Bicycle Facilities

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:

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.

Source: AASHTO

Shared Roadway

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.

PA 162 US 322

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:

Share the Road Washington, DC signage

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.

Berkeley, CA US Route 30 Montreal

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

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 Lanes

Bicycle lane facilities should be oriented for one-way operation and carry bicycle traffic in the same direction as motor vehicles.

Cycle Track

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.



View a PDF of this Design Element.

View a PDF of the entire Multi-Modal Handbook.