Cyclists have the same right to fair and equitable treatment by the government as other road users. The basis for these rights is expressed through the six Es approach that the League supports:
- Equality – Legal: traffic law and legislation, including movements, access, equipment, uniformity
- Engineering – Transportation: road and bicycle facilities development, design, and construction, and mobility and funding sources
- Enforcement – Police and Courts: Equitable treatment of cyclists through citations and trials
- Education – Schools and Smart Cycling™: Traffic skills education for the public, engineers, enforcers, and legislators
- Encouragement – Public and private agencies: advertising campaigns, promotions, etc.
- Evaluation – Public agencies: Measurement of the effects of the other Es using relevant research methods and testing.
The League of American Bicyclists supports equity in the treatment of all cyclists in the implementation and evaluation of all Es.
The equal legal status and equal treatment of cyclists in traffic law. All US states must adopt fair, equitable and uniform traffic laws, that are “vehicle-neutral” to the greatest extent possible. Cyclists’ ability to access to all destinations must be protected. State and local laws that discriminate against cyclists, or restrict their right to travel, or reduce their relative safety, must be repealed.
Roadways and separate facilities must conform to state and national standards and allow for safe, legal and efficient traffic movements. Construction and maintenance of roads must equitably serve all users. Separate facilities must be maintained at a level not less than that applied to the public roadway. Trip-endpoint and waypoint facilities such as parking must serve bicyclists.
Cyclists must be given equal treatment by police and the courts in the enforcement of traffic laws and in the investigation of crashes that involve bicyclists which reach the threshold for the state or jurisdiction in question. Cyclists must be viewed as fully equal to other parties in the determination of culpability in crashes, the economic value of injuries or death, and non-economic losses that are commonly awarded to crash victims.
Cycling training should be based on the principle that "cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." This type of cycling is based on the same sound, proven traffic principles governing all drivers, and is the safest, most efficient way for all cyclists to operate by making them highly visible and their actions predictable to other road users.
Promotion of cycling as a healthy and environmentally sound method of transport and recreation. Encouragement is done via promotional campaigns, incentives for those choosing bicycling rather than another form of transport and promotion of cycling as a healthy activity. The encouragement of bicycling should be inclusive of all types of cyclists.
Evaluation of the other five Es (Equality, Engineering, Enforcement, Education and Encouragement). Evaluation must involve measurement, analysis and research using rigorous, statistically sound methodologies.
Creating a safer riding environment for bicyclists is one of the primary missions of the League of American Bicyclists. In an effort to achieve this objective, the League promotes safe and effective bicycling through various awareness and education programs. Specifically, the League encourages the instruction of vehicular cycling principles and techniques to as large and wide an audience as possible, presented by individuals certified as League Cycling Instructors (LCIs) through its Bike Ed program.
Vehicular cycling is based on the principle that bicyclists should act and be treated as drivers of vehicles and the fact that in all states bicyclists have the rights and responsibilities of drivers of vehicles.
The League especially encourages presentation of components of its Bicycle Education Program (League Bike Ed). Specifically, the League believes:
- Children should participate in bicycle safety education programs consistent with elements of the League Bike Ed program to enhance their safety and enjoyment of bicycling; as a precursor to learning to operate a motor vehicle; and to increase their appreciation of cycling as a lifetime sport.
- Adults should be exposed to the League Bike Ed program as cyclists and/or potential cyclists to increase their safety while riding and to increase their awareness of the health benefits of bicycling as exercise and the environmental benefits of using bicycles as transportation.
- The curriculum of all driver-education programs, whether in secondary schools, private driving schools, or courses sponsored by public or not-for-profit agencies, should include information on bicyclists' rights and responsibilities and responsible road-sharing with bicycles as found in the League Bike Ed's Motorists Education course.
The League supports efforts by public agencies and private organizations to make motorists aware of bicyclists' rights and responsibilities and to make bicyclists aware of their legal responsibilities.
The League encourages affiliated organizations to promote and participate in bicycling education projects consistent with Bike Ed in cooperation with local organizations and bicycle dealers.
The League will continue to develop and adapt the Bike Ed curriculum and program to include the latest teaching principles and techniques and to widen its reach to those in need of training.
The League will work toward a unified national bicycling safety education program through participation in the National Bicycle Safety Network.
Knowledge by both cyclists and motorists of the principles of vehicular cycling and traffic laws are necessary for the safety of bicyclists. Increased awareness of, and adherence to, the principles of vehicular cycling will also increase acceptance of bicycles as a legitimate part of the traffic mix.Approved by the Board of Directors, December 1985; amended August 2001 and March 2005.
