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With federal recognition that lanes protected from traffic are safer than lanes only separated by a narrow, white line, will the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) follow suit? As noted here last year, the National Association of City Transportation Officials' (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide was the first to provide engineering guidance for protected bike lanes, also called cycle tracks.
Anderson writes that in "a task order proposal request quietly circulated to selected contractors last week, the (Federal Highway Administration or FHWA) that oversees U.S. road design did exactly what many biking advocates have been urging it to do for years: It suggested that physically separated bikeways can be welcome improvements to American streets and kicked off a process intended to prove it."
"There is a growing body of research on cycle tracks in the U.S. and Canada indicating that, when they are designed well, they do not increase bike crash rates," the agency's document reads. "There is also growing evidence that cyclists prefer cycle tracks."
Speaking of Canada, Streetsblog's Angie Schmitt writes on August 07 that a "study published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use [PDF] found that intersections in Montreal with protected bike lanes see 61 percent more bike traffic than those without."
Safety is the key element that increases cycling numbers among the greater population. Protected bike lanes attract those who are less willing to bike for fear of being hit by motor vehicles, as this August 07 Seattle Times "Editorial: Seattle is playing catch-up on bike safety", illustrates:
Three of those (bike-car collisions) occurred on Dexter Avenue, sending two cyclists to the hospital. Dexter is a designated, high-traffic bike route, but the collisions show that painted bike lanes are doing an inadequate job of separating drivers and cyclists.
Anderson writes about the first steps FHWA is taking to giving "a federal stamp of approval for a [sic] cycle tracks", in the words of John Cameron, chief engineer for the City of Memphis, one of six cities that the Bikes Belong Foundation selected to "Fast Track Protected Bike Lanes".
As ordered by the FHWA, the forthcoming study will look at crash rates and types at 10 to 20 locations that currently offer physically separated cycle tracks, creating a set of recommended design standards and guidelines that FHWA's influence might eventually integrate into the two bibles of U.S. road design: the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which discusses traffic signs, signals and markings; and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials road design guide, which discusses the shapes and materials of safe roadways.