Painted on-road bike lanes provide a visibly delineated space for bike riders on roads. The lanes should be at least 1.5m wide on 60km/h roads. Bike lanes are suitable for many urban roads with moderate speeds (40-60km/h) and volumes (3000-8000 vehicles per day). Wider and better separated lanes or off-road paths will suit less confident riders on higher speed roads (above 50km/h).
What's the problem?
Roads with traffic speeds above 40km/h and carrying more than 3000 vehicles per day are intimidating for most potential bike riders unless a separate space is provided for them to ride. Many potential bike riders, especially novice riders, do not have the confidence or traffic skills to ride on busier roads shared with motor vehicles. A painted bike lane provides the basic level of separation on roads with moderate volumes and speeds of motor vehicles.
What are the risks?
Without a marked bike lane:
- potential bike riders will avoid the road or, if it is the only reasonable route to their destination, avoid riding entirely.
Riders using a busier road with no marked bike lane risk:
- being squeezed for space by motor vehicles who attempt to overtake them in the single shared travel lane
- riding into an open car door if riding close to parked cars to avoid moving vehicles
- if they travel in the middle of the traffic lane to avoid being squeezed, being intimidated by people driving who feel they are impeding their progress, even though the rider is legitimately entitled
- being hit by a motor vehicle whose driver does not leave enough room when overtaking or who does not see the bike rider.
What is the solution?
Mark an adequate width bike lane to provide separate space for bike riders. The minimum width of a painted bike lane is 1.5m on 60km/h roads though up to 2.0m is preferred with 1.8m being comfortable for most riders. Provide adequate clearance from obstacles such as parked cars and kerbs. Provide added visual and tactile separation from moving motor vehicles if possible. Higher speed and volumes roads should provide more physical separation.
Bike lanes should be clearly marked across minor intersections with continuity lines. Coloured pavement is recommended to mark bike lanes across potential conflict points, including minor intersections, slip lanes and merge/exit lanes. Linemarking or physical barriers are recommended to prevent parking close to the intersection which would restrict the visibility of riders using the bike lane to those exiting the intersection.
On existing roads, space can often be reassigned to allow room for bike lanes to be marked. It Can Be Done and Vicroads Cyclenotes No.9 - Creating On-Road Space for Cyclists detail the techniques. Often there is "lazy" space available in wide travel lanes and parking bays that can be made available for bike lanes. Narrowing travel lane widths can also help "calm" the road and make it easier to cross on foot. Bike lanes marked on existing roads will often only suit a limited amount of riders as there is a limited amount of separation that can be provided without removing a travel lane or parking bays.
New roads should provide adequate separation for all potential bike riders. Bike lanes are suitable for new roads with speeds of 60km/h for traffic volumes below 5000 vpd. On 50km/h roads this drops to 7000vpd and for 40km/h roads, 10000 vpd. In most cases separated bike lanes or off-road paths are preferable, especially for children and family groups.
The Austroads Cycling Aspects of the Austroads Guides (2011 - see extract at right) gives guidance about provision of bicycle facilities on road and the widths of lanes that should be provided for roads according to the actual speed of motor vehicles. The guide notes that on-road lanes lie in the middle of the hierarchy of needs for level of safety and priority for bike riders below off-road exclusive bicycle paths and on-road segregated bicycle lanes but above shared kerbside lanes. The guide places exclusive bike lanes as the preferred treatment for bike riders followed by bicycle/parking lanes.
Lane widths are measured from the face of the kerb, or, if the gutter or kerbside surface is poor condition, from the outside edge of the poor surface to the middle of the lane line.
When designing on-road bicycle lanes for new roads, the desirable widths, according to the Austroads guidelines, are:
1.5m wide in 60 km/h zone
2.0m wide in 80 km/h zone
2.5m wide in 100 km/h zones
Exclusive bike lanes (EBLs) are located to the left side of the road, usually next to the kerb. The recommended width of the lanes varies from 1.5m in 60km/h roads up to 2.5m in 100km/h roads (see table 4.1 at bottom of page). VicRoads CycleNote 12 gives a desirable lane width on new 60km/h roads as 1.5m with an acceptable range for retrofitting to existing roads of 1.2-2.5m. Exclusive bike lanes may sometimes operate only during certain hours of the day when parking is not allowed (sometime referred to as a clearway bike lane). Parking legality is indicated by parking signs, not bike logos or signs.
