Resource:Bike Lanes

Many communities have segregated a portion of their roadways as bike lanes to encourage the use of bicycles as a mode of transportation and recreation.  Segregating bike lanes on a roadway delineates the right of way, and allows for more predictable movement between motorists and bicyclists. There are many factors to consider before a community moves forward with implementing a bike lane plan. Prior to designing a bike lane for your community you should consult with a qualified transportation engineer to inventory existing conditions, identify needed improvements, develop bike lane facility options, and to design the system.  Some of the basic bike lane design considerations are outlined below.

Bike Orientation
With few exceptions, bike lanes should always be:

  • One-way following the direction of traffic.
  • Located on the right side of the roadway.
  • If there is a parking lane on the right side of the road, the bike lane should always be located between the parking lane and the traffic lane.

Bike Lane Conditions
Design and maintenance of designated bike lanes have a significant impact on rider safety.  Some physical conditions to consider include:

  • Paving should be smooth without abrupt changes in the surface and free of obstacles.
  • Bike lane width and shared lane widths can vary from 4 feet to 14 feet depending on the configuration of the road, curbing, gutters, guardrails, adjacent parking, etc.  
  • As the vehicle speed limit increases the shoulder width also should be increased.
  • Drainage grates, utility covers, bridge expansion joints, and railroad crossings along the bike lane must be designed to be safe for bicycle use and to avoid tire entrapment or unstable biking movement.
  • Drainage should be provided to prevent standing water, erosion, and settled debris.

Bike Lane Markings
Bike lanes should be clearly marked to promote smooth vehicle and bike movement.  Markings and signage can include:

  • A solid white line to separate the bike lane from the side of the road parking spaces should be 4 inches wide.
  • A solid white line between the bike lane and the vehicle lane should be 6 to 8 inches wide depending on the adjacent traffic conditions.
  • Standard bike lane symbols should be painted along the bike lane.
    In general, bike lane pavement markings do not go through intersections; current guidelines should be consulted to address the wide variety of intersection configurations.
  • Roadway signage indicates to riders that the route has been specifically intended for bike use, and alerts vehicle drivers that the bike lane is intended for bicycle usage.

Additional sources of information include the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) “Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities” and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) publication “Selecting Roadway Design Treatments to Accommodate Bicycles.” The guide above is not intended to be a replacement for current bike lane design standards and regulations.  A qualified traffic engineer should be consulted for more guidance. Contact your state department for more detailed instruction on the development of safe bicycling environments.

Additional Resources:

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

Federal Highway Administration