Bicycle Lanes

Description

Bike lane on a one-way street with on-street parking

Bicycle lanes are designated by a white stripe, a bicycle symbol, and signage that alerts all road users that a portion of the roadway is for exclusive use by bicyclists. Bike lanes enable bicyclists to travel at their preferred speed and facilitate predictable behavior and movements between bicyclists and motorists. A bike lane is located adjacent to motor vehicle travel lanes or parking lanes, and flows in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic. Sometimes bike lanes are marked on the left side of a one-way street such as on streets where there are a high number of transit stops or vehicles on the right side, significantly more driveways, or where the majority of destinations are on the left side of the street.

Bicycle lane with on-street parking in San Francisco, CA

Bike lanes are typically four to six feet wide. Wider bike lanes (six to seven feet) and/or buffers provide additional operating space and lateral separation from moving and parked vehicles, thus increasing bicyclists’ sense of comfort and perceived safety and reducing the risk of “dooring” from parked vehicles. Buffers between the bike and motor vehicle lanes can be used to visually narrow a wide street and create a more attractive and comfortable bicycling environment. Colored pavement or a contrasting paving material has also been used in certain situations to distinguish bike lanes from the motor vehicle lanes.

Design and countermeasure details are provided in the AASHTO Bicycle Design Guide, BIKESAFE, the MUTCD, and the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

Purpose

Woman uses bicycle lane with green painted merge area in Portland, Oregon

Bike lanes are used to create on-street, separated travel facilities for bicyclists. They can provide safety benefits to road users though separate operational space for safe motorist overtaking of bicyclists, particularly in narrow, congested areas. Bike lane presence also visually narrows the roadway or motor vehicle travel lanes to encourage lower motor vehicle speeds.

Considerations

  • Where bike lanes are to be considered, the road or street should be evaluated to determine if this facility is appropriate.
  • Sidewalks may be appropriate for low-speed (less than 5 mph) bicyclists such as children while providing on-street bicycle facilities such as bike lanes may encourage higher speed bicyclists to not ride on sidewalks, thus reducing conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists on sidewalks.
  • Whenever possible, provide space between bike lane striping and the marked boundary of an adjacent parking lane to reduce door zone conflicts.
  • Avoid termination of bike lanes where bicyclists are left in a vulnerable situation.
  • Marked crosswalks should be extended across the bicycle lanes to let bicyclists know they must yield to pedestrians. Dashed bicycle lane markings may be continued through intersections or across turning lanes to indicate to drivers that vehicles must cross bicyclists’ path.
  • When a bicycle lane is located on the same side of the road as transit stops, a cycle track may be used to route bicyclists behind the stop. Pedestrian waiting areas should be provided between the cycle track and the roadway and crosswalks should be installed across the cycle track to reduce conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians accessing the transit stop.
  • Provide a smoothly paved surface and keep the bike lane free of debris. Avoid placing paving joints within the bike lane.

Cost

The cost of a five-foot bicycle lane can range from approximately $5,000 to $535,000 per mile, with an average cost around $130,000. The costs can vary greatly due to differences in project specifications and the scale and length of the treatment. More detailed cost information is provided here.