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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 thoroughfares 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 thoroughfare bicycle-friendly by removing hazards and maintaining smooth pavement surfaces. Group B/C riders are best served 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 along Downtown Main Streets:

Downtown main streets, designed for the highest levels of pedestrian streetscape activity, should function as community destinations that will attract Group A and Group B/C bicyclists.

Downtown centers and TODs are typically places of limited length (500 feet to ¼ mile long), so the type of bicycle accommodation within an activity center will be determined, in large part, by the bicycle treatment found within the rest of the transportation corridor. However, general guidelines that apply to main streets, town centers and mixed-use districts include:

Balance needs for on-street parking and bicycles. The desire to accommodate bicycles through downtown place types must be balanced with the desire to accommodate through traffic and provide on-street parking.

Credit: Vantage LLC

A first priority in downtown corridors with limited right-of-way should be to provide on-street parking to benefit adjacent merchants and buffer highly-desired pedestrian activity from vehicular traffic.

Consider shared travel lanes. On many main streets, the best solution will be narrow shared thoroughfares, where travel lanes are less than 12' and bicycles and motor vehicles share roadway space at slow travel speeds. A pavement stencil marking called the sharrow, as shown at right,may be used to emphasize that the thoroughfare should be shared with bikes. Sharrows also encourage cyclists to "take the lane" and not get too close to parked cars and opening doors. Although relatively new and not yet approved in the MUTCD, sharrows are being used in Denver, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Boulder, and St. Louis, as part of Bike St. Louis.

Avoid wide curb lanes. Wide curb lanes (14' travel lanes) should not be used within activity centers since they have the opposite effect of the traffic calming desired to create pedestrian-oriented places.

On-street parking with a bike lane
Credit: CAI

Locate and size bicycle lanes appropriately. When bicycle lanes are present within the corridor, they shall be a minimum of 5 feet wide and located between parallel on-street parking and the travel lanes (as shown at right), never between parked cars and the curb.

Consider road diets on appropriate thoroughfares. Road diet refers to the conversion of four-lane thoroughfares to two travel lanes with a combination of bicycle lanes, on-street parking and/or a center turn lane. Thoroughfares with moderate traffic volumes (12,000-18,000 ADT, potentially up to 20,000-25,000 ADT) and an adequate surrounding street network may consider a road diet in order to implement the necessary great street elements, such as bicycle lanes. For more information on road diets, see Streets.

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.

Curb extension with on-street parking and bike lane
Credit: CAI

Curb extensions used for traffic calming and pedestrian benefits at intersections (as shown at right) or mid-block crossings should not extend into the bicycle lane.

Avoid diagonal parking on thoroughfares with bicycle lanes. On-street bicycle lanes on thoroughfares with diagonal parking, present safety issues. Motorists have limited visibility while backing into the bicycle travelway and are less able to yield to bicycles. Use of sharrows, however, would be appropriate with angled parking. "Back-in" diagonal parking, or diagonal parking located in the center of the thoroughfare may be considered; however the combination of diagonal parking and on-street bike lanes creates a very wide corridor. Generally, bike lanes are not necessary in the core areas of downtown with diagonal parking due to the mixed, slow-moving nature of traffic in these areas. Shared-lanes, with sharrows or "Share the Road" signage, are effective in these areas.

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.

Provide bicycle access appropriate for downtown areas. Intersecting streets that lead to the downtown area should include designated bicycle facilities such as on-street bicycle lanes or signed bike routes. Multi-use paths are better suited to suburban contexts unless the main street intersects with a riparian corridor, abandoned railroad, or other open space corridor.

Provide bicycle parking.

Inverted U bicycle parking
Credit: Charlier Associates

Bicycle parking shall be provided in all main streets, town centers, and mixed-use districts following guidance established by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP). The preferred rack type is the inverted U, which may be located parallel to the curb in the roadside edge or furnishings zone, or clustered on curb extensions or other areas removed from the pedestrian travelway or throughway zone (a minimum 8' clear zone free from obstructions). Bicycle parking is also discussed in the parking section of this guide.