New NACTO guide pushes U.S. innovation in bike facility design

By Mary Ebeling

Many U.S. cities are including bicycle and pedestrian facilities in their transportation planning. However, these same cities often find existing design guides do not provide the set of options they need for non-motorized infrastructure, complicating project implementation and reducing the effectiveness the end product.

This  gap began to  be filled  in 2011, when the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) released the first edition of its Urban Bikeway Design Guide. The group updated the guide this month.

NACTO, which focuses on urban transportation issues and policies, bases the Urban Bikeway Design Guide on the experience of the best cycling cities in the world.  The guide focuses on bicycle treatments applicable to urban areas and offers innovative bikeway designs that supplement the guidance available in other manuals.

The guide groups bike facilities into five categories: bike lanes, cycle tracks, intersections, signals, and signing & marking. Each category includes examples of facility types, 3D renderings, pictures of existing examples, and a general description. The NACTO guide includes facilities, such as cycle tracks, that AASHTO does not incorporate in its most recent guidebook. These additional facility types are safe and accepted among best practice in U.S. cities and internationally.

As part of an effort to help large cities develop multi-modal transportation systems, NACTO is providing this cutting-edge guidance for cities seeking to improve opportunities for biking and create living streets.

Formal municipal adoption of the guide is increasing, which provides numerous benefits, including greater acceptance of designs by city engineers who can be reluctant to install treatments not approved by local or national authorities. It should be noted, however, that NACTO Guide—while available for use by local authorities—does not have blanket federal approval, meaning that some designs might not qualify for federal funding.

Mary Ebeling is a Transportation Policy Analyst with SSTI.