By Charles Pekow – By the time design standards for bike lanes are implemented, they are already out of date.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.