On-street Bicycle Facilities
Bicycle helmet use should be strongly encouraged, and mandated where required by law.
Providing student travel facilities along the street is not just about walking, but about bicycling too. Bicycling is an important way for children to travel to and from school. Bicycling can help students who live too far from school to walk to participate in active transportation. Use of on-street facilities is more appropriate for upper elementary school and older children who have sufficient bicycle handling skills and knowledge of bicycle and traffic safety rules. (See Education for more information) On-street bicycle facilities discussed in this section:
Older students will ride if given the opportunity.
Most bicycling occurs on neighborhood streets where children live and go to school. Trails and pathways can complement, but certainly are not a substitute for, the residential street network. A considerable amount of all bicycling occurs on the street system, and for children especially, most will occur in the streets near where they live. Some communities have designated special bicycle routes that are marked with guide signs. Other communities have provided maps showing streets that are ideal for bicycling.
Children of all ages, even high school students, will bicycle to school if given the opportunity. When designating bicycle routes to encourage bicycling to school, target all age groups, including elementary, middle, junior high and high school students.
Bicycle lanes should include the lane line and bicycle lane symbol.
Bicycle lanes provide a striped and stenciled lane for one-way bicycle travel on roadways. Bicycle lanes offer a comfortable space for older or more experienced children to ride. Bicycle lanes have been positively associated with an increase in the share of commuting by bicycle to work [Nelson & Allen, 1997; Dill & Carr, 2003]. Typically, bicycle lanes are installed on roadways with higher traffic speeds and volumes. However, where the lane is directly serving a school, communities may elect to stripe bicycle lanes on low-traffic residential streets in order to provide an additional level of visibility for younger bicyclists.
Bicycle lanes located next to motor vehicle parking should be at least five feet wide. The preferred width of bicycle lanes next to a curb is also five feet, although four feet, excluding the gutter pan, may be adequate. Bicycle lanes should not be wide enough to accommodate a motor vehicle as drivers may attempt to use a wide bicycle lane as a travel lane. Bicycle lanes should be designated through the use of signs or painted symbols and motor vehicle parking restrictions. Accommodating bicycle lanes within existing roadway right-of-way may be a challenge.
Some communities have established school bicycle safety routes and even bicycle lanes that are functional just during school commute hours. Because these installations can conflict with existing on-street parking, some cities have experimented with “time-of-day” bicycle lanes, where the parking lane becomes a bicycle lane during school hours then reverts to on-street parking for evening and overnight. One disadvantage to this concept is that overnight parking may block the bicycle lane during the start of the bicycle lane hours.
A Shared Lane Marking (SLM) is placed in a travel lane to indicate the lateral positioning of a bicyclist. Where parking is allowed, it may help reduce the chance of a bicyclist impacting the door of a parked car. This marking may also help to increase the distance between a bicyclist and an overtaking motorist.
Shared Lane Markings are particularly useful when marked bike lanes are not an option due to street width or other factors, and can be used to link bicycle lanes within a comprehensive bicycle network.
Note that Shared Lane Markings should not be placed on roadways that have a speed limit above 35 mph and can not be placed on road shoulders or in designated bicycle lanes. Information on Shared Lane Markings, including proper placement, can be found in Section 9C.07 of the 2009 MUTCD.
Wide shoulders can accommodate groups of bicyclists.
Paved shoulders benefit both bicyclists and drivers. They provide a place for bicyclists to ride that is removed from the motor vehicle travel lane and reduce the likelihood of crashes from motor vehicles drifting out of their travel lane (run off the road crash). Building shoulders on existing roadways or including them in new roadway projects can often be justified by the safety benefit provided to drivers. While pedestrians can walk along shoulders, shoulders should not be considered a good substitute for sidewalks in urban areas.