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Glossary of Bicycle Transportation Terms





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NOTE: This glossary is somewhat US-centric, we acknowledge this but feel it still has value to a worldwide audience.

AASHTO - American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials

The AASHTO develops and publishes design standards and guidelines for such things as bridges, highways, urban roads and other transportation structures. One of its documents is, "Guide For Development of New Bicycle Facilities." This document is frequently referred to as "AASHTO". A more comprehensive AASHTO document is the "Green Book". It is the bible for road design, except it omits standards for bicycle friendly roadways. It is currently being revised to include more of a bicycle-friendly message.


  1. A bicyclist’s general ability to travel to destinations in his or her community. Because this generally requires using an infrastructure designed for automobiles it implies an evaluation of how bicycle-friendly the road infrastructure is.
  2. Opportunities to get to and from a non-motorized facility.
  3. The right to use Forest Service and DNR roads and trails, and similar unpaved backcountry roads and trails, for bicycling.

A wide variety of legislative and government rule-making mechanisms can threaten access.


See "Crash".

Activity Center

A public or private facility which acts as a trip generator.

ADA -Americans with Disabilities Act

Requirements for ensuring equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation and accessibility.


The "line" which a facility follows.

Amenity (Factor)

Any design feature of a bicycle facility over and above what is deemed a basically safe design which induces greater use.  Example: weather protected parking and scenic view points.


The scenic and aesthetic value of a facility.

BAC - Bicycle Advisory Committee or Bicycle Action Committee

Bicycle Advisory Committees are usually part of government, advising at the municipal, county or state level.  Bicycle Action Committee are usually part of non-governmental organizations -- activist clubs, coalitions, federations, etc.

Barriers To Travel

Barriers usually refers to natural (hills, lakes, rivers) or man-made (freeways, bridges without sidewalks, neighborhood traffic control devices) obstacles to through traffic or access.

Bicycle Access

The ability of bicyclists to have access to roads and trails. See"Access".

Bicycle Facility

Bicycle Facility—A general term denoting improvements and provisions made by public agencies to accommodate or encourage bicycling, including parking facilities (Class I, II, III), maps, and all bikeways (Class I, II, III, IV). See "Classification Of Bicycle Facilities" And "Classification Of Bicycle Parking".

Bicycle Transportation Specialist (Bts)

A person trained in the planning and implementing facilities and programs specifically for bicycle traffic and bicyclists.


Generic term for any of several classifications of bicycle facilities.


Wood or metal posts that engineers like to put in the middle of bike paths to restrict access of motor vehicles.


Maximum number of bicycle which has a reasonable expectation of passing a given point, during a given period, under existing facility conditions.


Fixed objects projecting into the travel lane, such as curbing or fencing, requiring the user to weave a tight course between them.

Chip Seal

A chip seal are an inexpensive alternative to an asphalt overlay for road repair. Tar is put down and then rock chips or gravel are spread over and pressed in. The result is a very rough surface.

Classification Of Bicycle Facilities

Separate Facility (a.k.a. Class I) - A non-motorized facility, paved or unpaved, physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or barrier. Also called Bicycle Path, Bike Trail, Non-motorized Trail, Multi-purpose Trail or some combination thereof.

Bike Lane (a.k.a. Class II) - A portion of a roadway that is designated by striping, signing and pavement markings for the preferential or exclusive use of bicyclists. Most often these are done in couplets, each one being one way and adjacent to the outside through travel lane. Also called Bicycle Lanes.

Bike Route (a.k.a. Class III) - A segment of road designated by the jurisdiction having authority, with appropriate directional and informational markers, but without striping, signing and pavement markings for the preferential or exclusive use of bicyclists. Also called Bicycle Route.

Bike Friendly (a.k.a. Class IV) - A roadway not designated by directional and informational markers, striping, signing nor pavement markings for the preferential or exclusive use of bicyclists, but containing appropriate bicycle-friendly design standards such as wide-curb lanes and bicycle safe drain grates.

Classification Of Bicycle Parking Facilities

Long Term Parking (a.k.a. Class I) - Bicycle parking facility intended for long-term parking and protected against theft of the entire bicycle and its components and accessories. Three common ways of providing Class I bicycle parking are:

  1. fully enclosed lockers accessible only by the user;
  2. a continuously monitored facility that provides at least Class II bicycle parking facilities;
  3. a restricted access facilities in which Class II racks are provided and access is restricted only to the owners of the bicycles stored therein.

