Urban Velo

Federal Highway Administration Explores Separated Bikeways

The Federal Highway Administration has expressed a newfound interest in developing separated bikeways, aka cycle tracks. The agency, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has circulated a task order proposal request to several contractors in an effort to launch a collaborative study on the design and safety of cycle tracks within varied settings.

The initiative is further evidence of an increasing acceptance and awareness of cycling as a normal mode of transportation, rather than as solely a recreational activity.

“Interest in cycle tracks has increased exponentially in the U.S. over the past five years,” acknowledges the FHWA in the request, which admits that, despite public interest, there is no mention of such protected or separated bike lanes within the 2012 Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities published by the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

“At the time the AASHTO Guide was written, there were few examples of cycle tracks in the U.S. However today, numerous cities in the U.S. have either built cycle tracks, or are in the planning stages to implement one or more cycle tracks.”

This comes as a breath of fresh air following numerous experimental bike lane projects conducted in cities across North America, which have produced positive results including increased ridership and decreased crash rates. One such study was conducted in downtown Long Beach, a community that has been making strides in becoming a better place to bike in recent years. Based on a study conducted at the end of 2012, the separated bike lane installed on Broadway Boulevard has led to a 33% increase in the number of bike riders crossing 3rd and Broadway, a busy commercial intersection; additionally over the two years since the bike lane was put in place there has also been a 15% increase in pedestrian traffic. Accident-wise, this intersection has experienced a 50% decrease in bike-related accidents as well as a 10% decrease in traffic speed.

“Many transportation practitioners are unwilling to install separated bikeway facilities, despite their potential benefits,” states the request.

The FHWA recognizes the need and opportunity to discover more on the potential of cycle tracks, and in doing so has called for a roundup of 12-month studies that can provide better data on this type of infrastructure in relation to varied traffic conditions and structures. The objectives of the collective studies include: Quantifying crash rates and bicycle (and other) traffic volume, identifying prevalent crash and conflict types, operational issues, physical (structural) and human factors influencing crashes, and local legal and educational practices influencing user behavior.

The study has been ordered to include 10-20 sites to take into account various road features, including controlled and uncontrolled intersections, raised paths, one-way and two-way paths, and streets with and without parking adjacent to the cycle tracks. Read the full proposal here.



About Krista Carlson

A regular contributor to the print edition of Urban Velo, Krista Carlson is a cyclist obsessed with bike polo, baking, pickles, and all things bike-y. She is a native Angeleno and is madly in love with the city and everything that makes it the beautiful, crazy place that it is.

View all posts by Krista Carlson →


  1. George HessAugust 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Although it’s nice that bicycles are being recognized as a “legitimate” mode of transport, I’m not a fan of separated bikeways. Especially in urban areas laden with intersections they create illogical traffic situations; and the safety data are dubious. In the long term bikeways reinforce, and sometimes lead to codification of, the notion that bicycles don’t belong on the road (i.e, it’s illegal to ride on the road if a bikeway is present). That’s just wrong. Here’s a detailed article with a different perspective (skip past the fragility jargon at the beginning). http://iamtraffic.org/news-views/china-cups-and-butterflies-options-and-ethics/ The “I Am Traffic” website has some really interesting information, generally speaking.

  2. oldnslowlyAugust 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    We have lots of cycle ways in the uk and for the most part they are useless. Shared use with pedestrians is hopeless because you have to reduce speed so much you may as well walk. Cycleways along straight roads that disappear as soon as you get to a junction or a roundabout where you really need the protection of a cycle way. Separate cycleways tend to be so poorly maintained you could easily destroy a set of lightweight 700c wheels in a couple of months of regular use. Cycle lanes are a waste of time and effort.Make the inside lane 3 feet wider and assume drivers guilt in a collision. Make anyone who hits a rider go to court to prove his innocence a la the Dutch.

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