Bicycle facilities are vital components in a community's transportation system. An established bicycling network can reduce traffic congestion and pollution by providing alternate means to vehicular travel. They also provide recreational opportunities which encourage healthy lifestyles and thus enhance the quality of life within a community.
Bicycling is a very quick, convenient, and healthy way for adults and teenagers to make trips of up to 3-5 miles in reasonably good weather. Nationally, approximately 57% of all automobile trips are five miles or less in length and nearly 1/3 are two miles or less. Given these high percentages of short trips, bicycling should be a significant way to reduce dependence on the automobile for short commutes, errand running, social visits, etc. But today, bicycling accounts for a statistically insignificant percentage of transportation oriented trips in Chester County. Why is the bicycle not used for transportation in Chester County and what can be done to increase the number of people bicycling for transportation?
The AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities states that "Bicycling is a healthy, low cost mode of travel that is available to nearly everyone. Bicycling is also one of the most energy-efficient forms of transportation available. Since bicycling emits no pollution, needs no external energy source, and uses land efficiently, it effectively moves people from one place to another without adverse environmental impacts."
"Bicycle facilities" can be located both within and outside of roadway right-of-ways. Within roadway rights-of-way, there are either bicycle lanes or cycle tracks that provide dedicated space for bicyclists, or there are 'share the road' routes that typically include improved shoulders, signage, and sometimes pavement markings. Outside the roadway, bicycle facilities are commonly referred to as "trails" and are typically "Shared Use" or "Multi-Use" facilities where cyclists share the facility with pedestrians and other non-motorized modes of travel, such as equestrians, cross country skiers, rollerbladers, skateboarders, baby strollers, and those using motorized scooters and wheelchairs. See also the SHARED USE FACILITIES design element.
Bicyclist User Groups
Defining the type of users and facilities is an important basis for bicycle and pedestrian planning. The following description of bicyclists and facilities is primarily based upon PennDOT's Design Manual 2- Chapter 16: Bicycle Facilities and the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities.
AASHTO categorizes bicyclists into the following categories relative to user skill and comfort level:
- Experienced and Confident - This group includes bicyclists who are comfortable riding on most types of bicycle facilities, including roads without any special treatments for bicyclists. This group also includes utilitarian and recreational riders of many ages who are confident enough to ride on busy roads and navigate in traffic to reach their destination. However, some may prefer to travel on low-traffic residential streets or shared use paths. Such bicyclists may deviate from the most direct route to travel in their preferred riding conditions. Experienced bicyclists may include commuters, long-distance road bicyclists, racers, and those who regularly participate in rides organized by bicycle dubs.
- Casual and Less Confident - This group includes a majority of the population, and includes a wide range of people: (1) those who ride frequently for multiple purposes; (2) those who enjoy bicycling occasionally but may only ride on paths or low-traffic and/or low-speed streets in favorable conditions; (3) those who ride for recreation, perhaps with children; and (4) those for whom the bicycle is a necessary mode of transportation. In order for this group to regularly choose bicycling as a mode of transportation, a physical network of visible, convenient, and well-designed bicycle facilities is needed. People in this category may move over time to the "experienced and confident" category.
Casual/Less Confident vs. Experienced/Confident Riders
|Experienced/Confident Riders||Casual/Less Confident Riders|
|Most are comfortable riding with vehicles on streets, and are able to navigate streets like a motor vehicle, including using the full width of a narroow travel lane when appropriate and using left-turn lanes.||Prefer share use paths, bicycle boulevards, or bike lanes along low-volume, low-speed streets.|
|While comfortable on most streets, some prefer on-street bike lanes, paved shoulders, or shared use paths when available.||May have difficulty gauging traffic and may be unfamiliar with rules of the road as they pertain to bicyclists; may walk bike across intersections.|
|Prefer a more direct route.||May use less direct route to avoid arterials with heavy traffic volumes.|
|Avoid riding on sidewalks. Ride with the flow of traffic on streets.||If no on-street facility is available, may ride on sidewalks.|
|May ride at speeds up to 25 mph on level grades, up to 45 mph on steep descents.||May ride at speeds around 8 to 12 mph.|
|May cycle longer distances.||Cycle shorter distances; 1 to 5 is a typical trip distance.|
A shared roadway accommodates bicyclists and motorists in the same travel lane. Currently, this arrangement is the most prevalent bicycle facility in the Region.
