Bikeway Design Research

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Portland State University researchers have a broad knowledge of active transportation design principles. We host annual bikeway design workshops which draw professionals from all over the globe, and research from the TREC team has informed NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide, FHWA’s Bikeway Selection Guide, the FTA’s Manual on Bicycle and Pedestrian Connections to Transit, the FHWA’s Strategic Agenda for Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation and many other design guidebooks.

Our expertise includes protected bike lanes and intersections, bike boulevards, integrating with transit, and more. Learn more about some of our most impactful research on bikeway design below, or see all our projects on bikes here.

Active Transportation Research Roadmap (2021)

Funded by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), a team of researchers from TREC at Portland State University and Toole Design prepared the Research Roadmap for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Council on Active Transportation (CAT). The Roadmap was created to steer research that will address important active transportation needs at the state DOT level and beyond. Researchers reviewed existing and ongoing active transportation research, identified key research needs from a wide range of sources, and held outreach activities with practitioners to refine and prioritize those needs. The project offers guidance on where active transportation research has been and where it should go next: developing speed management strategies to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety on arterial roadways; determining context-driven optimal spacing between marked crosswalks; addressing racial and economic disparities in safety improvements; refining guidance on bicycle signal timing; overcoming barriers to implementing active transportation in planning and engineering practice; and many more research questions.

Learn more about the Research Roadmap for the AASHTO Council on Active Transportation.

Making the Case for Bike Boulevards

At Portland State University we have developed a body of quantitative, statistically significant evidence that bike boulevards are a good thing for cities. If you've never heard of a bike boulevard, you may know it by another name: neighborhood greenway, bicycle street, Fietsstraat (in Dutch), or traffic calmed street. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) definition:

Bicycle boulevards are streets with low motorized traffic volumes and speeds, designated and designed to give bicycle travel priority. Bicycle Boulevards use signs, pavement markings, and speed and volume management measures to discourage through trips by motor vehicles and create safe, convenient bicycle crossings of busy arterial streets.

Download our Bicycle Boulevard Planning & Design Guidebook (PDF), developed in partnership with Alta Planning + Design. Data for this guide were developed from literature review, case study interviews, and input from a panel of professional experts. And, you can learn more about designing them from NACTO and in FHWA’s Small Town and Rural Design Guide. The fact that bike boulevards are showing up in guides for cities, small towns, and rural areas is a good sign.

So, why should bike boulevards be part of every bike plan? Dr. Jennifer Dill, transportation researcher and planning Professor at PSU, recaps our body of research that supports the case for bike boulevards here.

Improving Integration of Transit Operations and Bicycle Infrastructure at the Stop Level (2019)

When buses and bikes share space, there are safety risks for cyclists as well as potential delays in bus service and stressful navigation for bus operators. In this study, researchers used video data to analyze bus, bicycle, and automobile interactions and conflicts. At current bus and bicycle volumes, at the single intersection that was used for the study site, they found that over 11,000 annual conflicts could be expected. These quantitative findings can be used to justify funding for intersection upgrades or for an education/enforcement campaign. Potential countermeasures include bus stop islands, consolidating stops, and adjusting pavement markings to more clearly identify the area of conflict. Bus stop islands, in which the bicycle lane runs behind the bus stop, would eliminate all bus-bicycle conflicts. However, this configuration is best for wide roadways, as it requires a significant amount of right-of-way. Consolidating bus stops and adjusting pavement markings may help cyclists and buses navigate shared space in areas where a bus stop island is not a feasible solution.

Learn more about Improving Integration of Transit Operations and Bicycle Infrastructure at the Stop Level.

Protected Bike Lane Intersections (2019)

Protected bike lanes are becoming increasingly common around the United States, yet there is little guidance for how to extend the protected lanes through one of their most dangerous links: the intersection. Led by Chris Monsere and Nathan McNeil of Portland State University in collaboration with Toole Design Group, this project offers contextual guidance for designing intersections that are comfortable for cyclists. Safety and perceived comfort are the two key considerations for cities attempting to build connected low-stress networks, given the positive correlation between perceived comfort and ridership. Importantly, comfort scores for the "Interested but Concerned" group of cyclists suggest only the separated bike signal phase and "protected intersection" (aka bend-out) as recommended designs

Learn more about the recommended intersection designs for bikeways.

