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Bicycle Infrastructure

Massachusetts’ Bikeway Design Guide Will Be Nation’s Most Advanced Yet

Images from MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide.
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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Bikeway design in this country keeps rocketing forward. The design guide that Massachusetts is planning to unveil in November shows it.

The new guide, ordered up by MassDOT and prepared by Toole Design Group, will offer the most detailed engineering-level guidance yet published in the United States for how to build safe, comfortable protected bike lanes and intersections.

"It'll be a good resource for all 50 states," said Bill Schultheiss, a Toole staffer who worked on the project. "I think it'll put some pressure on other states to step up."

There are lots of details to get excited about in the new design guide, which is scheduled for release at MassDOT's Moving Together conference on November 4. But maybe the most important is a set of detailed recommendations for protected intersections, the fast-spreading design, based on Dutch streets, that can improve intersection safety for protected and unprotected bike lanes alike.

In the world presented by MassDOT's new manual, in fact, we wouldn't even need to use the phrase "protected intersection."

The design would just be called an "intersection."

Small corner refuge islands could be built into many corners to help arrange traffic so that bikes are more likely to be in front of the windshields of turning cars, rather than to cars' right.

The new guide recommends lane and buffer widths, pavement markings and turning radii for various protected bike lane options.

It also offers ideas for how to make the designs work with a conventional bike lane.

The design guide will also offer a cheat-sheet of possible signal phasing options at protected intersections:

Plus suggestions for the best way to handle driveways next to bike lanes:

There's also good advice for where to remove parking for a parking-protected bike lane:

As well as a pair of useful tables to answer the age-old question about bike lanes: how wide is wide enough?

If you're in New England on Thursday, two people behind this guide (MassDOT's Lou Rabito and Toole's Nick Jackson) will offer a presentation about it at the New England Bike-Walk Summit.

This guide seems likely to become a valuable resource for city leaders and street designers who want to make biking more mainstream, both inside and outside Massachusetts. The fact that it's coming from a state department of transportation shows the huge potential those agencies have to help build modern, cost-effective, space-efficient transportation systems in our cities.

The United States has waited for years for this sort of basic knowhow to arrive. Thanks to pioneering cities and states, it's here. All cities have to do now is decide to use it.

You can follow The Green Lane Project on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook or sign up for its weekly news digest about protected bike lanes.

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