Advisory Bicycle Lanes

Advisory Bicycle Lanes

By Hailey Pederson

Have you heard of advisory bicycle lanes? As more people choose to bike for their daily travels, cities are increasingly looking for new ways to accommodate bicycle travel. Advisory Bicycle Lanes are becoming one solution for the question of “How do we incorporate bicycle lanes on roads deemed too narrow?” 

Advisory bicycle lanes are a method of striping a road, providing a center two-way lane for cars and an on-street bicycle lane on either side. The condensing of two travel lanes into one 14- to 20-foot wide lane allows for bicycle lanes to be added a roadway that would otherwise be considered too narrow. When motorists approach each other in opposite directions, they are also able to utilize the bicycle lane, though always yielding to cyclists, to safely navigate around the conflicting traffic. 

Here’s a picture, courtesy of the City of Minneapolis:

Advisory Bike Lane

Before this type of treatment is implemented on a roadway, however, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) suggests meeting many or all of the following conditions before implementing advisory bicycle lanes:

  • Average daily traffic (ADT) of less than 6,000.
  • Minimum 16 feet available for the center space.
  • True local or residential road not designated as a truck or bus route (nor expected to facilitate these vehicle types to and from other facilities).
  • Street not interspersed in an overall one-way street network, grid, or area.

We would add to these conditions a minimum of a 5-foot wide bicycle lane and providing an additional 2-foot buffer between the bicycle lane and parking lane. This zone prevents ‘dooring’ where a car door opens directly into a bicyclists path.

While the concept of not having a centerline may seem strange, advisory bicycle lanes are quite popular in Europe where roadways are typically quite narrow, and bicycle use is prevalent. The United States, however, has been slow on adopting this treatment and only two cities here in Minnesota have implemented these lanes. With one of these locations, 14th Street East between Park Avenue and 11th Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, only a mile from our office. Naturally, we decided to investigate these new lanes.

Using our own COUNTcam2, we set cameras up at either end of one block. Normally used to record turning movements at intersections, our devices also have a good range of vision, allowing us to review operations over about 300 feet. (article plug – check out CountingCars.com for more information about our cameras as well as other equipment we have developed and sell). We recorded the corridor operations for a couple of days and then watched to see how it was used. Here’s a screen shot of our video:

Image from Countcam

And here’s a summary of observations we made:

    • Some drivers seem confused, travelling slower than usual compared to other traffic. A couple of drivers pulled over and stopped to allow an opposing car to pass. 
    • Most drivers, however, utilized the corridor as intended, travelling fully in the shared through lane with minor encroachment into the bicycle lane when conflicting traffic was present.
    • Drivers in both directions slowed and allowed the bicyclist to pass before merging into the bicycle lane to navigate the oncoming traffic in the few instances observed of both a bicyclist and conflicting traffic.
    • As parking is heavily used along the corridor, many drivers were seen parking temporarily in the bicycle lane. On occasion, this double parking blocked both the bicycle lane and half of the car lane.
    • A couple of isolated instances where neither car used the bicycle lane, leading to narrowly avoided side-swipe crashes. 
    • Many bicyclists travelled at the edge of the line between the car and bike lanes, or in the car lane, to avoid potential interactions with parked or parking vehicles.
    • A handful of mopeds and motorcycles were observed using the bike lanes.

Considering everything we saw, we’ve concluded that people are, for the most part, properly traversing the roadway (tip of the hat to Minneapolis drivers)! Advisory bicycle lanes appear to be a good solution for roadways where narrow streets would otherwise inhibit the placement of on-street bicycle lanes. We will also mention the importance of public education when implementing a new element to a city or region. Better education leads to increased safety (and better press) when your new solution opens.

Want to learn more? Here are some resources: 

A short video from the City of Ottawa: youtube/0zdDIvKXMxY

A website dedicated to these lanes: www.advisorybikelanes.com

Information from the City of Minneapolis on their work: www.minneapolismn.gov/bicycles/advisory-bike-lane

An article from the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) about these lanes: www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ITE/G98028_ITE_September2018

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