Review: NACTO’s New Urban Bikeway Design Guide

In an effort to create Complete Streets that are also safer for bicyclists, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) announced the release of a new Urban Design Bikeway Guide last week. At the report launch, Janette Sadik-Khan, NACTO president and NYC Transportation Commissioner, Ray LaHood, U.S. Transportation Secretary, and Congressman Earl Blumenauer all emphasized that smart bicycle infrastructure design can not only make roadways safer for all, but can also boost economic growth, reports EMBARQ’s The City Fix

According to NACTO, the guide is designed for both urban transportation policymakers and planners and the actual designers of this infrastructure, including landscape architects and engineers. “First and foremost, the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide is intended to help practitioners make good decisions about urban bikeway design.” The best practices included are based in the experience of the “best cycling cities in the world.” The authors of the report, which include landscape architects, planners, transportation engineers, and consultants in the U.S. and Europe, also conducted a comprehensive review of international design guidelines. 

The actual recommendations are broken into segments:

Bike Lanes, including conventional, buffered, contra-flow, and left-side variations;
Cycle Tracks, with a focus on one-way, raised, two-way versions;
Intersections, including “bike boxes,” crossing markings, two-stage turn queue boxes, median refuge islands, through bike lanes, combined turn lanes, and cycle-track intersection approaches; 
Bicycle Signals, including signal heads, detection and actuation, “active warning beacons for bike routes at unsignalized intersections,” and hybrid signals for crossing major streets;
Signs & Markings, with sections on colored bike facilities, shared line markings, and wayfinding signage and marking systems.

The recommendations are well-considered and most seem to be common sense. If widely implemented, they could help futher improve safety for bicyclists. This is an increasingly critical issue given more and more bicyclists, including older, and less experienced riders, are starting to commute on their bikes (see earlier post). According to some data, women may also be biking in fewer numbers due to perceived safety issues.

The real added value of this initiative may be the great Web site. Each recommendation features slideshows of images and 3D renderings, lists of benefits, typical applications, and detailed design guidance. Also useful: recommendations in the report are broken into levels: required, recommended, and optional, with different design details for each level of compliance. Lastly, there are maintenance recommendations, and lists of cities that have adopted these measures so transportation officials and designers can easily call their pals in other cities to talk about the nitty-gritty design and implementation problems.

As with any standardized design guidelines, they can be tweaked depending on location. “In all cases, we encourage engineering judgment to ensure that the application makes sense for the context of each treatment, given the many complexities of urban streets.”

Explore NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide.  

Image credit: NYC one-way bike lane / NACTO

2 thoughts on “Review: NACTO’s New Urban Bikeway Design Guide

  1. steven kingsley 10/23/2011 / 5:24 am

    thanks for sharing the link, as a cyclist in the UK who has been knocked off a few times there isn’t enough consideration into cycle safety. Bringing new ideas to the table and getting designers to actually implement them is what’s needed.

  2. Steve Durrant, ASLA 10/25/2011 / 6:43 pm

    Thank you DIRT for the coverage on the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. The landscape architects at Alta Planning + Design were an integral part of assembling this best practice guideline that I hope all LAs will carry into their public works meetings. It gives us many opportunities to make bikeway design recommendations that people really feel comfortable riding on, and are proven solutions in this country and elsewhere.
    Steve Durrant, ASLA
    Alta Planning + Design

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