Bicyclists, like all other road users, need a complete interconnected transportation network. This network may include roads, bridges, tunnels and special bicycle facilities. All of these facilities need to be designed for the convenience and safety of bicyclists.
Bicycling on Roads
In all 50 state vehicle codes, bicyclists have the rights and responsibilities of other vehicle operators. Therefore, road systems must accommodate bicyclists.
The League has supported safe and lawful use of bicycles on roads since 1880, and will continue to do so. All roads, bridges and tunnels, save some limited access highways, are bicycle facilities, and should be thought of as such throughout their design and maintenance cycles.
Roads that are good for bicycling are also good for motorists, and create more livable communities. Road features such as adequate lane and paved shoulder widths, smooth pavements, bicycle responsive traffic signals, wheelproof drainage features and frequent maintenance are safe and effective ways to meet the needs of bicyclists and motorists. The League opposes any road feature added to the shoulder area that could hinder bicyclists’ safety.
The League emphasizes the time-honored, time-proved classification of bicycles and other low-speed vehicles as road vehicles with respect to traffic law; that the right of travel by all reasonable means is universal; and that licensing of drivers and registration of vehicles are not a prerequisite for use of the roads, but rather, reflect the greater harm which can be done by larger and/or faster vehicles.
The League supports expanding the rights of bicyclists to use limited access freeway shoulders where no other reasonable alternative routes exist. The League opposes laws, policies and plans which in any way restrict bicyclists’ rights to the road by forcing bicyclists to use special bicycle facilities.
Special Bicycle Facilities
The League believes that in some instances, bike lanes and shared use paths (sometimes called bike paths) enhance the road system for some bicyclists if designed and constructed in accordance with the national and state standards referenced below.
Standards and Design Issues
The League believes strongly that bicycle facilities, whether separated or on-road, should be designed according to the standards listed and only by professionals fully conversant with the benefits and inherent problems in lanes and paths, and with bicyclists’ needs on the road.
- The American Association of State Highway and Transportation (AASHTO) Guide to Bicycle Facilities, available from the AASHTO Bookstore in a print or CD-ROM edition.
- State of Florida 1998 Bicycle Facilities Design Manual
- Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety and Accommodation Training Course # 38061
- Dr. William Moritz, Adult Bicyclists in the United States
League of American Bicyclists Position on Bicycle Facilities: Additional Supporting Information
Good Design and Planning are Essential
Bike lanes and shared use trails are specific applications for specific situations, and when designed and constructed in accordance with national and state standards can be tools to enhance roads for some cyclists. However, just adhering to the standards is not sufficient to guarantee good design, because many factors that go into good design are not part of any standards manual. Good judgment by the designer is essential.
The League notes that it is difficult for a designer to design effective bicycle facilities without being reasonably proficient as a bicyclist. The League urges all bicycle facility designers to be conversant with the League’s Bike Ed program, in order to maximize this proficiency.
Bicycles on Freeways
The League notes that the U.S. has more than 25 years’ experience allowing bicyclists to use the shoulders of limited access freeways. Accident data collected in the states that allow this indicate that the bicyclists’ accident rate on these facilities is quite low. Accordingly, the League supports expanding the rights of bicyclists to use these freeway shoulders where no other reasonable alternative exists.
Advantages of Shared Use Paths
Separated shared use paths may be used to provide bicycle access when no suitable road exists; to bypass barriers; to avoid more circuitous, less safe routes; and as trails in scenic recreational areas, particularly where there are few road intersections.
A principal advantage of separated facilities in the U.S. is for recreation. These facilities are a valuable and attractive feature for many people. In particular, the use of rail rights-of-way preserves a valuable rail corridor while also offering a recreational opportunity. These are also popular locations for beginning cyclists to learn to ride without the threat of high speed motor traffic.
Another advantage can be providing bicyclists access to destinations which would otherwise not be accessible by bicycle, in locations where highways interrupt bicycle routes, or no usable public road exists. (An example of this is the Mt. Vernon trail from Ronald Reagan Airport to downtown Washington D.C.) A separated bicycle facility may provide a short cut (particularly in the case of residential or office developments without four-quadrant access) or a scenic view.
For these reasons, the League supports railbanking and facilities that preserve and enhance bicycle access. But we do not support separated facilities as a first-choice substitute for bicycle-compatible road design.