Bicycle/parking lanes (or shared bicycle parking lanes, SBPLs) are located alongside parking. The width of the lane varies according to whether the parking is angled or parallel but the bike space width or bike lane width corresponds to the exclusive bike lane width (see tables 4.4 and 4.5 and figures 4.3 and 4.4 at the bottom of page). Alongside parallel parking on new 60km/h roads Austroads indicated a desirable overall width of parking and bike lane of 4.0m. VicRoads CycleNote 12 gives an acceptable range when retrofitting to existing roads of 3.7-4.5m with parking lane widths between 2.0-2.4m and bike lane widths of 1.5-2.0m.
VicRoads CycleNote 12 makes it clear that signs are needed to legally designate a bike lane. It is the signs that give the lanes legal significance - see figure below showing layout of linemarking and signage.
"Regulation 153 of the Road Safety (Road Rules) Regulations 1999 (now Rule 153 of Road Safety Road Rules (2009)) defines an on-road bicycle lane as a marked lane that begins at a bicycle lane sign applying to the lane and ends at an end bicycle lane sign applying to the lane.
A bicycle lane that has bicycle logos but does not have a bicycle lane sign erected is not legally a bicycle lane.
...It is unnecessary to erect an end bicycle lane sign on the approach side to an intersection if the bicycle lane is continued past the intersection by broken lines. "
What does Bicycle Network say about the guidelines?
Figure 2.1 of the Cycling Aspects of the Austroads Guides (see below) indicates they type of separation given for bikes on roads of differing motor vehicle speeds and volumes. Bicycle lanes are recommended for 60km/h roads with volumes up to 500 vehicles per day (vpd), for 50km/h roads for volumes from 3-7,000 vpd and for 40km/h road for volumes 5-10,000 vpd.
Bicycle Network believes that higher speed and volume road should provide higher separation. Bike lanes on 60km/h roads are unsuited to most school age children, especially primary school age children and novice bike riders may not possess the skills or confidence to use them. Many 50-60km/h collector roads in Australia fall into this zone (marked 1 in the figure) and these are the sites for schools, parks, community centres (incl pools) and local town centres. For these roads more separation is required for the types of people we may expect to use these roads. Fully separated lanes or paths should be provided.
In zone 2 marked on the figure the lower speeds and volumes mean that on-road lanes are more appropriate. But again if school age children are expected to use these road then more separation should be provided. This could take the form of enhance visibility and width of the lane and use of tactile linemarking.
Zone 3 on the figure are lower speed and volume streets that are also candidates for bike lanes, especially those with higher volumes (over 2-3,000 vpd). Any of these streets that provide connections to schools or community facilities should also provide bike lanes or separated bicycle facilities.
In general Bicycle Network recommends a shift of separation boundaries of the figure towards the axis - providing more separation at lower speeds and volumes.
Figure 2.1 from Cycling Aspects of the Austroads Guides (2011) with Bicycle Network recommended zones for extra separation.
The Austroads guides also provides guidance on bike lane widths on 80km and 100km/h roads when, in nearly all cases, off-road paths will be the preferable treatment for these roads (as indicated in Figure 2.1). The exception may be rural and semi-urban roads with low traffic volumes and no parking. These are likely to be used by adult fitness and touring riders (see on-road fitness routes).
The Guidelines give a desirable width of a bike lane on a new 60km/h road as 1.5m. A lane of 1.7-1.8m is more preferable and we believe 1.8m should be the desirable width and 1.5m the minimum width.
Where there is room, bike lanes should be wider than the minimum to increase the safety and comfort of users. An extra 10cm of space makes an enormous difference to a cyclists but less difference to someone in car.
chevron spacing between moving vehicles and/or parked cars.
The next step is physical rather than visual separation such as:
roll over kerbs
reinforcement of the separation strip through such things as flexible traffic poles
On-road bike lanes can provide separate space on existing roads for confident adult riders. They are of particular useful for providing for commuter cyclists on roads where there is "lazy space" available in wide travel and parking lanes that can be reconsigned to a bicycle lane (see It Can Be Done). Extra width and separation are needed for less confident riders including children and family groups. When designing new roads, bike lanes should only be provided on lower speed roads (40-60km/h) with lower traffic volumes (10,000 to 5,000 vehicles per day respectively).
Examples, good and bad.
Extra width provides comfort.