Wide outside travel lanes, with widths of 12' to 15' depending on the roadway context (e.g., rural or urban) are desired for shared lane facilities. A shared lane can be supplemented with "Share the Road" signage.
A shared roadway example with limited shoulders: PA 162 in East Bradford Township; Paved shoulders along US 322 in Guthriesville, East Brandywine Township
A paved shoulder or wide curb lanes provide accommodation for bicyclists adjacent to the vehicle travel lanes. Paved shoulders can be located on urban or rural roadways with moderate to high vehicular traffic volumes and moderate to high posted speeds. Paved shoulders for bicyclists range in width from 4' to 6'+ depending on the available pavement width and can be supplemented with 'Share the Road' signage.
Paved shoulders are separated from travel lanes by the striping representing the outside edge of the outermost travel lane. The maintenance of paved shoulders via street sweeping is important for their success, as roadway debris, cinders, and tree limbs typically accumulate in this area of the cartway.
Shared Roadway Signage
Since 2005, PennDOT's Chester County Maintenance Office coordinated with the Chester County Planning Commission and Chester County Cycling Coalition on the most appropriate locations for Share the Road signage within Chester County along on-road bike routes.
The 2009 edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) included a new pavement marking called a "sharrow". Sharrows increase driver awareness of shared roadway arrangements, similar to the advisory treatment of Share the Road signage. PennDOT requires that municipalities are responsible for maintenance of "sharrow" pavement markings.
The following resources provide general guidance regarding the placement of sharrows in the roadway:
- The Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU): New Sharrows in Philadelphia.
- Chapter 9C of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) regarding placement of markings.
A share the road sign along Strasburg Road in East Bradford Township; Sharrow example in Washington, DC. Photo by Richard Layman; Bike route signage on the Chester Valley Trail.
Signed Bike Route
Signed bicycle routes are treatments used to designate a preferential bicycle routing and provide wayfinding guidance to cyclists. AASHTO states that the "signing of shared roadways indicates to cyclists that there are particular advantages to using these routes compared to alternate routes".
Route signs can provide directional, distance, and destination information to assist bicyclists in navigation. Signed routes can direct cyclists to corridors that have existing on-road facilities, or access locations for off road facilities.
Within the Region, the Bicycle PA Route L, which runs along Creek Road and US 322, is a type of signed bicycle route. The Bicycle Route L is a long-distance, Class A-oriented bicycle route that runs 225 miles from Chester County to Susquehanna County. Bicycle PA Route S - the longest of Pennsylvania's cycling routes - traverses northern Chester County along PA Route 23, Pughtown Road, and other roadways before crossing into Montgomery County south of Phoenixville.
Bicycle boulevard in Berkeley, CA. Photo by Richard Layman. Used with permission; A bike lane example in an urban setting: US Route 30 Business in Coatesville City; Two-way cycle track in Montreal. Photo by Richard Layman. Used with Permission.
Bicycle boulevards are not included in the PennDOT Design Manual; however, a Bicycle Boulevard Guidebook was recently released by the Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation at the Center for Transportation Studies. The guidebook provides direction on selecting routes and the application of design elements.
Bike lanes are typically located on roadways in urban and suburban settings with moderate to high vehicular traffic volumes and moderate to high posted speeds. PennDOT's Design Manual requires a formal bike lane to be a minimum 5' width with application of pavement striping, markings, and regulatory signage.
