What is a bicycle boulevard?

Bicycle boulevards are low-volume streets that have been optimized for bicycle travel through traffic calming and diversion, signage and pavement markings, and intersection crossing treatments. Bicycle boulevards are shared roadway facilities that, when correctly implemented, are comfortable and attractive to cyclists with a wide range of abilities and ages but are inconvenient as through routes for automobiles. Cities with extensive bicycle boulevard networks include Berkeley, California; Eugene and Portland, Oregon; and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Bicycle boulevards should be located on routes that serve major origins, destinations and travel corridors (often paralleling an arterial), and should be as direct and intuitive as possible. Residential roadways with already low vehicle volumes are often selected for bicycle boulevards.

Once a route has been selected, measures should be taken to

  • prioritize bicycle through movement by turning stop signs to favor the bicycle boulevard.
  • reduce vehicle speeds through traffic calming measures.
  • reduce vehicle volumes through traffic diversion measures.
  • provide crossing improvements at intersections with major streets (including median refuge islands, signalization, and/or curb extensions).
  • help cyclists find and use the facility (through pavement markings and signs that provide directional and destination information).

Depending on the existing conditions of the roadway selected, it may not be necessary to implement all of these measures.

Bicycle boulevards offer many advantages, such as tangible safety benefits (due to reduced exposure to vehicles and reduced speed differential); their appeal to inexperienced cyclists, families and seniors; and a calmer riding environment. Some critics feel that bicycle boulevards reduce cyclist visibility and/or do not serve major commercial corridors, which are likely to be destinations.

Most tools used to create bicycle boulevards are inexpensive in terms of capital costs, but can be politically challenging because of jurisdictional policies or attitudes that do not favor reducing vehicle connectivity or motorist convenience; in addition, crossing treatments can be expensive (especially where the cross street is a major arterial and/or state highway).

Resources and more information:

Berkeley Bicycle Boulevard Design Tools and Guidelines: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=6652

Bicycle Transportation Alliance Bicycle Boulevards Campaign: http://www.bta4bikes.org/at_work/bikeboulevards.php

City of Portland Bicycle Master Plan (1999). See Appendix A: Design and Engineering Guidelines: http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=40414

PBIC Case Study: Bicycle Boulevards in Emeryville, CA: http://www.bicyclinginfo.org/library/details.cfm?id=4155

Streetsblog entry on Berkeley's bicycle boulevards: http://www.streetsblog.org/2006/09/27/another-model-berkeleys-bicycle-boulevard-network/

StreetsFilms video about Portland's Bicycle Boulevard network: http://www.nycsr.org/nyc/video-view.php?id=39