Guide to Best Practices

V. Planning for Bicyclists Types of Cyclists

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V. Planning for Bicyclists

  1. Types of Cyclists

Cyclists vary significantly in abilities, needs and preferences. Both children and less experienced or timid adult cyclists may benefit from facilities with separated right-of-way. Cycle commuters require ample secure parking as well as suitable routes that offer non-circuitous access to employment centers. Bolder commuters and serious sport cyclists often prefer riding in traffic or on highway shoulders. Bicycle planning must balance these varying demands to provide the greatest community benefits with available resources.

  1. Integrating Cycling Into Roadway Planning

Cycling improvements can be integrated into roadway planning by having plans and designs reviewed by experts familiar with cyclists needs, by establishing design standards that meet cyclists needs (for example, minimum shoulder widths on highways), and by performing a Cycling Audit (see box below).
Planning Tip

Cycling Audit and Review

Cycle Audit and Review provide a framework to ensure that opportunities to encourage cycling are considered in transportation planning, and that cycling conditions are not inadvertently made worse. They provide a detailed process for evaluating roadways to identify positive and negative attributes for cycling, and to assess possible improvements to encourage more cycling. A Cycle Audit applies to a specific project, while a Cycle Review applies to existing transport infrastructure.
Information on these procedures can be found in Guidelines on Cycle Audit and Cycle Review, Institution of Highway and Transportation (U.K.;, 1998. It provides specific procedures, including model review forms, which can be used at various levels of detail.

  1. Bicycle Network Planning

A cycling network should be designed to link destinations and overcome barriers and hazards to cycling in a community. All roads should be considered cycling facilities (except where cycling is specifically prohibited) and should accommodate cycling as well as possible. In addition, special cycling routes should be developed that are particularly suitable to cycling because they have lower vehicle traffic volumes and speeds, fewer hills, or are separated from vehicle traffic altogether. The cycling network should be a network of streets (a grid of 0.5 kilometres or less in urban areas) that ensure safe bicycle access to all popular destinations.
There are five major categories of bicycle facilities:

  1. Bike paths and trails (Class I bicycle facilities) are entirely separated from the roadway except at infrequent intersections. These are generally “multi-use” facilities used by both bicyclists and pedestrians. These are generally “multi-use” facilities for pedestrians, and sometimes equestrians, as well as bicyclists.

  2. Bike lanes (Class II bicycle facilities) are a portion of the road marked with a line, for use by bicyclists. They are always one-way facilities, with cyclists traveling in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic in the adjacent lane. Bike lanes often become dashed lines approaching an intersection to indicate that cyclists may shift lanes, and motor vehicles may pass through the lanes as needed for turning. Bike lanes are generally found on arterial roads and on major collectors. See the National Bicycling and Walking Study #4 (FHWA 1991) for a comparison of the merits and hazards of striped lanes, shoulders, and wide curb lanes.
  3. Bike routes (Class III bicycle facilities) are roads particularly suitable for cycling that are marked with signs. This is typically appropriate for streets with low traffic speeds (40 km/h or less) and volumes (3,000 vehicles per day or less). This may be an opportunistic classification or may be the result of specific traffic management and traffic calming modifications. Bike routes may direct cyclists away from high speed traffic, high congestion traffic, or difficult intersection situations. “Bicycle Boulevards” are roads that have been modified with traffic management and traffic calming features to be particularly suitable for cycling. Note that a network of bike routes does not eliminate the need to make all roads safe for cycling.

  4. Other roadway improvements for cyclists include wide, paved shoulders for use in rural areas, level joints and utility covers, safe drain grates, prompt and smooth repairs, smooth railroad track crossings, bicycle sensitive traffic sensors, frequent sweeping and debris cleanup, high traction paint for roadway markings, etc.

  5. Destination facilities include parking facilities, showers and clothes lockers.

Some people prefer “segregated” facilities, such as bike paths and trails. They consider such facilities to be more pleasant and safer to use. Many people cite the lack of such facilities as a major barrier to increased cycling. Others prefer “integrated” facilities, such as bike lanes, bike routes, and roadway improvements for their more complete access to destinations and because they are generally suitable for faster riding.40 Segregated facilities sometimes have higher crash rates if they create confusion at intersections or have inadequate designs, and because cyclists must share trails with pedestrians, playing children, and leashed or uncontrolled pets. Both bike lanes and wide curb lanes must be properly designed to insure safety.41

Paths and trails can often be developed on available rights-of-way along waterways, abandoned railroad lines, open space at new developments, and greenbelts. These can help create a network that satisfies a range of cyclists’ preferences.

Sometimes multi-lane arterials can be restriped to provide more space for cyclists in the curb lane, by narrowing the inner lanes.42 This will allow capacity to increase by the amount of cycling added without decreasing the capacity due to slower moving cyclist.

Sidewalks are generally unsuitable to be used as bikeways for the following reasons:

  • Sidewalks are generally not designed for cycling speeds. Cyclists must either reduce their speed or travel too fast for conditions.

  • There is generally insufficient width for shared bicycle and pedestrian travel, particularly due to obstacles such as utility poles, signs, and street furniture that narrows the effective width of the sidewalk.

  • Bicyclists face conflicts with motor vehicles at driveways and intersections. Motorists are generally not expecting a cyclist to cross their path from the sidewalk, and may not be looking for them.

  • Traffic rules, such as obligations to yield, are unclear when cyclists ride on sidewalks, creating confusion and risk between pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.

Sidewalk cycling may be safe for supervised children in uncrowded areas riding at walking speeds, but becomes increasingly hazardous as speed is increased and as crossing traffic increases in driveways and intersections.

Most communities should probably develop a range of facilities to meet the demands for the various types of cycling opportunities. A primary effort should be made to insure that all roads are safe for cycling and to create attractive routes in, or parallel to, major travel corridors. For example, even if a separated path provides cycle access to a college or employment center, it is also important to accommodate cycling on access roads for those who ride too fast for multi-use trails, and for cyclists arriving from directions that are most directly reached by the road. Similarly, some cyclists may sometimes prefer a faster, more direct route, although it has more hills or traffic, while at other times take a longer route which is flatter or has less traffic. Communities should strive to have at least some bicycle facilities that are particularly attractive, such as through a park or along a shoreline, for recreational cycling.
A bicycle facility plan should include maintenance standards that apply to trails, paths, bike lanes, and all roads. For example, it may specify the types of stormwater grates that will be installed in the future, and pavement maintenance standards that will apply to roads and road shoulders.

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