Bicycle lane facilities should be oriented for one-way operation and carry bicycle traffic in the same direction as motor vehicles.
A cycle track facility is an exclusive facility for bicyclists that combines design aspects of bike lanes and shared use trails/sidepaths. See also the 'Multi-Use Trail' within the SHARED USE FACILITIES design element.
Cycle tracks are constructed within an existing cartway, but buffered from the vehicle lanes by curbing or on-street, parallel parking. Existing cycle track facilities have been designed for both one-way and two-way operations. For more information, see Alta Planning & Design's Cycle Tracks: Lessons Learned and the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.
- Follow the guidelines of the 'General Conditions for Selecting Different Bikeway Types' as published in AASHTO's Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities (2012, Fourth Edition, pages 2-17 to 2-20) to determine the most appropriate bicycle facility for implementation.
- Follow the recommendations of PennDOT Design Manual 2- Chapter 16: Bicycle Facilities and AASHTO's, Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities. Another valuable resource is the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.
- Dedicated bike lanes should be striped in such a way to address locations where buses may need to approach or leave a curb-side bus stop area that requires crossing the bike lane. This striping would help the bicyclist by indicating the potential presence of a bus at these locations. This striping concept does not appear to be specifically addressed in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). This scenario could be addressed by applying dashed lane marking similar to those used to delineate bicycle lanes on the approach of motor vehicle right turn lanes.
- Road diets and the narrowing of vehicular travel lanes should be considered to create space for bicycle lanes and/or increased shoulder widths for share the road facilities.
- Municipalities should incorporate planning for bicycle/pedestrian facilities in comprehensive plan updates or amendments, special studies and/or Official Maps.
- Municipalities should consider amending their zoning and subdivision and land development ordinances to include definitions for bicycle facilities and clarify these terms across municipal borders. It may also be necessary to delete conflicting definitions and replace wording as appropriate throughout all municipal ordinances and policy documents when they are updated.
- Development Process -It is common for municipal officials to place conditions on the approval of subdivision and land development applications. Through negotiation, a municipality can request the installation of bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The Official Map, ordinance requirements, and other planning elements such as a Comprehensive Plan and/or other adopted plans such as a Bike/Ped Mobility Plan or Greenways Plan will identify the need for these facilities so that developers are aware that the municipality will require or would like to implement these facilities when land development applications are submitted.
- Municipalities should consider ways to incorporate bicycle parking into ordinances. Ordinances can require a certain amount of parking spaces be dedicated to bicycle parking though the installation of bike racks. See also the BICYCLE PARKING design element.
General Conditions for Selecting Different Bikeway Types
|Type of Bikeway||Best Use||Motor Vehicle Design Speed||Traffic Volume||Classification or Intended Use||Other Considerations|
|Shared lanes (no special provisions)||Minor roads with low volumes, where bicyclists can share the road with no special provisions.||Speeds vary based on location (rural or urban).||Generally less than 1,000 vehicles per day.||Rural roads, or neighborhood or local streets.||Can provide an alternative to busier highways or street. May be circuitous, inconvenient, or discontinuous.|
|Shared Lanes (wide outside lanes)||Major roads where bike lanes are not selected due to space constraints or other limitations.||Variable. Use as the speed differential between bicyclists and motorists increase. Generally any road where the design speed is more than 25 mph.||Generally more than 3,000 vehicles per day.||Arterials and collectors intended for major motor vehicle traffic movements.||Explore opportunities to provide marked shared lanes, paved shoulder, or bike lanes for less confident bicyclists.|
