AASHTO to Update Bikeway Design Guide


By the time design standards for bike lanes are implemented, they are already out of date. And the current Bike Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities from the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO), published in 2012 is going through the process of being replaced. In fact, only three years after it was published, AASHTO hired Toole Design Group to study an update. Toole, an engineering consulting firm based in Silver Spring, MD, does considerable bike planning work (tooledesign.com).

AASHTO hired Toole “not to write the guide but to give info so they could consider redoing the 2012 guide, Toole Director of Strategy Andy Clarke explained at the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Summit in March. Toole delivered its recommendations last year (tooledesign.com/project/update-to-the-aashto-guide-for-the-design-of-bicycle-facilities-2019/).

The new guidelines will have to consider e-bikes and scooters, not mentioned in the current ones. “If scooters go 15 miles per hour on a path designed for 15 mph, it’s OK – but questionable if they go 15 mph on a sidewalk designed for pedestrians walking four mph,” Clarke said. AASHTO will also reconsider when to recommend shared use signs and when cyclists should be separated from pedestrians. And when cyclists get their own lanes, the new guidelines will need to address when to recommend on-street bikelanes v. sidepaths.

Other questions involve whether and protected bike lanes should include marked lines for two-way bike traffic. How much of a buffer should be provided between cyclists and motorists and pedestrians? “When you don’t’ have enough room, what to cut out?” Clarke asked. What types of buffers to recommend?

The new guidelines may also include a separate section on rural roads, Clarke said.

The draft includes 350 pages of text plus 100 pages of graphics and while no date is set, AASHTO hopes to get it done next year and sent to state and local officials.

AASHTO’s Technical Committee on Non-Motorized Transportation has reviewed the draft, which has to go through several other AASHTO committees.

But don’t expect it to answer all questions about scooters. “Electric scooters are a relatively new phenomenon and their widespread usage did not occur until well after the revision process of the guide was well underway. As a result, there will not be detailed information on electric scooters in this guide,” according to a statement given to us by Tony Dorsey, AASHTO manager of media relations.

But the guidelines will note that designers should consider adding sight distance and lane width if they anticipate e-bike usage, since e-bikes can go faster and may need passing room.

A chapter of the guide will discuss what type of bikeway to use. Planners should consider the level of cyclist skill they seek to accommodate, roadway speed and traffic level, etc. The guide will also discuss the pros and cons of two-way separated bike lanes but won’t prescribe what to do in any given situation.

And if you don’t have room for the best solution, such as a separated bike path? “There is a section in the guide which discusses strategies for achieving the ‘next best’ design when there are space constraints. Such strategies may include narrowing travel lanes, removing travel lanes, making changes to on-street parking, reorganizing street space, narrowing bicycle facilities, etc.” according to AASHTO’s statement.

The Utah Department of Transportation is working on revising its own guidelines but will wait to incorporate what AASHTO comes up with, says Heidi Goedhart, Utah’s active transportation manager.

In any event, by the time designers and planners get to use the guide, it will certainly be out of date already, given the speed in use of scooters, bikeshare, and whatever comes next.


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  1. Utah, Salt lake County has a unique bike path, Jordan River Trail. This is a multiuser trail. This trail is full of dangers. Skinny bridges, skinny wooden paths, no lighting in dark tunnels and dangerous areas in tunnels under streets. Dogs not on leashes are allowed by their owners to run free. There has been safety features added like clearing brush to contain fires and homeless campers. Some bridges have signs asking cyclist to walk their bikes. There are people taking up the whole lane with strollers, dogs and not paying attention. There are riders hurtling down the path not calling out or slowing down when passing other bikes or people. Salt Lakes streets are very dangerous to cyclists. There are few if any trails for crosstown traveling. There is debris on the skinny little sections and gutters on city streets.

  2. While I can understand that there has to be a standard policy for the width of lines on a road, the type of treatment needed to paint a lane, etc. The issue that prevails and prevents most multi-modal type of transportation is that the design of most roads are made for much to high of speed by motorized vehicles for any other mode of transportation to be shared with it.
    A big eye opener to me was this statement at NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide under critical element: “The maximum target speed for urban arterial streets is 35 mph”

    This is not the posted speed limit, it is the actual design of the road which would limit the flow of traffic on streets like State street, 700 east, or 600 south to no more than 35 mph through design (narrow lanes, chicanes, roundabouts, speed humps, light progression, etc). At these arterials roads with speeds below 35mph, you would still need to provide separation for more vulnerable users. Can anyone even imagine such a transformation?

    But here is the kicker, most residential streets, and collectors should not have to be designed with high levels of separation. That is until you realize that most of these streets are designed to allow speeds at or above 35mph. You should be able to walk out of your house, get on a bike, scooter, or just walk in a street designed for speeds well below 25 mph – even dare I say, below 15 mph. At such speeds, no separation is required.

    Sadly, we have grown accustomed to high speeds, to the point that collectors need to be redesigned with protected bike lanes, as if collectively we have given up on the idea that we need to slow the design speed of such streets. Taking the streets back for human use, rather than for exclusive use of cars is the goal every politician, bureaucrat, engineer fears to propose. Is like taking candy from a kid, or drugs from an addict, they will get pissed and get your @ss fired. But the safety, health, and general welfare of our communities requires someone to make the hard decision to #SlowTheCars and bring some common sense approach to our transportation grid.

    We need more than a new AASHTO bikeway design guide, we need to rethink basic core values of safety and convenience and how speed relates to both. We need some systematic safety, like the one on this video:


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