FHWA Guidebook for Measuring Multimodal Network Connectivity (2018)

In 2018 the Federal Highway Administration issued a new guide, Measuring Multimodal Network Connectivity (PDF). TREC researchers contributed to the guidebook in partnership with Alta Planning + Design and ICF. The guide provides information on incorporating connectivity measures into state, metropolitan, and local transportation planning processes.A growing body of research points to the key role of high-quality, connected networks in making bicycling and walking safer, more convenient, and more prevalent. The guidebook outlines five core components of pedestrian and bicycle network connectivity, including network completeness, network density, route directness, access to destinations, and network quality. The guide provides a step-by-step framework for selecting and applying connectivity measures to help make decisions that are grounded in a comprehensive vision, supported by clearly defined goals and measurable objectives. It includes references and illustrations of current practices, including materials from five case studies conducted as part of the research process. 

FTA Manual on Bike-Ped Connections to Transit (2017)

Prepared by PSU researchers at TREC, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) released a Manual on Pedestrian and Bicycle Connections to Transit (PDF) in 2017. From defining "access sheds" to linking up transit and bike share, the manual is a rich resource for planners and engineers looking to boost their city's bicycle and pedestrian transit access. The book compiles best practices to help transit and other transportation professionals improve pedestrian and bicycle safety as well as access to transit. This includes guidance on evaluating, planning for, and implementing infrastructure improvements. It also provides a review of the research to back up what these practices do and why they work to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and access to transit, including information on evaluating, planning for, and implementing improvements to pedestrian and bicycle access to transit. 

Creating Walkable + Bikeable Communities: Master Planning Guidebook

The growing focus on context sensitive solutions and design in roadway planning, increased support for addressing public health objectives through transportation and land use planning, and concerns about oil dependence and global warming all point to a need for planning practitioners to have more knowledge and skills related to pedestrian and bicycle planning. This guidebook is intended to serve as a guide for planners, engineers and elected officials who will be producing a new or updated bicycle and/or pedestrian master plan. Data for this guide was developed from literature review, case study interviews, and input from staff at Alta Planning + Design. This project was supported by TREC, and Alta Planning + Design.

Download the Creating Walkable + Bikeable Communities Master Planning Guidebook (PDF).

Lessons from the Green Lanes: Evaluating Protected Bike Lanes in the U.S. (2014)

This report presents findings from research evaluating U.S. protected bicycle lanes in terms of their use, perception, benefits, and impacts. The research examined protected bicycle lanes in five cities – Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; and Washington, D.C. – using video, surveys of intercepted bicyclists and nearby residents, and count data. Support for the protected lanes among residents was generally strong with 75% saying that they would support building more protected bike lanes at other locations, and 91% of surveyed residents agreed with the statement, “I support separating bikes from cars.” This agreement was high among primary users of all modes (driving, walking, transit, and bicycling), though motorists expressed concerns about the impacts of protected lanes on congestion and parking. Most residents also agreed with the statement “I would be more likely to ride a bicycle if motor vehicles and bicycles were physically separated by a barrier,” with “Interested but Concerned” residents expressing the highest level of agreement at 85%. Nearly three times as many residents felt that the protected bike lanes had led to an increase in the desirability of living in their neighborhood, as opposed to a decrease in desirability (43% vs 14%).

Learn more about Lessons from the Green Lanes: Evaluating Protected Bike Lanes in the U.S.

The People Behind the Research

PSU researchers working on these projects include:

  • Joe Broach, ​Research Associate, Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC); Senior Researcher and Modeler, Metro
  • Jennifer Dill, Director of the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC); Professor, Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University
  • Miguel Figliozzi, Professor, Civil Engineering; Founder and Co-Director of Transportation Technology and People (TTP) Lab, Portland State University
  • Sirisha Kothuri, Senior Research Associate, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Portland State University
  • Chris Monsere, Professor and Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Portland State University
  • Nathan McNeil, Research Associate, Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University

Online Education

We have presented a variety of webinars and online seminars focused on this topic, and are always adding more. Check out our ongoing YouTube playlist of education on bikeway design, innovation and bicycle safety.