in Denver is the first step towards UN Domination. Of Denver. Because…bikes.


    If only everyone else could see the light!

  6. It goes well with your use of ridicule as an argument so I figured, why the hell not?

    But if you got some time you might want to learn about america’s ruling class and how they work. Take a good study of the company town utopias they built. Just because it’s history you don’t know doesn’t make it a wacky conspiracy theory.

  7. They are right above, why should I copy and paste them? You put forth the babble of a politician. You put forth trite, meaningless, and prosaic statements to settle the unease with the simple fact that once driving is gone from the middle and lower classes, the intended funding source for your system is gone with them. You do the same to try and come to grips with other disconnects such as that you’re aiming to politically reserve space for each division on roads that currently have traffic lanes usable by all vehicles.

    You issue platitudes, ridicule, etc but you never actually address the issue. It’s the talk of politicians and it might work on the peanut gallery here, but not me.

    The simple fact is that by taxing the activity you wish to diminish (driving) to fund what you wish to encourage (transit and bicycling) means that if you’re successful eventually what you want to encourage will financially collapse. A sensible plan if the desire is to curtail the mobility of the individual because it leads to a collapse of affordable (self-directed) mobility.

  8. Hah. Assuming I’m not aware of the history of company towns now, huh? Ok! Hooray for misplaced condescension.

    Btw, we may indeed be in a Second Gilded Age (a topic for a whole separate site), but getting back on topic here your implication seems to be that it’s the ruling classes that are forcing bike infrastructure changes on us…it’s actually pretty opposite. The support for this kinda stuff is pretty grassrootsy:




    Think of those actions what you will…the support for this stuff is not coming from The Ruling Class. In fact, especially if you look at how many of them had a sad about bike lanes infringing upon their limo parking in NYC it’s pretty amazing some of those things got built in the first place:



  9. I have dealt with this issue repeatedly on here. I even dealt with it with you previously.

    Again what you and streetsblog and other anti-driving advocates do is base this on false assumptions.

    First that without driving roads would cost zero or not be needed. That somehow magically goods will get to market and we’ll be able to get to our homes without roads. That the private passenger automobile is the cost of all roads.

    Second that the only things drivers pay are taxes on fuel, tolls, and registration. Which is very far from the case. There are all sales taxes on fuel, parts, repairs. Special taxes on tires and other automotive needs. There are special taxes on purchasing automobiles. (see cook county Illinois new use tax on private automobile sales for yet another example) There is revenue based enforcement to collect fines. The list goes on and on.

    Those are the two big false assumptions.

    Road wear and tear, strength, etc and so forth is determined by trucks, buses, and other heavy vehicles such as fire trucks, ambulances, etc and so on. Most road miles, most lane miles, of city streets are residential and business. The streets that must be there regardless.

    You can let the interstate system crumble to dust and without private passenger car drivers you’ll have to raise taxes elsewhere just to keep the minimum roads needed for just plain living. Remember, modern smooth paved roads were invented before the automobile and pushed by bicycling clubs for obvious reasons if you have half a clue what dealing with dirt roads is like.

    As far as boondoggles… there are road boondoggles, there are transit boondoggles… there are boondoggles of every shape and form coming out of government. Because that’s what government does. But the simple fact remains, in the post driving world there won’t be any excess tax revenues to reassign. Especially when transit has been expanded on the back of driving. Remember, streetsblog itself admits that even when running full transit requires subsidy.

    If you want more detail, see previous posts.

  10. “First that without driving roads would cost zero or not be needed. That somehow magically goods will get to market and we’ll be able to get to our homes without roads. That the private passenger automobile is the cost of all roads.”

    No one said anything about 1) not having driving or 2) that that would somehow cost zero or 3) that roads should never be needed for things like freight/transportation/travel. You’re introducing lots of strawmen here.

    What we’re doing is repeatedly pointing out that those roads do not come anywhere near being fully paid for by drivers. Or truckers. Or sold goods that were delivered by trucks on roads. Etc.

    So, the way we all pay for it is we as a society massively subsidize the difference. It is fact that roads are massively subsidized. So is transit. Yet you insist that only non-driving modes “pay their full share.”

    “Second that the only things drivers pay are taxes on fuel, tolls, and registration. Which is very far from the case. There are all sales taxes on fuel, parts, repairs. Special taxes on tires and other automotive needs. There are special taxes on purchasing automobiles. (see cook county Illinois new use tax on private automobile sales for yet another example) There is revenue based enforcement to collect fines. The list goes on and on.”

    Those taxes clearly still come nowhere close to covering road construction and maintenance.

    “Remember, streetsblog itself admits that even when running full transit requires subsidy.”

    As do roads! We all collectively subsidize *all* of this stuff no matter how much we use it.

    “Remember, modern smooth paved roads were invented before the automobile and pushed by bicycling clubs for obvious reasons if you have half a clue what dealing with dirt roads is like.”

    And the costs for the occasional 5-ft wide strips of asphalt for bikes which receive minimal wear-and-tear are totally comparable to the incredibly wide, pervasive and expensive asphalt laid down everywhere for cars.

  11. Again, please research how america’s ruling class operates. Politicians aren’t the ruling class. They serve the ruling class. Occasionally a member of the ruling class may take political office himself, but its not particularly common. There isn’t anything uniform about the process either. There will be political figures for and against any particular thing.

    You do know streetsblog gets funding from the Rockefeller foundation right? You do know that the Rockefeller foundation is funding the push for the Ashland BRT and BRT in other cities right? Or how about CNU being funded by the Ford Foundation. Yeah, Ford… as in motor company. If you want to see what the ruling class wants, follow what their foundations fund. Transportation is just one of many areas where this is done and actually one of the more recent ones.

