Bicycle transportation engineering

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Engineering for bicycles - From no provision in hostile environments...
Engineering for bicycles - ... to dedicated cycle facilities...
Engineering for bicycles - ... to providing environments in which cyclists and others can share the road safely.

Bicycle transportation engineering is the sub-discipline of transportation engineering concerning bicycles as a mode of transport and the concomitant study, design and implementation of cycling infrastructure. It includes the study and design of dedicated transport facilities for cyclists (e.g. cyclist-only paths) as well as mixed-mode environments (i.e. where cyclists share roads and paths with vehicular and foot traffic) and how both of these examples can be made to work safely.


Various methods of altering or reallocating the roadway right-of-way to facilitate bicycling and create bikeways have been added to many of the manuals used by transport planners and engineers.

Segregated cycle facilities[edit]

Sidepath or Shared use path[edit]

A shared use path is a bikeway that is physically separated from motorized vehicle traffic by an open space (generally landscaping) or some form of barrier.[1]

Cycle track[edit]

A cycle track, also called a separated cycle lane, is a bicycle exclusive facility that provide physical separation from motorized vehicle traffic within the road right-of-way, generally by means of kerbs or other barriers.[2] Cycle tracks can either incorporate bicycle-only signal phases at intersections (for 100% separation) or utilize "mixing zones" to merge bicycle and motor vehicle traffic. A cycle track combines the user experience of a separated path with the on-road infrastructure of a bike lane.

Bicycle lane[edit]

A designated bicycle lane, according to the 1998 United States Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, is:

  • a portion of a roadway which has been designated for use by bicyclists
  • marked by a white (usually solid) stripe painted on the pavement
  • significantly narrower than traffic lanes
  • found at the side of the traffic lanes

Cycle lanes require less space compared with the option of providing side paths or separate tracks, and generally do not have the legal / priority issues that facilities separated from the general traffic may have (depending on the locally applicable road laws). However, if traffic is heavy or fast, the lack of physical separation from motor vehicles may make cycle lanes unattractive to less confident cyclists. The lack of separation also means they are more apt to be blocked by (illegally) parked vehicles.


A hard shoulder, or simply shoulder, is a reserved area outside of a roadway, but within the road right-of-way. In addition to (a) serving as a buffer area in the event of a temporary loss of vehicle control, (b) providing emergency access for ambulances and police cars and (c) providing a space for inoperable vehicles, it may also be used by pedestrians and bicyclists.

Non-segregated facilities[edit]

Wide outside lane (WOL)[edit]

Main article: Wide outside lane

Wide outside through lanes help motorists pass slower cyclists without having to decrease speed or change lanes.[3] This method is held by some[who?] to be particularly important on roads with a high proportion of wide vehicles, such as buses or heavy trucks. These lanes also provide more room for cyclists to filter past queues of other vehicles in congested conditions. The use of such lanes is specifically endorsed by Cycling: the way ahead for towns and cities, the European Commission policy document on cycle promotion.[4]

Cycle friendly infrastructure argues for a marked lane width of 4.25 m (14 ft).[5] It is argued[who?] that, on undivided roads, this width provides cyclists with adequate clearance from passing wide vehicles while being sufficiently narrow to deter motorists from attempting to "double up" and form two lanes. This "doubling up" effect may be related to junctions. At non-junction locations, greater width might be preferable if this effect can be avoided.

Shared bus lane[edit]

A bus and cycle lane in Mannheim, Germany

A shared bus lane is a bus lane that allows cyclists to use it. Depending on the width of the lane, the speeds and number of buses, and other local factors, the safety and popularity of this arrangement vary.

Guidance produced for Cycling England endorses bus lanes as providing cyclists with a direct and barrier free route into town centres and as avoiding the difficulties associated with other provisions such as shared-use footways.[6] According to a French survey 42% of cyclists described themselves as "enthusiasts" for shared bus bike lanes versus 33% who were of mixed opinion and 27% who were opposed.[7] Many cycling activists view these as being more attractive than cycle paths, while others object to being in close proximity to bus exhausts.[7] The sharing of bus lanes has been described as "generally very popular" with cyclists in London.[8]

As of 2003, mixed bus/cycle lanes accounted for 118 km of the 260 km of cycling facilities in Paris. [9] The French city of Bordeaux has 40 km of shared bus cycle lanes.[10] It is reported that that in the city of Bristol, a showcase bus priority corridor, where road space was re-allocated along a 14 km stretch also resulted in more space for cyclists and had the effect of increasing cycling.[11] The reverse effect has also been suggested, a review carried out in London reports that cycling levels fell across Kew bridge following the removal of a bus lane - this was despite a general increase in cycling level in the city generally.[12] In addition, it is arguably easier, politically speaking, to argue for funding of joint facilities rather than the additional expense of both segregated cycling facilities and bus-only lanes.[13] [14]

In some instances. bus lane proposals have run into vehement opposition from cycling representatives - a typical theme is the perceived generation of conflict due to the narrowing of other lanes already shared by cars/cyclists so as to create space for the bus lanes[15] The TRL reports that cyclists and bus drivers tend to have low opinions of each other[8] There have been reports in Dublin of conflict as cyclists choose to cycle in the bus lanes and a bus driver apparently expected them to use adjacent cycle tracks instead.[16] In some other cities the arrangements seem to work successfully, with bus companies and cyclists' groups taking active steps to ensure that understanding is improved between the two groups of road users.[14][17][18]


