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Bicycle paths, lanes & tracks

Evidence Rating

Some Evidence

Health Factors

Decision Makers

Bicycle paths, lanes, cycle tracks, and other road markings and features accommodate or provide dedicated spaces for bicyclists. Cycle tracks, also called protected bikeways or protected bike lanes, are lanes separated from traffic by a barrier such as a curb. Bicycle facilities can be added to new or existing roads as independent initiatives or as part of a comprehensive package of interventions such as a bicycle and pedestrian master plan.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced injuries

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased active transportation

  • Increased physical activity

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that bicycle facilities such as paths, lanes, and cycle tracks improve bicyclist safety (Reynolds 2009Lusk 2011Harris 2013, Romanow 2012). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

On-road bicycle lanes (Reynolds 2009) and off-road paths appear to reduce bicyclist injuries (Reynolds 2009), especially when paths are not obstructed (Romanow 2012). Protected bike lanes also appear to reduce bicyclist injuries (Lusk 2011Harris 2013) and increase cyclists’ perception of safety (NITC-Monsere 2014). Road lighting, smooth pavement (Reynolds 2009Romanow 2012), flatter roads (Reynolds 2009Harris 2013), roads with fewer than four lanes of traffic (Romanow 2012), and greater numbers of bicyclists on the road () are also associated with fewer bicyclist injuries.

Turn lanes, separate bike signals, and other intersection design features can increase safety for bicyclists (Pucher 2003). Roundabouts can increase injury risk more than other types of intersections (Reynolds 2009), especially without cycle tracks (Reynolds 2009). Roundabouts with bicycle paths or mixed traffic designs may pose less danger for cyclists than those with bicycle lanes ().

Access to bicycle lanes appears to increase bicycling (, ), especially when lanes are separated from traffic by a physical barrier (NITC-Monsere 2014) or implemented as part of a comprehensive package of interventions such as a bicycle and pedestrian master plan ().

Costs for infrastructure improvements vary significantly by locale and type of improvement, for example, in one study, bike lanes cost an average of $133,170 and signed bicycle routes cost an average of $25,070 per mile (UNC-Bushell 2013). Some studies suggest that bicycle facilities may increase sales at local businesses (NITC-Monsere 2014). A Netherlands-based cost-benefit analysis suggests that investments in improved bicycle infrastructure and facilities yields positive net benefits in the long-term (). 

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Bicycle paths and lanes are common around the country. Many organizations are working to increase bike paths and lanes; the Green Lane Project and the Alliance for Biking & Walking are two examples (GLP, ABW).

About half of all respondents to a nationwide 2012 survey had bicycle paths within a quarter mile of their homes and about 40% had bicycle lanes (NHTSA-Schroeder 2013). 

Implementation Resources

US DOT-PBIC Facilities - US Department of Transportation (US DOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC). Facility design.

PFP-Trail action guide - Partnership for Prevention (PFP). Places for physical activity: Facilitating development of a community trail and promoting its use to increase physical activity among youth and adults - An action guide. Washington, DC: Partnership for Prevention (PFP); 2008.

RWJF-Action strategies - Leadership for Healthy Communities. Action strategies toolkit: A guide for local and state leaders working to create healthy communities and prevent childhood obesity. Princeton: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF); 2009.

ChangeLab-Zimmerman 2013 - Zimmerman S, Kramer K. Getting the wheels rolling: A guide to using policy to create bicycle friendly communities. Oakland: ChangeLab Solutions; 2013.

LAB-Bike laws - The League of American Bicyclists (LAB): Bike Laws and model legislation.

RTT-Toolbox - Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTT). Trail-building toolbox.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Parker 2011* - Parker KM, Gustat J, Rice JC. Installation of bicycle lanes and increased ridership in an urban, mixed-income setting in New Orleans, Louisiana. Journal of Physical Activity & Health. 2011;8(Suppl 1):S98-S102.

Pucher 2010* - Pucher J, Dill J, Handy S. Infrastructure, programs, and policies to increase bicycling: an international review. Preventive Medicine. 2010;50(Suppl 1):S106-25.

UNC-Bushell 2013 - Bushell MA, Poole BW, Zegeer CV, Rodriguez DA. Costs for pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure improvements: A resource for researchers, engineers, planners, and the general public. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Highway Safety Research Center; 2013.

Reynolds 2009 - Reynolds CC, Harris MA, Teschke K, Cripton PA, Winters M. The impact of transportation infrastructure on bicycling injuries and crashes: A review of the literature. Environmental Health. 2009;8:47.

Chen 2012a* - Chen L, Chen C, Srinivasan R, et al. Evaluating the safety effects of bicycle lanes in New York City. American Journal Public Health. 2012;102(6):1120–7.

Lusk 2011 - Lusk AC, Furth PG, Morency P, et al. Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street. Injury Prevention. 2011;17(2):131–5.

Harris 2013 - Harris MA, Reynolds CC, Winters M, et al. Comparing the effects of infrastructure on bicycling injury at intersections and non-intersections using a case-crossover design. Injury Prevention. 2013;19(5):303–10.

Romanow 2012 - Romanow NTR, Couperthwaite AB, McCormack GR, et al. Environmental determinants of bicycling injuries in Alberta, Canada. Journal of Environmental and Public Health. 2012:2013(487681):1-3.

Daniels 2009* - Daniels S, Brijs T, Nuyts E, Wets G. Injury crashes with bicyclists at roundabouts: Influence of some location characteristics and the design of cycle facilities. Journal of Safety Research. 2009;40(2):141–8.

NITC-Monsere 2014 - Monsere C, Dill J, McNeil N. Lessons from the green lanes: Evaluating protected bike lanes in the U.S. Portland: National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC); 2014.

Pucher 2003 - Pucher J, Dijkstra L. Promoting safe walking and cycling to improve public health: Lessons from the Netherlands and Germany. American Journal of Public Health. 2003;93(9):1509-1516.

Fishman 2015* - Fishman E, Schepers P, Kamhuis CBM. Dutch cycling: Quantifying the health and related economic benefits. American Journal of Public Health. 2015;105(8):e13-e15.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

ABW - Alliance for Biking & Walking (ABW). Protected bike lanes mean business.

NHTSA-Schroeder 2013 - Schroeder P, Wilbur M. 2012 National survey of bicyclist and pedestrian attitudes and behavior, volume 2: Findings report (Report No. DOT HS 811 841 B). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); 2013.

GLP - PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project (GLP). Installing protected bike lanes.

Date Last Updated

Jul 28, 2015