    Basically ideas are floated through the various interests the ruling class controls, like the media or the papers issued by their foundations and think tanks and the like. Also the ones it can influence like politicians. Then people start to latch on to it. Then some of these people are funded, etc and so forth. The politicians respond to it along with campaign money. It’s a wonderfully designed system to get what they want and I am not doing it justice with this brief overview.

    It looks entirely grass roots to people who don’t look too closely. In many instances it is grass roots as far as anyone can tell because someone just picked up the idea and ran with it. But that ball got left there for him to pick up and if he carries it well enough the funds come in.

    Social Darwinism never left us. It’s been here all along. It’s just much smarter and effective now.

    To head you off at the pass… There’s no conspiracy, it’s all about how
    to guide people, how to convince people, how to influence them, how to get them to do what you need done. How to get what you want. It’s all right out in the open for anyone to look at. It’s sales, it’s marketing, it’s psychology, it’s biology, it’s social manipulation. Study the work done in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in this area. Why many people want bike lanes now isn’t much different than why they’ll buy or want a diamond engagement ring.

  12. You’re missing the point. There isn’t enough taxation collected from non driving sources to fund the minimum level of roads. Everyone of these ‘drivers don’t pay for 100% of the roads’ calculations applies 100% of the costs to driving and only a portion of the revenues from it.

    Eliminating driving of passenger cars by all but the wealthy will not significantly change the cost of roads outside of limited access highways. And even if you force goods to go long distance by rail so the interstates can be allowed to decay, the savings will fall short of the lost revenues.

    The private passenger car being operated in mass by the lower and middle classes subsidizes all other road going transportation and transit. It’s the source of funds that is tapped every time. that’s where the money has been. The bottomless wallet of the american motorist. I can’t think of a surface transportation plan that did not involve taxing the lower and middle class passenger car driver to fund it. Bicycle, transit, whatever. Either the existing taxes or new ones or raising the existing taxes. As this is intentionally diminished, there will be not quite enough to support local streets. The bare minimum needed to get goods to market, firetrucks to fires, people to their homes and other basic economic and government service activity.

    Roads were not 5ft wide before the automobile’s widespread use. Nor are you going to be able to get a box truck to your apartment to move your stuff on a five foot wide bike path. It’s not going to support the fire truck either. It’s not going to get the semi from the rail head to the grocery store. That’s what the roads are built for. The private passenger car is really just a side benefit and a way to pay for these roads so it doesn’t have to be collected entirely from property and sales and income taxes.

    LSD, 1885:
    Rookery Building 1905:
    Field’s building, 1904:
    Franklin Street, 1906:
    Hull House, 1904:

    I can go on and on. Yes some roads are paved with bricks. very labor intensive compared today’s methods. Those bricks are often just hidden today with a top coat of asphalt. That is they are still the foundation of many of the streets. In some areas they are still exposed, like here:

    Simply put, local roads are going to cost pretty much the same with or without the masses driving.

  13. All of that to reach the incredulous conclusion that driving is affordable? You’re making me smile again, oooBoo.

    C’mon, man, surely you can do better than that.

    Affordable by what math?

    Don’t believe everything you see written in crayon, oooBooo.

    Transit, biking, and walking affordable? Absolutely. Driving one’s car? Nope.

  14. Do you ever present an argument with support or just issue ridicule and platitudes?

    The ‘conclusion’ is that driving is being made unaffordable intentionally on a number of fronts. Some which are typically outside the scope of this site. However, if one is clever driving can still be rather cheap.

    First choose a reliable car model that is about 15-20 years old. Find a well kept low mileage example to buy. Due to the rentier insurance cartel economy cars are best. Learn how to maintain it and repair it yourself. This avoids the over priced licensed mechanics and their absurd parts mark up. Now with the internet there are instructions and help at one’s finger tips. You’ll be amazed how cheaply a car can be kept on the road without paying a $100/hr labor rates and high part markups. If you’re really cheap, find self service junkyards. It’s an adventure and you might meet some interesting people.

    But hey, what am I suggesting that here for, this isn’t exactly a crowd of people who learned to repair their own bicycles when they were 11 years old, but rather one that relies on over priced bike shops to tune derailleurs and other simple tasks that a kid should have taught himself by the age of 12. Nor is this a crowd that apparently wants to get their hands dirty or mingle with the lower classes, let alone go to the parts of town where junk yards are typically located. Exceptions don’t need to pipe up, I know you’re there, I am judging by articles and comments.

    So maybe you’re right, driving and practically everything else is unaffordable to people who are unwilling to develop their own skill sets to get through life. People who have to call in ‘professionals’ and pay them for every little thing. People who like being dependent and now they are by numerical age, adults, expect government to fill in that parental roll and provide them with what they want at the expense of someone else. Still want to use a bicycle as a toy, want to take the bus, and have “parents” pay for it all.

  15. The fact that these treatments increase the likelihood of crashes at intersections should not surprise anyone.

  16. Any traffic flow priority for cars can certainly be enjoyed by bicyclists, but even a moderate number of bicyclists will greatly impact that same flow in a negative manner and lead to a flow that less enjoyable for both bicyclists and motorists alike. For example, a hundred Cherokee Schills in the lane would render it unusable by motorists and halve the capacity. However, I certainly agree that bikes shouldn’t be relegated to gutters and crumbly edges. We should all make sure that only the best standards for bikeways are established and adhered to.

  17. Nick Falbo*s design the standard for signal intersections (which by the way you can modify things like the widths, the number of lanes, which arms of the intersections have bicycle crossings, if they are bidirectional, and this intersection model also works if you have an unsignalized intersection. Add yield to bicycles by turning traffic signs, and assign which direction gets a yield sign, and poof. You can transition a bike lane or a regular road into a cycle track by adding the type of smoothness you have from ramp to freeway and back again.

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