Shared space[edit]

Main article: Shared space

Shared space schemes, which are characterized by the removal of road markings, signs and signals, give all street users equal priority and equal responsibility for each other's safety. Experiences where these schemes are in use, show that street users, particularly motorists, undirected by signs, curbs or road markings, reduce their speed and establish eye contact with other users. Results from the thousands of such implementations worldwide all show casualty reductions and most also show reduced journey times.[19] Following the partial conversion of London's Kensington High Street to shared space, accidents were reduced there by 44% (the average reduction for the whole of London was 17%).[19]

Bicycle boulevards[edit]

Main article: Bicycle boulevard

A bicycle boulevard is a low speed street which has been designed to discourage cut-through motor vehicle traffic and to give priority to cyclists as through-going traffic.

Bike paths[edit]

Bike paths are bicycle routes that follow an independent right-of-way. There are two distinct types of bike paths: those used exclusively by bicycles and those shared with pedestrians. In the United States almost all bike paths are shared with pedestrians.

Bike paths are often built on old railroad right-of-ways (called rail trails) and as part of greenways and foreshoreways.

Traffic lights[edit]

How traffic signals are designed and implemented directly impacts cyclists.[20] For instance, poorly adjusted vehicle detector systems, used to trigger signal changes, may not correctly detect cyclists. Traffic managers in Copenhagen link cyclist-specific traffic signals on a major arterial bike lane to provide green waves for rush hour cycle-traffic.[21] Cycling-specific measures that can be applied at traffic signals include the use of advanced stop lines and/or bypasses.

The frequency with which lights change is important to cyclists who may conserve energy by anticipating green lights ahead i.e. the shorter the interval the better for cyclists. Intersection clearance times and green wave timing may also be relevant.

Road surface[edit]

Bicycle tires being narrow, road surface is more important than for other transport, for both comfort and safety. The type and placement of storm drains, manholes, surface markings, and the general road surface quality should all be taken into account by a bicycle transportation engineer. Drain grates, for example, must not catch wheels.


Main article: Bicycle parking

Decent bicycle parking involves the infrastructure and equipment (bicycle locks, bicycle stands etc.) to enable secure and convenient parking of bicycles. This includes a wide assortment of arrangements such as lockers, stands, manned or unmanned bicycle parks,[22] as well as bike parking facilities within workplaces to facilitate bicycle commuting. It also will help if certain legal arrangements are put into place to enable legitimate ad hoc parking, for example to allow people to lock their bicycles to railings, signs and other street furniture.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ AASHTO. "AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, 1999". 
  2. ^ National Association of City Transportation Officials. "PROTECTED BIKEWAY/CYCLE TRACKS". Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  3. ^ Steven G. Goodridge Ph.D. (18 February 2005). "Wide Outside Through Lanes: Effective Design of Integrated Passing Facilities" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-07. The function of wide outside through lanes as passing facilities is presented. 
  4. ^ Cycling: the way ahead for towns and cities, European Commission, 1999
  5. ^ Cycle-Friendly Infrastructure: Guidelines for Planning and Design, Institution of Highways and Transportation, Cyclists Touring Club, 1996.
  6. ^ A.10 Bus Lanes and Bus Stops Cycling England design guidelines 2007
  7. ^ a b La complémentarité entre vélo et transport public Vélocité - la revue du cycliste urbain N° 79, janv. / fév. 2005
  8. ^ a b Cycling in bus lanes, Reid S and Guthrie N TRL Report 610, Transport Research Laboratory 2004
  9. ^ The bicycle's place in town Seminar organised by the Mayor's Office of the 18th District, Paris, September 2004
  10. ^ A vélo, Mairie de Bordeaux (Accessed 28 October 2007)
  11. ^ Delivery of the National Cycling Strategy: A review UK Department for Transport March 2005
  12. ^ Review of procedures associated with the development and delivery of measures designed to improve safety and convenience for cyclists Transport for London, January 2005
  13. ^ Cycle Network and Route Planning Guide, Land Transport Safety Authority, New Zealand
  14. ^ a b Mitbenutzung von Busspuren durch Radfahrer, Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club e.V./Bundesministeriums für Verkehr, January 2005. Translated here [1]
  15. ^ Letter of Objection to Bus lanes on Wilton Road Cambridge Cycle Campaign, September 2003
  16. ^ Cyclists In Dublin, Irish Times Letters, Tue, 31 October 2000
  17. ^ Bus Drivers and Cyclists in Harmony, Warrington Cycle Campaign Leaflet, 2006
  18. ^ Les couloirs bus + vélos VeloBuc (Accessed 22 October 2007)
  19. ^ a b Simon Jenkins (29 February 2008). "Rip out the traffic lights and railings. Our streets are better without them". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media). Archived from the original on 2 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  20. ^ Priority for cycling in an urban traffic control system, Stephen D. Clark, Matthew W. Page, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds, Velomondial Conference Proceedings, Amsterdam 2000
  21. ^ Green wave for cycles, Cycle Campaign Network News, No 85, November 2006
  22. ^ Michael Baltes (2005), Integration of bicycles and transit, National Research Council (U.S.). Transportation Research Board, p. 39, The first staffed bicycle parking facility in the United States was opened in Long Beach, California. 
  23. ^ Success is on the cards, London Cyclist, June–July 2009, p. 6 

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