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Bicycles

Article

Planning for bicycles requires not only a knowledge base of facilities but also an understanding of bicyclists and how they use the transportation network. Bicyclists can generally be divided into two or three categories based on skill, experience, and age:

  • Group A: Advanced - Experienced riders who are comfortable operating a bicycle under most traffic conditions.  This group includes bicycle commuters, bike club riders, and other cyclists who follow the rules of the road and ride on roadways with no special accommodations for bicyclists.  In most communities, Group A comprises a small segment of the population, but logs the majority of bicycle miles ridden.
  • Group B: Basic - Casual or new adult and teenage riders who are less confident of their ability to operate in traffic without special provisions for bicycles.  Some riders in this group will develop greater skills and progress to the advanced level, but nationally there will always be millions of basic bicyclists who prefer to have a clear separation between bicycles and motor vehicles.
  • Group C: Children - Pre-teen cyclists who typically ride close to home under close parental supervision.  Because basic riders and children may have similar needs, these groups are often combined as Group B/C.

Bicycle planning generally promotes a "design cyclist" concept that recognizes and accommodates the needs of both Group A and Group B/C bicyclists. 

Group A cyclists are best served by making every street bicycle-friendly by removing hazards and maintaining smooth pavement surfaces.  Group B/C riders are best served in when designated bicycle facilities, such as signed and striped bicycle lanes and off-road trails following waterways and other linear open space corridors, are provided in key travel corridors. 

While sidewalks may be the best choice for the youngest riders, they are typically not included in bicycle planning as bicycle facilities.  It is important to recognize that sidewalks are pedestrian spaces, and their presence is not meant to substitute for or preclude bicyclist use of the roadway.

Ideally, every place type should be accessible for all bicyclists, regardless of skill or comfort level.  However, throughout the St. Louis region, existing development patterns have created places with varying levels of bicycle-friendliness - both in terms of the distance between destinations and the types of physical infrastructure provided. 

Certain places, such as downtown areas and school sites, which serve as major community activity centers should be designed to accommodate and encourage bicycle access by the broader cross-section of the community represented in the B/C bicycling group.

Bicycle Planning for Neighborhood Shops:

Because neighborhood shops are often located along auto-oriented, mobility-priority thoroughfares with separated land uses that create long trips not conducive to bicycling and walking, retrofits can be challenging and may need to occur in multiple steps. Initially, only the more experienced Group A cyclists will bicycle in these areas, particularly if access is by a major roadway. General guidelines that apply to neighborhood shops include:

Provide wide curb lanes on thoroughfares with heavy truck traffic. Wide curb lanes (14' travel lanes) may be a preferred treatment to accommodate Group A bicyclists along corridors with heavy truck traffic serving commercial areas. On-street bicycle lanes are not recommended in these areas, as they may encourage less experienced Group B/C bicyclists to ride in these environments when it is not safe for them to do so.

Include paved shoulders to address a number of needs. Paved shoulders are provided on a number of Missouri roadways and offer benefits beyond bicycle travel. Many highways and urban arterials have 10' shoulders to accommodate stopped vehicles and emergency uses. These shoulders can be used for bicycle travel when they are kept free from gravel and debris, have curved-vane bicycle-friendly drainage grates, use bicycle-safe rumble strips, and are not used as continuous right-turn lanes. Recommended widths for paved shoulder bicycle facilities vary from the 4' minimum to 6' or greater when a combination of the following is present:  traffic volumes >2,000 ADT, inadequate sight distance, truck or bus traffic, and speeds over 40 mph.

  • Bicycle slip lane
    Credit: Charlier Associates, Inc.

    To allow bicyclists using shoulders to continue through intersections and avoid collisions with right-turning motorists, bicycle slip lanes, or short segments of bike lanes may be provided at intersection approaches, as shown in the image at right. These bike lane segments should be placed between the right-turn lane and the right-most through traffic lane to allow bicyclists to be in the proper roadway position for continuing through the intersection.

  • Paved shoulders should not be signed as designated bicycle routes. Instead, where speeds exceed 40 mph, Share-the-Road warning signs may be posted where there is need to warn motorists to watch for bicyclists traveling along the highway.

Provide connections to existing bicycle lane network through neighborhood shops. If bicycle lanes are present within the corridor, they shall be continued through the commercial area. They should be a minimum of 4 feet wide measured from the gutter seam, or 5 feet wide measured from the curb face or adjacent on-street parking. Bicycle lanes shall be delineated on the pavement with a line 6 inches in width and appropriate pavement stencils identifying the space for bicycle use.

  • If the transportation infrastructure and land uses in a corridor are being addressed to create trips of shorter length, provisions for on-street bicycle lanes should be made to encourage increased bicycle use and accommodate Group B/C riders.

Improve safety for bicycles at intersections. Various intersection treatments are available to accommodate vehicular turning movements while maintaining the integrity of the bicycle lane facility. It is generally appropriate to dash or drop the bike lane striping where merge movements will occur across the bicycle lane.  See Chapter 9C of the MUTCD and the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities for specific guidelines.

Consider road diets on appropriate thoroughfares. Road diets (the conversion of four-lane roadways to three travel lanes plus bike lanes) can be an appropriate method to create space for bicycle lanes when retrofitting corridors. Candidate streets will carry moderate traffic volumes, typically ranging from 12,000-18,000 ADT, and potentially as high as 20,000-25,000 ADT, depending on the surrounding network and other characteristics. For more information about road diets, see streets.

Whenever possible, accommodate bicyclists on smaller scale thoroughfares. The shared thoroughfares often found in these place types are not an ideal design treatment, even for Group A cyclists. Major arterial thoroughfares with standard 12' lanes, heavy traffic volumes, and higher travel speeds create stressful riding conditions for even the most experienced bicyclists. Secondary streets that intersect with employment, commercial and industrial environments are good candidates for unimproved, shared bicycle routes, but only if they provide connectivity and the bicycle users are capable of safely crossing arterial streets at signalized intersections or grade-separated crossings. On-street bicycle lanes may be warranted in these corridors if traffic volumes are high.

Eliminate bicycle hazards. Hazard removal shall be implemented on all roadways open to bicycle travel. Hazard removal includes providing bicycle-safe drainage grates, smooth pavement, bicycle-safe railroad crossings, and traffic signals that respond to bicycles.

Design access appropriate to the type of development. Because neighborhood shopping centers are often located in suburban areas, multi-use paths with an open space corridor can be a desirable means of providing access to these place types. Sidepaths shall only be considered when adequate right-of-way (18' minimum) is available and intersections are limited (generally less than six commercial driveways or streets per mile) due to numerous operational problems and safety conflicts that can occur with this facility type. Use of sidepaths within strip development corridors can be problematic due to intersection conflicts with vehicles.

Inverted U bicycle parking
Credit: Charlier Associates

Provide bicycle parking Bicycle parking should be provided in all employment, civic and commercial centers following guidance established by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP). The preferred rack type is the inverted U, which may be dispersed throughout a site with multiple small buildings, or clustered in designated rack areas in front of large buildings. Parking racks should function so that the top tube of a bicycle can be placed flat against the face of the inverted U. For this reason, connected inverted U's (looking more like M's) are not recommended. 

Bicycle parking shall be located no further than 120 feet from the building entrance it serves, or as close/closer than the nearest vehicular parking space. Racks shall not block the through pedestrian travelway (a minimum 5' clear zone free from obstructions).