Medium Term Parking (a.k.a. Class II) - Bicycle parking facility intended for medium- or short-term parking and consisting of a stationary object in which the user can lock the frame and both wheels with a user-provided lock. The facility should be designed to protect the lock from physical assault.

Short Term Parking (a.k.a. Class III) - Bicycle parking facility intended for short-term parking, consisting of a stationary object to which the user can lock the frame and both wheels with a user-provided 6 foot cable (or chain) and lock.


Lateral - Width required for safe passage of a bicycle as measured in a horizontal plane.

Verical - Height necessary for the safe passage of a bicycle as measured in a vertical plane.

Climatological Elements

Weather as it affects bicycling in either a positive or negative manner, including temperature, precipitation, humidity and wind.

COG - Council of Government


Cone of Vision

The area of roadway and roadside visible to a cyclist when riding seated, with hands on the handlebars and eyes in the direction of travel.


Pertaining to:

  1. Physical continuousness of a route or facility.
  2. Consistency in level of riding difficulty of a route or facility.
  3. Consistency in class of a route or facility.

Crash Or Collision

A crash or collision, in fact reflect a mistake or combination of mistakes and are, as such, not "accidents". In terms of the bicyclist, collisions may involve the ground, a fixed object (e.g. a tree or bollard), a pedestrian, another cyclist, a parked or moving motor vehicle or an animal. They usually involve a mistake(s) on the part of users and/or the facility designers.

Cross Section

Diagrammatic presentation of the right-of-way profile which is at right angles to the centerline at a given location.


Interfering with continuous progress.

Design speed

A speed determined for design and correlation of physical features of a bikeway that influence bicycle operation.  It is the maximum safe speed that can be maintained over a specified section of bikeway when conditions are so favorable that design features of the bikeway govern.


Data and facts which govern the location and design of a facility.


An evaluation of how efficient a route is, or an evaluation of the alignment of a facility.

DOT - Department of Transportation

Historical call the Highway Dept, Roads Dept, or Public Works Dept and focused primarily on SOV needs on the roads under their jurisdiction, now-a-days they usually give at least a little attention to the needs of alternative modes of transportation as well.

Effective Cycling

Effective Cycling is a comprehensive bicycle safety education program sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists. Email:  Internet:  The Canadian equivalent is called "Can-Bike".

Employment Hub

A high density area of business and/or commercial establishments.

Engineering Study

The process of gathering, compiling and studying relative information for the purpose of producing a conclusion concerning a given problem.  Likewise applies to Planning Study, Location Study, etc.


As related to bikeways, it is the proportional measurement of materials and land use which comprises the physical design of the facility.

GIS - Global Information System

GPS - Global Position System

Grade Separation

  1. Vertical isolation of travel ways through use of a structure so that traffic crosses without interference.
  2. Spatial separation of two facilities.

Intermodial Transfer Point

Any location at which a user changes from on transportation mode to another.

Level of Service

In bikeway operation, this is a qualitative measure indicating the effect of factors such as speed, travel time, safety, travel interruptions and maneuverability.  See also Calculating Multi-Modal Levels-Of-Service


The process of educating an official, elected or appointed, on your point of view. It is best viewed as a long-term process where long-term goals should not be sacrificed for short-term gains. The four rules of lobbying are: Don’t lie. Don’t threaten. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Don’t give up.

Master Plans

Master plans generally extend five or ten years into the future and guide an agency’s normal, non-emergency activities. Plans set priorities for allocating staff resources and spending money. Typical types of master plans that will include some kind of bicycle element include transportation plans, open space plans and park plans. Master plans that may substantially affect cycling are land use plans and zoning plans.

Minimum Energy Path

The route between two given points requiring the least amount of energy for a cyclist to traverse.

MPO - Metropolitan Planning Organization

Usually a multi-jurisdiction or regional, long range planning coordination organ.

Multi-Modal Travel

A trip that involves more than one mode of travel (in addition to pedestrian) is multi-modal travel. Generally, for bicycling this has come to mean being able arrive at a station and to travel along with one’s bicycle on transit, ferry or rail service.

MUTCD - Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Device

A manual with specification on signage, signals and other traffic control devices, for the USA.

