Grist for the mill department. Follow link here for full text. Excerpt below.
Thanks to Bob Shanteau for posting this to the Bicycle Driving web site.
The linked article appeared in the April issue of ITE (Institute of Transportation Engineers) Journal, pp. 54-58.
"While common throughout the world, most notably in Denmark and the Netherlands, separated bikeways are not explicitly discussed in transportation design manuals in the United States. This is due to the potential, or perceived, safety and mobility issues they present, as discussed below. Alternatively, in the United States, two-way shared use paths adjacent to roadways are fairly common, but these facilities should not be considered separated bikeways as they are intended to accommodate a wide variety of nonmotorized users, a characteristic important for pedestrian safety and access, but one that limits bicycle accessibility. This characteristic is exemplified by the descriptive evolution of such facilities during the past two decades from a 'Class I bikeway' to a 'shared' or 'multi-use path.'" "
Some transportation professionals cite safety and operational concerns with separated bikeways, and they point to existing research that suggests there are still outstanding safety questions regarding the design of such bikeways. Specifically, some research suggests that the crash risk increases at intersections and driveways, where sightlines are limited and right of way between drivers and bicyclists is unclear. Two-way separated bikeways introduce additional issues since drivers may not anticipate bicyclists approaching from both directions. Some believe that teaching people to "drive bicycles" according to traffic laws more effectively improves safety compared to separated bikeways. These opinions raise important questions about if, when, and where separated bikeways are an appropriate design treatment."
"Although we still have much to learn about the appropriate application of separated bikeways in North America, they have the potential to play an important role in pushing beyond the two percent bicycle mode share we have here today. Indeed, this type of bicycle facility is becoming more common, with the goal of attracting new bicycle trips as part of a larger strategy for a more balanced healthy and sustainable transportation system. Many jurisdictions are developing their own versions of these facilities and others are interested in developing them in the future."
"To ensure that these types of innovative treatments are both safe and effective in their design, future research and transportation engineering and planning manuals and guidelines should first establish whether this facility type is appropriate in the North American context and then provide comprehensive design practices and criteria for implementation. additionally, national research is important to inform the development of appropriate and uniform design guidance. providing this information to practitioners will allow them to make sound engineering decisions regarding separated bikeways, and in turn, better meet the needs of current and potential bicyclists. With more research on separated bikeway safety and demand, followed by an established set of design guidelines, practitioners will have another tool with which to plan and design bikeway systems that will promote active, healthy, and sustainable transportation choices."