Bicycle Infrastructure Guide

Reader Contribution by Adventure Cycling Association
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This article is posted with permission from Adventure Cycling Association

The Adventure Cycling Association has worked with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on the development of the U.S. Bicycle Route System for nearly nine years.  AASHTO recently released an updated version of the Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities — the go-to bicycle infrastructure guide for planners, engineers and contractors. The release of the latest version of the Guide was highly anticipated and provides new facility designs and guidance that has been favorably tested over the past several years. 

Transportation officials across the country from local to state levels are responding to the demand for bicycle infrastructure.  From roads to rails, water and bikes, AASHTO is committed to all forms of transportation. The organization embraces the multimodal approach, and wants to assist agencies planning for multimodal travel.

Surprised that an organization known for its dogged support for the interstate system would be interested in cycling? You shouldn’t be. After all, more than a quarter of the U.S. population over the age of 16 rides a bicycle. This mode of transportation is important and growing in popularity. Bikes are a convenient, environmentally friendly, energy efficient and healthy choice for travel. Members of Generation Y, adults age 18-33, are moving toward urban areas where they rely less on driving and instead look for modes of green transportation, such as cycling.

The Guide for Development of Bicycle Facilities, or the AASHTO Bike Guide, was released over the summer this year as an updated tool for builders and designers. The guide provides assistance on ways to incorporate bicyclists into the roadway environment. The multimodal approach of AASHTO looks at integrating with transit, shared paths with pedestrians, as well as on-road facilities.

The Bike Guide was due for an update; the previous edition was published in 1999. Biking in America, especially in urban and suburban areas, has developed rapidly since the late 1990s. Growing to about 200 pages, the Bike Guide examines aspects of design such as lanes, intersections, and other basic elements needed in bicycle infrastructure. AASHTO improved the publication with updated information that is relevant for 21st century planners. For example, information regarding attachments and travel lane measurements can inform designers and planners on different forms of bicycle travel.

State Departments of Transportation are encouraged to utilize the Bike Guide when developing bike routes and, in turn, the U.S. Bike Routes system. While the bike guide mostly references facilities in urban and suburban interfaces, 80 percent of the U.S. Bike Route System will be on rural roads, state highways, or long trails. The guide can be utilized for these routes as they focus on common themes in all environments such as safety and signals. With the development of the U.S. Bike Route System and other facilities, we can develop our nation’s growing demand for bicycle infrastructure and improve bike travel.

AASHTO is hoping to have more recent updates to the publication as methods and design aspects evolve.  While bikes become a vital mode of transportation for travelers and commuters, AASHTO will continue to develop new standards and practices for bike facilities. For more information or to purchase your own Bike Guide, visit the AASHTO bookstore.

Photos by Adventure Cycling Association