NHTSA - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

A division of the USDOT that is responsible for making road travel safer.

ODS - Origin-Destination Study

A survey of facility users made to determine trip frequency and termini.


New layer of asphalt put down on an existing road as restoration.


Set of physical components whose values determine the characteristics or behavior of a system.

Pavement Markings

Painted or applied line(s) or legend placed on any travel surface for regulating, guiding or warning traffic.

Public Hearing

Public hearings are highly visible meetings where the public can give testimony to public officials holding the meeting. They are an opportunity for proponents and opponents to show the strength of their position by mustering the troops. They are not a substitute for longer term lobbying and working relations with the officials.


Railbanking is one mechanism for converting rail corridors that are not currently being used as active railroads to other purposes without actually "abandoning" the line. It is a procedure and series of agreements where the railroad puts the corridor into "savings" with a local government which "lends"

it out and allows the public intermediate use of the corridor. Under the agreement it is understood that should the railroad want to use the corridor again for a railroad they can "withdraw" the corridor from the "bank." The law providing for railbanking was upheld unanimously by the United States Supreme Court in 1990.


The conversion of abandoned railroad right-of-ways to non-motorized trails. Such trails may be public or private; free or requiring a user fee. In the USA, much of this effort is being spearhead by the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy.

Raised Traffic Devices

The ceramic disks and bars that are glued to pavement to channel traffic. Also known as "buttons," "turtles" and "slugs," depending upon their shape.

RFP - Request for Proposal

RFQ - Request for Qualifications


  1. A term denoting land, property or interest therein, usually in a strip, publicly acquired for or devoted to transportation or utility purposes.
  2. The designation of who has preference when two vehicle approach a single point. See "Rules of the Road."

Rules of the Road

That portion of a vehicle law which contains regulations governing the operation of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.  Theoretically, to improve safety and efficiency, these are uniform for a large area.  If laws are different in different jurisdictions good drivers in one place can become dangerous simply by crossing a a political boundary.  Among the important tasks of the rules of the road is to eliminate ambiguity.  In every traffic situation the combination of facility design and traffic laws should make it unambiguous who has the right-of-way.


Relating to the threat of crashes or collisions. See "Crash".


Personal well-being and the safekeeping of property.

Shy Distance

A space along side or above a facility to any fixed object (trees, limbs, poles, signs, beams, walls, fences, guard rails or drop-off.)

Sidepath Laws

Laws that require bicycles to use paths adjacent to roadways when separated facilities is provide, regardless of their level of safety or convenience. Many of these laws have been repealed, but there are periodically local attempts to enact new ones.

Sight Distance

A measurement of the user's visibility, unobstructed by objects, along the normal travel path to the furthest point of the roadway surface.

SOV- Single Occupancy Vehicle

Motor-vehicle with only a driver and no passengers.

Stopping Sight Distance

The total distance traveled from the instant a vehicle operator sights an object to the time the vehicle comes to rest.  Perception time, plus reaction time and braking distances equal stopping sight distance.


The ends of a trip.  A trip's beginning and its end location is known as a terminus.

Traffic Calming / Traffic Diet

This is a form of "traffic management" and involves actions to reduce and slow motor vehicle traffic, usually in residential neighborhoods. Techniques for traffic calming include; preventing through traffic, installing traffic circles, narrowing the street, using a rougher road surface, planting street trees, or building speed bumps.

Traffic Control Device

Signs, signals or other fixtures, whether permanent or temporary, places on or adjacent to a travelway by authority of a public body having jurisdiction to regulate, warn or guide traffic.

Traffic Flow Pattern

Graphic presentation of vehicular and / or pedestrian movement for a given time on a given street.

TRB - Transportation Research Board

A division of the National Research Council, which serves as an independent adviser to the federal government and others on scientific and technical questions of national importance.  They promote research and innovation in transportation.  They have standing committees to address bicycle and pedestrian issues.

Travel Generators

Particular areas or locations that offer trip destination points to the utilitarian cyclists:  For example libraries, schools, recreation areas and work centers.

Use Conflicts

Encounters with other traffic on a facility that cause delays or in extreme cases, collisions. Often referring to real or perceived conflicts between users of different modes.


The given number of vehicles that pass a given point for a given amount of time (hour, day, year.)


A minimum requirement for justifying the authorization of a traffic control device, for example; traffic volume, accident statistics and existing design.



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