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The Bikeway Network

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[This is the second of four-part expert blog post by Mike Lydon, the founding Principal of The Street Plans Collaborative. Lydon's posts  are part of a series of expert blogs on TOD highlighting work and research that experts are doing in the field.]

While the bicycle shed is an important conceptual planning tool, it is meaningless without the physical development of bicycle infrastructure. Therefore, each bicycle shed should not be conceived in isolation, but as part of a regional bikeway network.  This network should be designed to connect people to important destinations—schools, neighborhood centers, regional centers, open space, and of course, local and regional transit systems.

In general, the bicycle network should be comprised of many bikeways types. These include, but are not limited to shared-use paths, shared lanes (sharrows), bicycle boulevards, bicycle lanes, and physically separated bicycle lanes—sometimes called cycle tracks.

Bikeway Types

Before assigning bikeway types, the unique characteristics of each thoroughfare and its urban context must be considered holistically.  This includes analyzing street width, street type, existing land use and urban form, density, traffic control devices, posted speed limits and actual travel speeds, and traffic volume.

But while the existing conditions of each thoroughfare are important, the urban context is rarely static. Therefore, considering the desired character and urban context is critical to the selection process, as context-specific bikeways can help strengthen a more immersive, accessible, and equitable urban environment.

To this end, special emphasis should be placed on providing safety and comfort for all types of bicyclists. Bikeway infrastructure that appeals to those who are interested in bicycling, but who are too often deterred by the perception—and reality—of unsafe bicycling conditions, must be prioritized. Research conducted by Roger Geller, Bicycle Coordinator for the City of Portland, Oregon, identifies four types of bicyclists, of which the majority seek more comfort and safety. “Riding a bicycle should not require bravery. Yet, all too often, that is the perception among cyclists and non-cyclists alike,” says Geller. 

Four Types Of Cyclists

Taking a cue from their European counterparts, North America’s most bicycle-savvy cities are designing bikeways to accommodate the least confident user. This approach provides an opportunity to increase bicycle mode share by further enriching the safety of the overall bikeway network. Indeed, safer bicycling conditions attract more bicyclists to the roadway, which in turn, creates even safer conditions. This so-called ‘virtuous cycle’ is set in motion when paying attention to the most vulnerable users, and should be used to intelligently enhance bikeway networks and the viability of bicycling to transit.

While the provision of bikeways is the most visible element in a citywide bikeway network, bicyclists must also have safe and convenient places to store their bicycles at a trip‘s end. Part three of this series will discuss the design, location, and allocation of bicycle parking, and how it complements regional bikeway and transit networks. 

Part 1: The Role of the Bicycle In Transit Oriented-Development
Part 2: The Bikeway Network
Part 3: At the Station - Bicycle Parking
Part 4: Policy and Urban Design: How to Complete Bicycle Supportive Cities

With Andres Duany and Jeff Speck, Mike Lydon is the co-author of The Smart Growth Manual.