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Safe Bicycle Lane Design Principles Review

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

The manuals that are being reviewed are available on the Bicycle Infrastructure Manuals website for viewing.

Hi, my name is Sreten, and I recently became a member of the BUX group. My task so far has been to expand the existing Bicycle Infrastructure Manuals database. Working on the mentioned task together with Mariana, we have found a lot of interesting documents, one of which especially attracted my attention, and which will be the hot topic of this blog/review.

Manual info

Title: Safe Bicycle Lane Design Principles: Responding to Cycling Needs in Cities during COVID and Beyond

Publisher & Jurisdiction: WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, Washington DC, USA

Publication Year: 2021

Page Count: 68

Cost: Free

Language: English

Rating (out of 5 stars)

Innovation – Process ☆☆☆☆☆

Innovation – Design ☆☆☆☆

Document layout & figures ☆☆☆☆

References ☆☆☆☆☆

Impact Factor / Adoption ☆☆☆☆

Overall ☆☆☆☆

Detailed Review

Innovation - Process

How is this design manual innovative in terms of processes? Does it include consultation with users of bicycle infrastructure and also integration of marketing, planning, and design professionals?

Taking into account the organizational structure of this guidebook, the attention to every detail, and above all the authors of this material such as: WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, Dutch Cycling Embassy, the League of American Bicyclists, Urban Cycle Planning (Denmark), and Asplan Viak (Norway), there is no doubt that all the necessary expert support has been provided. It is interesting to note that all the recommendations defined in this guidebook rely on three basic groups of sources:

  • existing experiences of different cities such as: Milan, Bogota, Portland, Mexico City, etc., in adapting to the new situation,

  • available manuals and strategic documents, which in detail discuss the various planning and design concepts of cycling infrastructure, such as: NACTO, CROW, PRESTO.

  • relevant studies and research papers: having in mind that Covid-19 is relatively new ‘phenomenon’ it was necessary to obtain relevant data on user behavior, preferences, city recommendations, etc.

The main advantage of this material is its universality, because it is made according to the general principles of urban design that are widely accepted and very easily applicable (with the necessary modifications for local environments) in different urban spaces.

Innovation - Design

What innovative designs are in this manual? More importantly, is this manual promoting designs that are known to be unsafe or uncomfortable for cyclists? Where innovative designs are found, where have these designs been implemented? What will it take to implement these innovative designs within the jurisdiction of the manual?

An interesting novelty that appears in this guidebook is temporary - emergency bike lanes. This cycling infrastructure is a consequence of the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, which represent a universal concept that can be applied in any other ‘similar’ situation.

Although, as a concept emergency bike lanes are not fundamentally different from standard cycling infrastructure, the process of their ‘creation’, use, and appearance on the network is a novelty in the field of design for cyclists.

It is interesting to note that this guidebook very nicely covers the previous world examples and implementation of emergency bike lanes. Considering the situation that we are all in right now, it can be expected that an increasing number of cities will start adopting such solutions.

Jurisdictional Context & History

Where and when was this manual conceived. What is the history and its predecessors? What national and provincial laws does this manual operate within? Where are the biggest influences from?

The main reason for the emergence of this guidebook is the occurrence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for physical distancing, during the realizations of daily trips. Why a bike? At the very beginning of this guidebook it is very clearly stated:

“Cycling has become an appealing option due to reduced public transport capacity and ridesharing options under physical distancing requirements, lower vehicle traffic volumes during various forms of “lockdown,” increased awareness of the link between physical activity and mental health, and increased comfort provided by temporary bike lanes”.

The very structure of this material in the form of design elements and possible options, relies on already existing standards that can be seen in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide Review or CROW manual. What sets this guidebook apart from other specific manuals are brief and practical guidelines on how to transform existing infrastructure to meet the needs for safe movement during a pandemic, which is cool since we are all tired of staying at home and doing everything online.

Document layout & figures

Comment on the aesthetic and functional qualities of the manual. Does this manual provide guidance in a useful and user-friendly layout for designers?

The document is comprehensive, concise and provides the necessary information in a very simple, visually acceptable way, combined with the important technical and design characteristics of the cycling infrastructure.

Also, very good graphic examples of integration of emergency bike lanes are also given. This is something I really like to see in every document of this type because it shows its potential, as well as the understanding of urban space and the proposed solutions.

The main drawback of the design part of this guidebook relates to the visual representation of the cycling infrastructure cross sections. Simply, such shortcomings are clearly noticeable when all other elements and details in the document are done at a very high level.


Does this manual reference where their ideas come from? Does this manual reference research studies?

Every part of the text, figures, tables, etc., that are used from another research material or document are clearly referenced and provide the necessary information. The part that could be more refined here is to give detailed descriptions of some individual attachments.

Impact factor / adoption

To what extent has this manual impacted the landscape of bicycle infrastructure design? Where have the ideas of this manual been adopted, both in vertically (National -> provincial -> city) and horizontally, (cross-city transfer of ideas, or Dutch to North America). Have other infrastructure manuals followed suit?

In general, this guidebook relies primarily on the existing experiences of different cities, the exchange of knowledge and examples of best practice. In that sense, cooperation has already been established at various levels, both interstate and intercity cooperation. The examples of Milan, Bogotá, Berlin, Nykøbing Falster, Mexico City and many others have already been mentioned, which provided knowledge, experience and the basis for the development of this guidebook.

In addition to organizations such as NACTO, ITF and Mobycon that have just tackled this topic, this is the first document and pioneering project to address this type of cycling infrastructure at this level of detail.

Bearing in mind that the guidebook was published in November 2021, the effects of its practical application are still expected. Moreover, this document represents a very good basis and provides guidelines for concrete activities and traffic design in specific ‘conditions’ such as the Covid-19 pandemic and similar situations, which is why it is a very good foundation. It will certainly be interesting to see how cities will access this document and implement the given recommendations.


This material is generally very well-conceived, and deals with pretty ‘hot’ topic right now. It provides the insight into specific recommendations - on how to change the urban space in order to help people move safely and easily during a pandemic. The guidebook is adequately visually supported and contains relevant sources. What could be improved are concrete proposals from the aspect of traffic signalization, bearing in mind that less attention has been paid to this segment. Regardless, the general quite good impression earned this guidebook a solid 4 stars.

Design manuals give best practices. Do you want to know the mechanics behind why some cycling infrastructure works while others will not be used? BUX teaches urban mobility professionals this in our courses. We also advise organizations looking to transform their street design approach.




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