Segregated cycle facilities

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This article is about cycle paths and cycle lanes. For Cycle Track (oval track-racing competition circuit), see Velodrome.

Segregated cycle facilities, are a form of cycling infrastructure consisting of marked lanes, tracks, shoulders and paths designated for use by cyclists and from which motorised traffic is generally excluded. The term includes bike lanes, cycle tracks, separated bike lanes, road shoulders and side paths located within a road right-of-way.

Example of Physically Separated Bike Lanes in New York City

Some segregated cycle facilities are separated from motor traffic by physical constraints (e.g. barriers, parking or bollards), but others are separated only by painted markings. Different types of segregated cycle facility have different names in different regions, but the usual distinction is between the physically-separated type and the rest.

Bike lanes and road shoulders demarcated by a painted marking are quite common in many European and American cities. Segregated cycle facilities demarcated by barriers, bollards or boulevards are quite common in some European countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. They are also increasingly being installed in other major cities such as New York City, Melbourne, Ottawa, Vancouver and San Francisco. Montreal and Davis, California, which have had segregated cycling facilities with barriers for several decades, are among the earliest examples in North American cities.


Various guides exist to define the different types of bikeway infrastructure, including UK Department for Transport manual The Geometric Design of Pedestrian, Cycle and Equestrian Routes,[1] the Danish Road Authority guide Registration and classification of paths,[2] the Dutch CROW,[3] the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Guide to Bikeway Facilities, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), and the US National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide.[4]

On road: bike/cycle lanes[edit]

Main article: Bike lane

Cycle lanes (UK) or bike lanes (USA) are lanes for cyclists only, marked with paint on an existing portion of a carriageway (UK) or roadway (USA).

On/Off road: cycle track/protected bike lane[edit]

Main article: Cycle track

A cycle track or protected bike lane (sometimes historically referred to as a sidepath, or separated bike lane), is an exclusive bike facility that has elements of a separated path and on-road bike lane. A cycle track is located within or next to the roadway, but is made distinct from both the sidewalk and general purpose roadway by markings, barriers or elevation differences.[4]

Off road: shoulder[edit]

A road shoulder is a reserved area outside of a roadway, but within the road right-of-way. Road shoulders (a) are a buffer area between the roadway and possible off-road hazards intended to prevent accidents in the event of a temporary loss of vehicle control, (b) provide emergency access for ambulances and police cars and (c) provide a space for inoperable vehicles so that they do not block the traveled way. In addition, road shoulders are used by bicyclists when other bicycle-specific facilities are absent, or inferior.

Off road: bike path/shared-use path[edit]

Main article: Bike path

Bike paths are paths with their own right of way dedicated to cycling, though in many cases shared with pedestrians and other non-motorized traffic. Paths that are shared are typically called shared use path, multi-use path in North America and shared-use footway in the UK.

Segregated facilities and safety[edit]

Main article: bikeway safety

There has been a lot of studies on the safety of all types of separated facilities. Proponents say that segregation of cyclists from fast or frequent motorized traffic is necessary to provide a safe and welcoming cycling environment. Opponents point out the increased risk from various types of separated infrastructure.

Legal significance of segregated cycle facilities[edit]

Different countries have different ways to legally define and enforce separated bikeways. One of the potential pitfalls for observers trying to interpret the operation of segregated cycle facilities is that the same legal assumptions do not apply in all environments.

Controversies & criticism[edit]

Main article: Bikeway controversies

Controversies have surrounded separated bikeways, particularly in North America and the United Kingdom and specifically between those who prefer to focus on education rather than separated cycling infrastructure and those who prefer to create dedicated facilities to make cyclists safer and make it more inviting to a wider public.

Bikeways that use independent rights-of-way[edit]

Bike paths that follow independent rights-of-way are often used to promote recreational cycling.


External links[edit]