Bicycle Network: Good Design Guides
Contra-flow bike lanes
- contraflow, contra, one way, one-way
- Send in your photo
Contra-flow bike lanes allow bikes to travel in the opposite direction to motor vehicles on one-way streets. They prevent loss of access for cyclists on one-way streets.
What is the problem?
One-way streets may introduce barriers to bike riding. Long detours may be required if contra-flow cycling is not allowed on one-way streets, especially if the street is an extension of a bike route; a connection between two bike routes; or the only direct access to a destination.
What are the risks?
Not providing a contra-flow bike lane on a one-way street may result in:
- Bike riders having to take long detours, potentially on less direct streets or on streets less suited to riding
- Lack of access to destinations, such as shops, at the end of the on-way street
- Bike riders illegally riding on the road or footpath putting themselves or pedestrians at risk of injury
- People avoiding riding as the detour or alternate route makes riding unattractive or too risky for their desired trip.
What is the solution?
Provide a marked contra-flow lane along the section of street that lies on the desire line for bike riders.
Ensure there is space and separation to avoid potential conflict with opposing traffic flows. Colour and visual separation may be needed in addition to linemarking
Especial care needs to be taken at the entry and exit to the contra-flow lane. Tactile or physical barriers may be needed to prevent motor vehicles using the contra-flow lane.
What do the guidelines say?
The Austroads Guides (see extract at right and figure below) state that contra-flow bike lanes are an “acceptable treatment in urban environments where sufficient road widths exist to provide a safe treatment”.
Table 5.1 of the Cycling Aspects of the Austroads Guides list contra-flow lanes as a way of addressing loss of access for cyclists. A treatment for the issue of "Road closure or provision of on-way streets could result in loss of access for cyclists" is "Provide contra-flow for cyclists on one-way streets in low speed environments".
The guidelines provide examples of bypasses of semi-road closures which allow access for bike to contra-flow lanes.
What does Bicycle Network say about the guidelines?
The Austroads Guides provide clear guidance on the width of contra-flow lanes and the desirability of additional width and separation where possible. The provision of bypasses of road-closures, however is not linked to provision of entry to contra-flow lanes.
In many cases room for contra-flow lanes, as with other bike lanes, can be found by reallocating or moving other uses of road space. For instance, moving on-street parking to one side of the road or removing it entirely can make enough room to fit a bike lane. In some cases converting two-way local streets into one-way streets with parking and bike lanes can prevent excessive through traffic while retaining accessibility for bike riding and walking.
Any examples, good and bad?
|Yamba St, Clifton Hill. In this case there is a contra-flow lane marked in one direction (shown) but bike riders travelling in the other direction share the travel lane with motor vehicles. The contraflow lane provides a key link in the bike network which would otherwise require a long detour.|
Princes Park Drive, Princes Hill
Bike lanes are provided in both directions on this street which is one-way for motor vehicles. The contra-flow bike lanes was made possible by providing parking on a single side of the street. Again the contra-flow bike lane
|Figure 4.13 from the Cycling Aspects of the Austroads Guides gives an example of a cycle bypass of a half road closure which can be used to provide access to a contra-flow bike lane while preventing motor vehicle access.|
Truscott St East Brunswick, showing the traffic island and signage at the street entrance.
This is part of an East Brunswick "shimmy" cycle route that enhances local back streets to form a continuous route that avoids major roads. The use of contra-flow lanes and treatment allows a continuous route that would otherwise not be possible without a long detour. See East Brunswick Shimmy
|Street signage used to indicate contraflow bike traffic - Prentice St, Brunswick|
|Figure 4.5: Contra-flow bicycle lane – layout from Cycling Aspects of Austroads Guides (2011)|