Caltrans Developing Protected Bike Lane Guidelines

Your California Bicycle Coalition is advising Caltrans on the guidelines for  protected bike lanes as part of a select committee that is reviewing the current draft. The committee is working fast to meet the official deadline of December 31 set by our bill, the Protected Bikeway Act of 2014 (AB 1193, Ting), that defined a new class of bike facility. The early draft of the guidance gives some clues to the direction Caltrans is taking with this new facility type.

Available in a “Design Information Bulletin,” draft guidance so far indicates a few priorities. First, the official name of what is colloquially called a “protected bike lane” and what some planners call a “cycle track” is a “class 4 separated bikeway.” This distinction preserves the legal right to ride a bicycle in the roadway adjacent to a so-called protected bike lane.

Caltrans is choosing to emulate existing design manuals rather than start from scratch, directing engineers to the FHWA’s new manual on separated bikeways. However, the guidelines do not direct engineers to some of the best manuals in the world, like the CROW manual from the Netherlands, NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide, Focus on Cycling from Copenhagen, and some elements from the Massachusetts guidelines which have yet to be released.

The proposed guidelines fail to address several issues we are working to get included. They do not provide guidance on how to continue a separated bikeway through an intersection, even though California’s own City of Davis has already installed a similar intersection. It must do better to address the “safety of vulnerable populations, such as children, seniors, persons with impaired vision, and persons of limited mobility.”

Your California Bicycle Coalition is working to improve the draft guidelines to lead to the best guidance in the United States. Our goal is to ensure that local engineers have the guidance and resources necessary to meet the needs of local communities and the designs that fit every community’s needs.

We’ve recruited a team of advisors including some writers from the FHWA guide, the designer behind the website protectedintersection.com, folks from our friends at Alta design, along with several passionate local advocates who are working to ensure the best user experience. Caltrans must not make the same mistakes and listen to the same voices and pontifications that have been killing people riding bikes on California streets for decades. We must do better.