How to Use the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide for Local Project Advocacy

At our second Project Advisory Council meeting, Alta planner Nick Falbo gave the group an overview of the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. NACTO, the National Association of City Transportation Officials, is focused on transportation issues in the urban environment. As part of their Cities for Cycling initiative, they produced a formal design guide on innovative bikeway treatments to supplement the guidance contained in the federal road design manuals: the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), governing signing and marking on all roads, and the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities (“Green Book”), which covers bicycle-specific facilities.

Both the MUTCD and the AASHTO Guide focus on traditional bikeway designs, including bike lanes, paths, and sharrows, while the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide aspires to go “beyond the bike lane.” Offering a formal Guide allows cities and other jurisdictions to adopt the Guide as part of their own design guidelines, streamlining the process of testing and implementing new bikeway designs. Formal adoption is important because, for safety and liability reasons, engineers are often reluctant to install treatments that are not approved by local or national authorities.

Because the NACTO Guide, although it can be used by local authorities, is not approved by the federal government, any treatments described by the guide that are not also approved in the MUTCD or AASHTO Green Book cannot be installed with federal funding. For example, sharrows can be installed with federal funding, but cycletracks cannot. The State of Oregon has approved bicycle signals, but most other states have not.