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Bicycle paths, lanes & tracks

Health Factors: Community Safety
Decision Makers: Local Government Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Some Evidence
Population Reach: 10-19% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Bicycle paths, lanes, cycle tracks, and other road markings and features accommodate or provide dedicated spaces for bicyclists. Cycle tracks, also called protected bikeways or protected bike lanes, are lanes separated from traffic by a barrier such as a curb. Bicycle facilities can be added to new or existing roads as independent initiatives or as part of a comprehensive package of interventions such as a bicycle and pedestrian master plan.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Reduced injuries
Increased active transportation
Increased physical activity

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that bicycle facilities such as paths, lanes, and cycle tracks improve bicyclist safety (Reynolds 2009Chen 2012aLusk 2011Harris 2013, Romanow 2012). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

On-road bicycle lanes (Reynolds 2009Chen 2012a) and off-road paths appear to reduce bicyclist injuries (Reynolds 2009), especially when paths are not obstructed (Romanow 2012). Protected bike lanes also appear to reduce bicyclist injuries (Lusk 2011Harris 2013) and increase cyclists’ perception of safety (NITC-Monsere 2014). Road lighting, smooth pavement (Reynolds 2009Romanow 2012), flatter roads (Reynolds 2009Harris 2013), roads with fewer than four lanes of traffic (Romanow 2012), and greater numbers of bicyclists on the road (Pucher 2010) are also associated with fewer bicyclist injuries.

Turn lanes, separate bike signals, and other intersection design features can increase safety for bicyclists (Pucher 2003). Roundabouts can increase injury risk more than other types of intersections (Reynolds 2009Daniels 2009), especially without cycle tracks (Reynolds 2009). Roundabouts with bicycle paths or mixed traffic designs may pose less danger for cyclists than those with bicycle lanes (Daniels 2009).

Access to bicycle lanes appears to increase bicycling (Pucher 2010, Parker 2011), especially when lanes are separated from traffic by a physical barrier (NITC-Monsere 2014) or implemented as part of a comprehensive package of interventions such as a bicycle and pedestrian master plan (Pucher 2010).

Costs for infrastructure improvements vary significantly by locale and type of improvement, for example, in one study, bike lanes cost an average of $133,170 and signed bicycle routes cost an average of $25,070 per mile (UNC-Bushell 2013). Some studies suggest that bicycle facilities may increase sales at local businesses (NITC-Monsere 2014). A Netherlands-based cost-benefit analysis suggests that investments in improved bicycle infrastructure and facilities yields positive net benefits in the long-term (Fishman 2015). 


United States

Bicycle paths and lanes are common around the country. Many organizations are working to increase bike paths and lanes; the Green Lane Project and the Alliance for Biking & Walking are two examples (GLP, ABW).

About half of all respondents to a nationwide 2012 survey had bicycle paths within a quarter mile of their homes and about 40% had bicycle lanes (NHTSA-Schroeder 2013). 


Wisconsin’s 14 metropolitan areas all have bicycle and pedestrian plans. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation provides funding for some bicycle facility projects (WI DOT-Bicycles).

Implementation Resources

ChangeLab-Zimmerman 2013 - Zimmerman S, Kramer K. Getting the wheels rolling: A guide to using policy to create bicycle friendly communities. Oakland: ChangeLab Solutions; 2013. Accessed on January 12, 2016
LAB-Bike laws - The League of American Bicyclists (LAB): Bike Laws and model legislation. Accessed on February 24, 2016
PFP-Trail action guide - Partnership for Prevention (PFP). Places for physical activity: Facilitating development of a community trail and promoting its use to increase physical activity among youth and adults - An action guide. Washington, DC: Partnership for Prevention (PFP); 2008. Accessed on December 28, 2015
RTT-Toolbox - Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTT). Trail-building toolbox. Accessed on February 16, 2016
RWJF-Action strategies - Leadership for Healthy Communities. Action strategies toolkit: A guide for local and state leaders working to create healthy communities and prevent childhood obesity. Princeton: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF); 2009. Accessed on January 14, 2016
US DOT-PBIC Facilities - US Department of Transportation (US DOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC). Facility design. Accessed on March 3, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Chen 2012a* - Chen L, Chen C, Srinivasan R, et al. Evaluating the safety effects of bicycle lanes in New York City. American Journal Public Health. 2012;102(6):1120–7. Accessed on January 20, 2016
Daniels 2009* - Daniels S, Brijs T, Nuyts E, Wets G. Injury crashes with bicyclists at roundabouts: Influence of some location characteristics and the design of cycle facilities. Journal of Safety Research. 2009;40(2):141–8. Accessed on December 16, 2015
Fishman 2015* - Fishman E, Schepers P, Kamhuis CBM. Dutch cycling: Quantifying the health and related economic benefits. American Journal of Public Health. 2015;105(8):e13-e15. Accessed on March 3, 2016
Harris 2013 - Harris MA, Reynolds CC, Winters M, et al. Comparing the effects of infrastructure on bicycling injury at intersections and non-intersections using a case-crossover design. Injury Prevention. 2013;19(5):303–10. Accessed on December 22, 2015
Lusk 2011 - Lusk AC, Furth PG, Morency P, et al. Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street. Injury Prevention. 2011;17(2):131–5. Accessed on December 28, 2015
NITC-Monsere 2014 - Monsere C, Dill J, McNeil N. Lessons from the green lanes: Evaluating protected bike lanes in the U.S. Portland: National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC); 2014. Accessed on February 17, 2016
Parker 2011* - Parker KM, Gustat J, Rice JC. Installation of bicycle lanes and increased ridership in an urban, mixed-income setting in New Orleans, Louisiana. Journal of Physical Activity & Health. 2011;8(Suppl 1):S98-S102. Accessed on March 14, 2016
Pucher 2003 - Pucher J, Dijkstra L. Promoting safe walking and cycling to improve public health: Lessons from the Netherlands and Germany. American Journal of Public Health. 2003;93(9):1509-1516. Accessed on February 24, 2016
Pucher 2010* - Pucher J, Dill J, Handy S. Infrastructure, programs, and policies to increase bicycling: an international review. Preventive Medicine. 2010;50(Suppl 1):S106-25. Accessed on November 9, 2015
Reynolds 2009 - Reynolds CC, Harris MA, Teschke K, Cripton PA, Winters M. The impact of transportation infrastructure on bicycling injuries and crashes: A review of the literature. Environmental Health. 2009;8:47. Accessed on December 22, 2015
Romanow 2012 - Romanow NTR, Couperthwaite AB, McCormack GR, et al. Environmental determinants of bicycling injuries in Alberta, Canada. Journal of Environmental and Public Health. 2012:2013(487681):1-3. Accessed on January 12, 2016
UNC-Bushell 2013 - Bushell MA, Poole BW, Zegeer CV, Rodriguez DA. Costs for pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure improvements: A resource for researchers, engineers, planners, and the general public. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Highway Safety Research Center; 2013. Accessed on December 1, 2015

Citations - Implementation

ABW - Alliance for Biking & Walking (ABW). Protected bike lanes mean business. Accessed on January 12, 2016
GLP - PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project (GLP). Installing protected bike lanes. Accessed on February 24, 2016
NHTSA-Schroeder 2013 - Schroeder P, Wilbur M. 2012 National survey of bicyclist and pedestrian attitudes and behavior, volume 2: Findings report (Report No. DOT HS 811 841 B). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); 2013. Accessed on January 14, 2016
WI DOT-Bicycles - Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). Bicycles. Accessed on December 22, 2015

Page Last Updated

July 28, 2015

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