Efficiency of the Road System
The League has previously noted that well-designed roads benefit all users. Building such roads is a very cost effective use of tax dollars, because it does not take anything away from other users to provide for bicyclists.
Advantages of Bike Lanes
In some instances, it may be appropriate to use bicycle lanes to designate street space for the preferential use of bicycle traffic. Typically, this would be in locations where substantial volumes of bicycle traffic are anticipated or other situations warrant. The planning, design and installation of bike lanes should be contingent on a careful evaluation of all potential impacts of such facilities. The lanes should be part of a system plan and should also include details to improve safety through intersections such as bicycle storage pockets left of the right turn lane at the intersections. Cities such as Davis and Cupertino, California, Eugene, Oregon and Gainesville, Florida are good examples.
Some Drawbacks of Special Facilities
Some advocates of separated bicycle facilities imply that it is possible to have a separate parallel transportation network in the United States, linking most destinations with separated bicycle facilities. This is not efficient or possible. Because many good bicycle facilities are ordinary roads, the League does not support general public statements that state or imply that separated bicycle facilities would be generally preferred.
Separated bicycle facilities have become quite popular in the U.S. It is important to understand their appeal, but it is also important to understand their disadvantages. It is difficult, if not impossible, to design a safe-sidepath-style separated bicycle facility in most locations. The reason is that accidents occur at intersections; every driveway or side road is an intersection; and sidepaths greatly complicate those intersections in ways that impact safety. Poorly designed bike lanes and bike lane intersection treatments can have the same adverse effect.
The complex intersections demand that the bicyclist proceed very gingerly, at slow speed, watching for intersecting traffic from unconventional directions. This fact is counter-intuitive, and some riders attracted to separated facilities are unaware of it. Separated multi-use paths are so popular that they are frequently congested. Under these conditions, bicyclists must ride slowly for the sake of safety and courtesy. This, too, is counter-intuitive; many novice bicyclists do not recognize how easily they can go too fast for conditions. The need to ride slowly increases trip times, to an extent that may make these facilities less desirable than use of the road.
Historical Concerns with Special Bicycle Facility Planning
Special bicycle facilities have sometimes been viewed as the only way to provide improved access and mobility for bicycle traffic. These facilities have sometimes been developed in the absence of, or as a substitute for (1) programs for the development or improvement of the road network to accommodate bicycle traffic safely, and (2) efforts to educate the public about vehicular cycling.
In many instances, special bicycle facilities have been poorly designed, inadequately maintained or unnecessary. The problems posed by these facilities have been aggravated in many locations by laws which require the use of these facilities, however unsafe, when they are parallel to an existing road.
Since 1981, the bicycle facilities design standards of the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) have been reasonably good, although not by themselves sufficient to guarantee a good facility. Some bicycle facilities built after that date have not met those standards.Approved by the Board of Directors, November, 2000 and revised March 2005
The League of American Bicyclists reiterates its longstanding position encouraging bicyclists to wear helmets and strongly recommends the wearing of helmets that (a) are properly fitted to the rider and (b) meet the bicycle helmet standards of either the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Society of Testing and Materials, or the Snell Memorial Foundation.
The League recommends that cyclists frequently check their helmets for wear and damage, and replace the helmets every few years and/or in the event of a crash, in accordance with manufacturers' recommendations.
The League recommends that all of its affiliated bicycle clubs encourage their members and other bicyclists who participate in club rides to wear such helmets.
A child carrier or trailer to transport a small (non-pedaling) child as a passenger should include a retention device and protection against the child’s being injured by the moving parts of the bicycle or trailer. In order to foster innovation in such equipment, any restrictions on the minimum age and weight of children who may be transported using such equipment should be written into product instructions and warnings, not into laws.
In states retaining the rule of contributory negligence, protective equipment laws should include a provision to the effect that failure to use such equipment shall not be admissible as evidence of negligence in a court of law.
Controlled studies have shown that a rider not wearing a helmet is between two and three times more likely to suffer a head injury in a crash than is a helmet wearer. The League has encouraged the wearing of helmets via its publications and its education program for many years. Since 1991 the League has required participants in League-sponsored events to wear helmets.
Surveys have shown that 75% to 81% of League members always wear helmets when they ride, and another 9 to 13% wear them most of the time.
Helmets are safety devices which prevent or mitigate head injuries in a crash or fall, not substitutes for education which is aimed at the prevention of crashes and falls.