Rathdowne St bike lanes (50km/h road with buses). The original bike lanes next to parked cars have been enhanced (at right) by the addition of a painted separation zone on the travel lane side.
Lane is heavily used by adult commuters and suits some less confident riders who feel more comfortable with the separation from moving traffic.
Wider bike lanes provide space to manoeuvre.
Queensberry St bike lane with painted chevron. The extra width of the lane (1.8m plus chevron) leaves room to avoid opened car doors.
For adults only
Flemington Rd bike lane. The lane is 1.5-1.7m wide with 2.1m wide parallel parking to the left and two 2.8m wide travel lanes to the right. The speed limit is 60km/h. This lane is a popular commuting route but not suited to novice riders who use the parallel shared path (to left of picture).
Exclusive bike lanes - no car doors.
Mt Alexander Rd bike lanes. A generous width and coloured pavement. Note that the junction between the gutter and the lane has a slight lip that narrows the effective usable lane width and pushes riders to the outside of the lane.
Swanston St bike lanes at City Baths.
Coloured pavement and vibraline ("rumble strips" or "audible/tactile lines") enhance the visual and tactile separation of this lane.
Bike lanes behind angled parking need extra room.
Lennox St, Richmond. The angled cars need room to back out and see any approaching bike rider while the bike rider needs room to clear the back or cars, especially if they are reversing. Two advantages of bike lanes behind angled parking is there are no opening doors to deal with and reversing lights on the car indicate it is about to move. But bike riders using these lanes are hard to see for car drivers as other cars block their view and quick reversing can force bike riders into the paths of moving through vehicles.
Marking across intersections is critical.
For on-road bike lanes, marking the lane across intersections and conflict points is critical. At a minimum, continuity lines should be marked. Green paint helps enhance visibility and reduce conflict. See the Green is the new black
Picture from SKM report St Kilda Road and Royal Parade Bicycle Lane Monitoring 2011
Albert St, Richmond
Angled parking on one side, parallel on the other. This bike lane behind angled parking is less than the recommended width but the low speed an volume motor vehicle traffic on the streets combined with the low turnover of the angled parks makes it acceptable.
Pigdon St, Princes Hill
A buffer has been provided for the bike lane between the parked cars and the moving cars resulting in a very generous bike lane width. Given the low motor vehicle volumes and separation provided the lane would be comfortable for most adult riders, secondary school student, and even some family groups. The bike lane has been used to "soak" up lazy space on the road and narrow the extra wide motor vehicle lanes, which encourage speed.
Clearway bike lanes - works well in peak hours. Ok in the non-peak if wide enough. Adults only.
Clearway bike lane on Mt Alexander Rd. At this location parking is not allowed during morning peak hours (7:30-9:30am). This creates an exclusive bike lane for adult riders. Outside peak hours riders must use the remainder of the lane width left from any parked cars. You can see the situation on the opposite side of the road where cars are allowed to park in the morning peak on the outbound side of the road. Clearway bike lanes can work well where there is a wide kerbside lane (3.7-4.5m wide) so that there is enough width in the lane left when a car is parked to allow a bike rider to pass but not enough for a car to use.
Clearway bike lanes have parked cars out of peak hours.
Brunswick St, Fitzroy. The bike lane is for exclusive bicycle use only during peak hours (7:30-9am inbound). Outside of these hours cars can park and bike riders ride between the parked cars and the moving traffic. When the kerbside lane is wide this leaves room for bikes but is can be uncomfortable riding in this zone.
Bike lanes with parked cars do not work.
Exclusive bike lanes with no parking, or;
Shared bike parking lanes wide enough to fit parked cars and bikes.
Not narrow bike lanes that allow parking.
Left - Brewer St, Bentleigh. What looks like an exclusive bike lane is, in fact a narrow shared bike parking lane. Even a few parked cars per kilometre can render a such a bike lane ineffective. Indenting parking or removing parking from one side might allow enough width to mark a usable bike lane.
Right - Mt Albert Rd, Mt Albert. A bike rider has to divert out into motor vehicle traffic to avoid a car parked, legally, in the shared bicycle parking lane. The lane should be classified as an exclusive bike lane and parking banned.
Mt Albert Rd, Mt Albert. The usable width of the bike lane is limited by the bluestone kerbing. At least two pitches of the kerbing should be removed or paved over to allow room in the bike lane for manoeuvering.
Following figures and tables from Cycling Aspects of the Austroads Guides (2011) see extracts at right.