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Published on May 28th, 2015 | by Cynthia Shahan


Free-Wheeling Liberty Encouraged By The Federal Highway Administration

May 28th, 2015 by  

The Netherlands rouses many bicycle advocates (as well as those who love good mass transit and walking), with some of the world’s best-rated urban planning. Perhaps the USA is finally catching their drift. Americans will find more free-wheeling liberty encouraged by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) with inclusion of protected bicycle lanes in the new FHWA “Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide.”


New York City, influenced by a Netherlands-style bikeways, put one on 9th Avenue eight years ago. Enabling safer interaction of bicycle and automobile traffic, the curb side of a car parking lane physically separates the bike lane from ongoing traffic. People for Bikes comments that this style of design perceived initially as outlandish in the USA is now fashionable coast to coast. It is also utilitarian — the style is more commonsense than outlandish. Thus, protected bicycles lanes are on the rise across the country.

People for Bikes continues that the Federal Highway Administration details protected bike lanes in a new design guide. The FHWA Bicycle and Pedestrian document “Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide” is a product of two years of research. It considers various modern protected bike lanes around the country. The research, coupled with consultation from a team of national experts, amounts to a wealth of information.


People for Bikes quotes the report: “Separated bike lanes have great potential to fill needs in creating low-stress bicycle networks,” the FHWA document says, citing last year’s study by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities. “Many potential cyclists (including children and the elderly) may avoid on-street cycling if no physical separation from vehicular traffic is provided.”

Providing a group of helpful photos, illustrations, and other concepts with many examples, it is a 148-page document. People for Bikes points out a few of the over 34 renderings that are new to many urban planners, also below.


1. Bend out bike lanes at intersections.

parking protection

2. The design to step back auto parking from a parking-protected bike lane — as it gives way to a signal and intersection.

transit stop

3. Routing bike lanes behind bus and rail stops — and not stopping a pedestrian’s cadence as they walk.

A Northern European citizen and bicyclist once told me, regarding their excellent system of bicycle lanes, that the pedestrians often do not like the bicyclists who zoom in their way. This is a nice way to try to avoid that issue.

Also enjoy the following visualization provided by People For Bikes:

pbl growth map may15

People for Bikes quotes a technical expert who participated in the review of FHWA’s project, Betsy Jacobsen, bicycle and pedestrian section manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation. She notes that cities, states, and other agencies that don’t know bike planning (with that Netherlands-style insight) will have the help from this resource, as it offers various nuances of protected bike design.

“I think it was really good that they jumped on it when they did and provided some direction, particularly for communities that have no idea how to approach it,” she said. “You frequently will have a local planner or engineer who may never have heard of it. It’s like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And this will help with that.”

Bikocity covered a similar subject a while back, “14 Options For Better Bike Lanes (Infographic),” and explained what a protected bike lane is. Bikocity points out that some are clearly better than others, “but pretty much any of them is better than conventional bike lanes.”

Diving deeper into bicycling is another lovely article on Bikocity, one of my favorites, is one for those of you who enjoy a reflection on social and cultural interaction — “The Fascinating Way Bicycling Brings Us Closer Together.” I recommend it.

Related Articles:

Heated Bike Lanes For Drier And Safer Winter Biking Being Considered By Dutch Towns

Two Years & As Many New Protected Bike Lanes As In The Previous 140 Years

New Study: Bicyclists & Protected Bike Lanes Offer Big Savings To Society

Photo Sources (from top): Nick Foster, Eric Gilliland, Conor Semler, Kevin Lee, Karla Kingsley, and Nick Foster, via FHWA “Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide.” 

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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing by doing research as a social cultural and sometimes medical anthropology thinker. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education. Eventually becoming an organic farmer, licensed AP, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)

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