|Marked shared lanes||Space-constrained roads with narrow travel lanes, or road segments upon which bike lanes are not selected due to space constraints or other limitations.||Variable. Use where the speed limit is 35 mph or less.||Variable. Useful where there is high turnover in on-street parking to prevent crashes with open car doors.||Collectors or minor arterials.||May be used in conjunction with wide outside lanes. Explore opportunities to provide parallel facilities for less confident bicyclists. Where motor vehicle allowed to park along shared lanes, place markings to reduce potential conflicts with opening car doors.|
|Paved shoulders||Rural highways that connect town centers and other major attractors.||Variable. Typical posted rural highway speeds (generally 40-55 mph).||Variable.||Rural road-ways; inter-city highways.||Provides more shoulder width for roadway stability. Shoulder width should be dependent on characteristics of the adjacent motor vehicle traffic, i.e. wider shoulder on higher speed and/or higher-volume roads.|
|Bike lanes||Major roads that provide direct, convenient, quick access to major land uses. Also can be used on collector roads and busy urban streets with slower speeds.||Generally, any road where the design speed is more than 25 mph.||Variable. Speed differential is generally a more important factor in the decision to provide bike lanes than traffic volumes.||Arterials and collectors intended for major motor vehicle traffic movements.||Where motor vehicles are allowed to park adjacent to bike lanes, provide a bike lane of sufficient width to reduce robability of conflicts due to opening vehicle doors and objects in the road. Analyze intersections to reduce bicyclists/ motor vehicle conflicts.|
|Bicycle boulevards||Local roads with low volumes and speeds, offering an alternative to, but running parallel to, major roads. Still should offer convenient access to land use destinations.||Use where the speed differential between motorists and bicyclists is typically 15 mph or less. >Generally, posted limits of 25 mph or less.||Generally less than 3,000 vehicles per days.||Residential roadways.||Typically only an option for gridded street networks. Avoid making bicyclists stop frequently. Use signs, diverters, and other treatments so that motor vehicle traffic is not attracted from arterials to bicycle boulevards.|
|Shared use path: independent right-of-way||Linear corridors in green-ways, or along waterways, freeways, active or abandoned rail lines, utility rights-of-way, unused rights-of-way. May be a short connection, such as a connector between two cul-de-sacs, or a longer connection between cities.||N/A||N/A||Provides a separated path for non-motorized users. Intended to supplement a network of onroad bike lanes, shared lanes, bicycle boulevards, and paved shoulders.||Analyze intersections to anticipate and mitigate conflicts between path and roadway users. Design path with all users in mind, wide enough to accommodate expected usage. On-road alternatives may be desired for advanced riders who desire a more direct facility that accommodates higher speeds and minimized conflicts with intersection and drive-way traffic, pedestrians, and young bicyclists.|
|Shared use path: adjacent to roadways (i.e., sidepath)||Adjacent to roadways with no or very few intersections. The path is used for a short distance to provide continuity between sections of path on independent rights-of-way.||The adjacent roadway has high-speed motor vehicle traffic such that bicyclists might be discouraged from riding on the roadway.||The adjacent roadway has very high motor vehicles traffic volumes such that bicyclists might be discouraged from riding on the roadway.||Provides a separated path for nonmotorized users. Intended to supplement a network of onroad bike lanes, shared lanes, bicycle boulevards, and paved shoulder. Not intended to substitute or replace on-road accommodations for bicyclists, unless bicycle use is prohibited.||Several serious operational issues are associated with this facilities type. See Section 5.2.2. and 5.3.4 of the Guide for additional details.|
Urban/Suburban Recommended Separation Matrix
Source: Oregon Department of Transportation
- PennDOT Design Manual 2 - Chapter 16: Bicycle Facilities
- PennDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Checklist - Design Process
- PennDOT - Smart Transportation Guidebook
- American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) - Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities
- U.S. DOT - Federal Highway Administration (FHWA): Bicycle and Pedestrian Design Guidance
- National Association of City Transportation Officials- Urban Bikeway Design Guide
- FHWA Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center
- FHWA Guidance regarding Bicycle and Pedestrian Facility Design Flexibility
- Chester County Trail and Path Planning Guide
- PennDOT Pedestrian Facilities Pocket Guide