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How to Encourage Safe Biking on Cycle Tracks

Cycle tracks enhance any urban environment. They encourage exercise, reduce motor vehicle traffic, and help prevent injuries. Nonetheless, it’s vital that public planners understand the fundamentals of track design in order to maximize users’ convenience and safety.

With that in mind, here are some essential principles for building cycle tracks:

  • There is no one-size-fits-all approach to cycle lane design. Factors to consider when creating these pathways include the amount of local vehicle traffic, the accident rates, and road features such as traffic signs, intersections, and the degree of curvature.
  • The recommended width for bicycle lanes is five feet, except when the lane is adjacent to parking spots with high turnover rates. In such cases, a wider six- to seven-foot lane gives cyclists more room to safely maneuver by increasing the space between the bike riders and motorists opening their car doors. Designers should install public notices reminding cyclists to be alert for motorists getting in and out of their vehicles. This will maximize the safety advantages gained from the added width.
  • When a five-foot width is not practical due to existing conditions, cycle tracks as narrow as three feet across can still provide significant safety benefits.
  • Highway officials should install buffer zones between cycle and motor vehicle lanes whenever possible. Studies show that such zones provide added safety when compared to road striping and similar measures.
  • Studies show that cyclists instinctively maintain a greater distance between themselves and motor vehicles in areas with heavy traffic conditions or with a high percentage of trucks and larger vehicles. This can create added risks when cycle lanes are adjacent to parking spaces along the same roads.
  • When designed in harmony with the surrounding environment, cycle tracks are a worthy investment. They prevent accidents, encourage more cycling, and create a better environment for all who use the nation’s transportation networks.

Rules to Enhance Safety on Cycle Tracks

Accidents can occur even on well-designed cycle tracks due to inattentiveness or carelessness on the part of riders, pedestrians, and/or motorists. For this reason, public planners should take steps to encourage and enforce adherence to basic principles of biking safety. These include:

  • Use lights when riding during evening hours or other periods of low visibility, such as rainy or overcast days.
  • Always wear a helmet while riding. Cyclists should fasten their helmets snugly yet loose enough to allow for comfort and easy head movement.
  • Stay alert for motor vehicles, other riders, foot traffic, and possible obstructions on cycle tracks.
  • Ride in a courteous, predictable manner. Avoid weaving in and out of traffic, and travel in a straight line except when turning. Use hand signals to indicate turns or stops. Make eye contact with drivers if possible to signal intentions.
  • Use a headlight while traveling on cycle tracks at night.
  • Avoid distractions. Listening to music, talking on cell phones, and similar activities can quickly lead to disaster when riding on cycle tracks.
  • Ride defensively. Be alert for signs of impaired or distracted motorists. Be prepared to take evasive actions if necessary.
  • Avoid riding on grates, on slick spots, in depressions, and through puddles or moving water.
  • Be sure of your cycle. Give your bike a quick once-over prior to every ride to ensure tires are properly inflated and all components are working correctly.
  • Obey signaling devices and all other traffic lights.
  • Ride with, not against, the direction of traffic.


Bicycle lanes offer many benefits to society. Along with these benefits, however, comes an obligation for public planners to design these pathways in accordance with sound traffic management principles. At the same time, bikers must observe basic safety and adequate guidelines. By doing so, cycle tracks will continue to enhance the public’s safety and well-being.