BikeBridge has been working on an idea we are calling a Cycling Backbone Route (CBR) network. It is our hope that such a network would provide a planning basis for where (and how) the City focuses on cycling infrastructure developments. The CBR network would allow cyclists to ride year-round from and to any part of the city within a bike-prioritized, uninterrupted framework. Essentially, cyclists could use existing roads and trails to reach a backbone route and then the connected network to reach other sections of our city.
A CBR is infrastructure and other supporting structures and systems that give priority to city-wide travel by bicycle.
Backbone routes broadly connect all sections of the city to each other: West-East (including the river valley), North-South (including Crows Nest Trail/Rail corridor), Lethbridge College to Downtown, access to South East warehouse retailing, access to and throughout Industrial Parks, access to downtown, access to University, access to West Lethbridge retail centre. The Backbone functions like a transit route in that the cyclist accesses the nearest route by utilizing existing and unspecified roadways, pathway, etc.
A CBR primarily utilizes existing roadways, augmented by dedicated bikeways where needed to maintain connectivity (satisfy standards). In order of priority, the CBR is applied using the following infrastructure and supporting systems:
1. Bicycle Boulevards
A bicycle boulevard is a low speed street which has been optimized for bicycle traffic. Bicycle boulevards discourage cut-through motor vehicle traffic but allow local motor vehicle traffic. They are designed to give priority to cyclists as through-going traffic. They are intended to improve cyclist comfort and/or safety through various means:
- discouragement of non-local motor vehicle traffic;
- low speed limits;
- low motor vehicle traffic volumes;
- free-flow travel for bikes by assigning the right-of-way to the bicycle boulevard at intersections wherever possible;
- traffic control to help bicycles cross major arterial roads; and
- a distinctive look and/or ambiance such that cyclists become aware of the existence of the bike boulevard and motorists are alerted that the street is a priority route for bicyclists.
Bicycle boulevards use a variety of traffic calming elements to achieve a safe environment. For instance, diverters with bicycle cut-outs at mid-block allow motorists to enter the block in order to park or otherwise access a property, and allow cyclists to continue to the next block as well, but do not allow motorists to continue.
Bicycle boulevards often have higher road surface standards than other residential streets, and encourage riders to use the full lane, encouraging parity between bicycles and motor vehicles.
Bicycle boulevards have a snow removal (winter maintenance) and cleaning priority.
2. Designated Bike Lane
Bike lanes should only be required where routes cannot be provided using bicycle boulevards (given overall standards of safety and directness). Dedicated bike lanes are specifically markers areas on existing arterial and collector roadways for use only by cyclists (except where it is necessary for access purposes by other transportation users). Bike lanes include on street standardized lane marked areas that are maintained for all season use and include considerable signage, left turn cycling boxes and traffic signal activation.
Bike lanes have a snow removal (winter maintenance) and cleaning priority.
3. Dedicated Bikeways
Dedicated bikeways should only be required where a route cannot be provided using a bike boulevards of bike lanes (given overall standards of safety, directness and fitness).
A dedicated bikeway is essentially a two way physically separated (by distance or structures) bicycle freeway maximizing speed and minimizing intersection with other transportation users and minimizing physical requirements (grades). Bikeways are not “multi-use” facilities and may therefore required provision of separated facilities for pedestrians.