Properly-designed child carriers (child seats, trailers, etc) make bicycling practical for family transportation, and innovation in such products should be encouraged.Approved by the Board of Directors, December 1985 and amended July, 1990, December, 1990, November 2000 and March 2005
In the 1890's the League of American Bicyclists began the Good Roads Movement to provide safe places for cyclists to ride. The network of paved roads and highways that American motorists enjoy today is the product of that early League campaign.
The League advocates for the rights of cyclists to use our roads and provides safety education to cyclists and motorists alike. Our heritage, and the experiences of thousands of our members who every day share the road with motorists, give us a unique perspective on the plight of cyclists involved in collisions with motorists.
All too often collisions between cyclists and motorists result in cyclist injuries or fatalities. All too often, police and prosecutors fail adequately to investigate such collisions and to pursue justice for injured cyclists or the loved ones they leave behind.
The League calls upon law enforcement authorities to provide treatment for motorist-cyclist collisions that is equal to that provided to motorist-motorist collisions, including:
- Equal reporting of bicyclists’ and motorists’ descriptions of crashes.
- Thorough investigation of all collisions involving motorists and bicyclists by individuals knowledgeable about traffic law and accident reconstruction as they apply to bicyclists.
- An end to the assumption that cyclists are usually at fault.
- Enforcement of traffic laws as they relate to both motorists and cyclists.
- Vigorous prosecution of at-fault motorists who injure or kill cyclists.
Cyclists demand no more than to be accorded the same rights as other lawful users of the roads: safe access, appropriate facilities and maintenance, and protection from negligent and unlawful conduct by fellow users. Our heritage entitles us to no less.Adopted by the Board of Directors, November, 1999; amended June, 2000 and March 2005.
The League of American Bicyclists supports and encourages the use of bicycles for transportation.
The League recognizes the individual, societal and environmental benefits that bicycle transportation offers, especially when such trips represent a transfer to bicycling from personal motorized modes of transport.
The League supports programs which improve the skills and abilities of bicyclists and other road users, which improve the acceptance of bicycling for transportation, which provide incentives for bicycle travel, and which improve the physical environment, making conditions better for bicycling.
The League supports the right of bicyclist access to the transportation system of streets, highways and other facilities—including secure bicycle parking—and the destinations that system serves.
The use of bicycles for personal transportation has repeatedly been found to offer significant personal and societal benefits. Bicycling improves personal health and well-being, especially cardiovascular fitness. In addition, travel by bicycle requires less monetary investment, making it less expensive for an individual and available to a broader segment of the population than personal motorized transport.
Society also benefits from bicycle transportation. Bicycling is non-polluting, energy-efficient, and space-conserving. Programs which encourage purposeful trips by bicycle rather than personal motorized modes of transportation benefit the entire population by reducing traffic congestion, air pollution, noise pollution, fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and parking space required at major destinations. Bicycling has also been shown to promote use of mass transit when adequate facilities for secure bicycle parking and/or transport are provided.
The number of bicyclists nationwide was estimated at 42.5 million in 2000. Although these individuals own bicycles and know how to operate them, it seems that few actually use bicycles for personal transportation. Several factors contribute to this decision not to travel by bicycle. Among these are lack of adequate skills for bicycling in traffic, lack of recognition and accommodation of bicyclists by other road users, inaccessibility of desired destinations caused by unsafe or restricted facilities, lack of secure parking facilities and other amenities such as showers, lockers and changing areas in the workplace. Programs and projects to overcome these disincentives will promote bicycle use for transportation. Bicycling and public transportation complement each other well; bicycle parking at transit stops, bike racks on buses and bike-on-train programs are important incentives for use of both modes.
In densely-developed areas, cycling for travel to nearby destinations may be encouraged by the use of traffic-calming measures to restrict the speed and volume of traffic on local streets. The League encourages urban planning which places needed services close to residential neighborhoods so that they are easily accessible by bicycle.
Even in areas of moderate population density, many useful destinations - schools, churches, parks, playing fields, shopping areas, transit stops, and employment - are at reasonable bicycling distances from residences. However, a major challenge to the use of bicycling is the construction of large residential and business developments which have only one entry point, from an arterial street. The League encourages planning and zoning for four-quadrant connectivity to minimize travel distances for bicyclists and pedestrians. When such connectivity is provided by paths intended only for non-motorized travel, they may also permit emergency access. The League also strongly recommends safe connectivity across major arterials, and improvement of arterials to accommodate bicycle traffic; arterials are the locations of many important destinations, and generally the shortest routes between many points.
