Protected Bike Lanes

Protected bike lanes are bikeways that are physically separated from vehicular traffic. using curbs, plantings, bollards or other physical separation. 

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Increased cycling: Research demonstrates increased cycling with protected bike lanes. 

Safety: Reduced risk of ‘dooring’ compared to an unprotected bike lane (when bike travel is alongside car doors of either side). Raised cycle tracks provide an extra buffer that prevents motorists from easily entering or obstructing the cycle track.

Relatively low cost: Some protected lane designs use pavement markings and modular pieces such as planters and separators, which are low cost and reconfigurable.

Tips & Techniques

Terms: A cycle track is an exclusive bike facility that combines the user experience of a separated path with the on-street infrastructure of a conventional bike lane.  Protected cycle tracks can be one way (a lane only in one direction) or two-way (or contra-flow, is a split lane with travel in both directions). Raised cycle tracks are bicycle facilities that are vertically separated from motor vehicle traffic. (e.g., at the level of the sidewalk).

Design considerations:  In general, design includes: (1) Street cross-section, turn lanes & intersection design; (2) Separation methods & spacing; (3) Pavement & signage; (4) Pedestrian, bike & vehicle mixing zones; (5) Transit stop design; (6) Slopes for drainage and ADA compliance; and (7) Maintenance. Available right-of-way will likely influence design (two-way bike lanes typically require less space). Street marking and signage is controlled by the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD.) Consider ADA accessibility, parking where extra room for a wheelchair ramp requires extra space and safe access to sidewalks.  

Pop-up or demonstration lanes: Many cities find that a temporary, or pop-up lane, is a good first step to introduce the concept, dispel fears, and test design and routes.

Protected bike lane and vehicular/pedestrian mixing zones: Protected lanes will need to accommodate pedestrians, vehicles and bicycles at intersections, transit stops, loading zones and driveway aprons. As such, most protected bike lanes are considered within a larger street design effort. 

Maintenance: On a daily basis, cycle tracks should be maintained and be free of potholes and debris. In colder climates, cities will need to provide snow removal and drainage to prevent black ice. Use of plastic bollards typically requires regular replacement.

Hot Buttons: Protected bike lanes tend to be controversial with local residents and drivers who fear congestion.  Some materials (plastic posts) require constant maintenance or replacement. As the number of low speed, electric bicycles and other personal mobility devices increases, cities may need to establish regulations and enforcement to manage mixed-motorized flows.


Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide (2015) - The Federal Highway Administration 

The Urban Bikeway Design Guide - National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) 


Streetfilms Shortie - Seattle's Broadway Protected Cycle Track (Snippets) from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.