Cycling in rural areas is primarily recreational, but accommodating foreseeable development is simpler and less expensive than attempting to retrofit the road network after development has occurred. Also, recreational cycling supports and complements daily cycling for transportation.Approved by the Board of Directors, December, 1985; amended August, 2001 and March 2005
When done properly, bicycle registration can be an effective tool to recover stolen bicycles and deter theft. It can also assist in the identification of crash victims, especially in the case of children who often carry no identification. Where registration is widespread, the practice can assist law enforcement, bicycle coordinators, and other officials in the management of large numbers of bicycles. For example, being able to readily verify bicycle ownership can expedite the removal and return of bicycles that appear abandoned or are parked illegally.
The League of American Bicyclists supports effective bicycle registration programs that do not impose a significant financial or statutory disincentive to bicycling.
Any registration fees should be dedicated to the costs of establishing and maintaining the registration program or to other programs or facility improvements that directly benefit cyclists.
Mandatory bicycle registration should be imposed only where the benefits of and/or necessity for such ordinances are demonstrable and where the penalties for violation are minimal.
Ideally, an effective bicycle registration program includes the following elements:
- Statewide, as opposed to local programs as exemplified by registration programs in Minnesota, Hawaii and California.
- Establishment and maintenance of a statewide database of bicycle registration data.
- Uniform, standardized registration practices and procedures statewide.
- Properly trained personnel who can accurately record the required information, especially serial numbers.
- Use of a serially-numbered license sticker or marking, which serves as an additional identification number.
- Participation by local law enforcement including a commitment to treat bicycle theft equally with other property crimes.
Several commercial, for-profit bicycle registration companies have appeared in recent years. All take advantage of the Internet to provide web-based registration services. While the League recognizes the convenience of on-line registration and that such enterprises may offer the only opportunity for registration in many parts of the country which lack local or state programs, bicycle owners should be cautioned about the pitfalls of "do-it-yourself" registration.
The key to any bicycle registration and theft recovery program is the accurate recording of the bicycle serial number. However, lack of any industry standards for serial-number placement has resulted in a hodgepodge of numbering systems that in many cases practically ensure that the untrained bicycle owner will record the wrong number. Many manufacturers have two or more different sets of numbers on each frame—only one of which is the unique serial number. Other manufacturers put the numbers in unusual or impossible-to-read locations, e.g. under components attached to the frame after the number has been stamped. Many serial numbers are so poorly applied that they are difficult or impossible to read. In short, only people who are properly trained or work with and/or register a wide variety of bicycles regularly are likely to be consistent in correctly recording serial numbers. And the key to any theft recovery program is accurate serial number reporting. Any registration program that makes the bicycle owner solely responsible for recording this information is negligent and only marginally effective.
A new, permanent, engraved marking may serve as an alternative to an unreadable serial number, but may cause structural weakness if located in a vulnerable location on the bicycle, and is not at all suitable for use with certain types of bicycle frame materials (e.g., graphite fiber composite materials). Any such marking must be applied only by a skilled operator and with the full consent of the bicycle owner.Adopted by the Board of Directors, August, 2001; revised March 2005
The League of American Bicyclists strongly supports the enforcement of speed limit laws on all roadways, particularly those where bicyclists may ride or are likely to cross.
Increased speed reduces the ability of a motor vehicle driver to control his/her vehicle on curves and turns. The distance required to stop a motor vehicle also increases with its speed. The difference in speeds between impacting vehicles is a determining factor in the severity of injuries in a crash. All these factors increase the risk of collision and injury for bicyclists sharing the road with motor vehicles travelling in excess of the speeds appropriate for that road.Approved by the Board of Directors, August, 2001 and revised March 2005
Following natural or man-made disasters, or disruptions in transit service, the unique characteristics of bicycling allow it to serve transportation needs that can not be served by other modes. Bicycling does not depend on availability of fuel, and is flexible, personal transportation. It is possible to carry a bicycle past obstacles which block the roads to other vehicles.
The League therefore recommends that emergency response plans should include planning for bicycle use, including:
- Planning for traffic management so as to facilitate bicycle use.
- Expansion of bicycle access where demand warrants (for example, opening a travel lane of a bridge to bicycles where bicycles usually are accommodated only on a bridge sidewalk);
- Including bicycles in the fleet of vehicles used by emergency response teams, particularly, police and medical response teams;
- Training emergency responders in bicycle use.