Bicycle Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


Signs and pavement markings should be kept in good repair to ensure visibility. - Margaret Gibbs - Dan Burden Leaf accumulation in the bike lane can create a slippery surface and hide hazards to bicyclists. - Dan Burden




Repetitive/Short-Term Maintenance

Repetitive and short-term maintenance includes activities such as sweeping, snow and ice removal, landscape maintenance, pavement marking maintenance, drain systems clearance, and pothole repair that must be performed at some routine frequency. Generally this is at least once per year, but some much more often. Such activities are crucial to maintaining safe riding surfaces; adequate sight distances and clearance; and clear and visible markings. Activities such as landscape maintenance, sweeping, graffiti removal, emergency telephone repair, and general trash pick-up also affect the aesthetic environment and promote bicycling through maintenance of a more secure and pleasing environment. Putting routine maintenance measures in place reduces hazards and the need for major maintenance. Regular inspections of structures and general surface conditions should also be performed to detect major maintenance needs.

Maintenance activities related to the safe operation of a facility should always receive top priority. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Maintenance Manual identifies seven maintenance activities that should be carried out on a routine basis:

Signs and Traffic Markings
Signs warning both the motorist and bicyclist should be inspected regularly and kept in good condition; and striping should be kept at minimum conspicuity levels.

Sight Distance and Clearance
Sight distances on parallel roadways and trails should not be impaired leading up to crossings and curves. Trees, shrubs and tall grass should be regularly inspected and either removed or trimmed if they can interfere. Adequate clearances on both sides and overhead should be checked regularly. . Tree branches should be trimmed to allow enough room for seasonal growth without encroaching onto the street or trail.

Surface Repair
Streets and trails should be patched or graded on a regular basis. It is important that finished patches be flush with the existing surface. Skid resistance of the repaired area should be the same as the adjoining surface. Ruts should be removed by whatever measures are appropriate to give a satisfactory result and avoid recurrence. Shoulders should also be kept in good repair.

Appropriate measures should be taken to prevent seasonal washout, silt, or gravel washing across a street or trail. It is also important to watch out for sinking. Installing culverts or building small bridges could be considered a maintenance function to achieve an immediate result and avoid the expense of contracting. Drainage grates should not have parallel openings that could catch narrow bicycle tires. Maintenance personnel should be instructed to ensure that grates are positioned so that openings are at angles to the bicyclists direction and that they are flush with the pavement.

Sweeping and Cleaning
The tires of a bicycle can be easily damaged by broken glass and other sharp objects. Bicycle wheels slip easily on leaves or ice. Sand or loose gravel on an asphalt surface can cause a serious fall. Leaves can hide potholes and other hazards. When mechanically sweeping roadways, there should also be concern that material is not thrown onto a bike lane, shoulder, or trail. Following snow events or icy conditions, additional sweeping may be required if the jurisdiction uses sand or gravel on the roadway.

More and more communities are maintaining trails for year-round use. In part, this is recognition of their use as true transportation facilities. When trails are open during the winter, they need to be plowed and kept ice-free. This strategy relies on a relatively quick response to clear trails before the snow hardens and/or freezes as ice on the trail surface.

Structural Deterioration
Structures should be inspected annually to ensure they are in good condition. Special attention should be given to wood foundations and posts to determine whether rot or termites are present.

Lighting improvements should be made at busy arterials. Once installed, the lights should be maintained to not only ensure reliable operation, but also so they are kept clean and replaced as required to keep the desired luminescence.

A thorough assessment of all bicycle facilities should be performed to generate a list of repetitive and short-term required maintenance activities. Preferably such processes would occur at the design phase so maintenance activities will be budgeted and planned for in advance. Some maintenance activities may be incorporated under regular roadway and public facilities maintenance, although care should be taken to consider the special needs of bicyclists and provide appropriate standards. For example, when repairing utility cuts, the City of Seattle requires an initial paving, then after allowing time for settling, the area is repaved to ensure that the cut area is made level with the surrounding pavement (see case study). Sweeping may also need to occur more frequently for bicyclists than would be necessary for motorists. Road users can also provide a valuable service by reporting deficiencies through online comment submissions and phone messages in near real-time. Institutionalizing regular bicycle facility and shared roadway maintenance practices through scheduling, budgeting, and inter-departmental cooperative agreements will ensure that the needs of bicyclists do not "slip through the cracks."

The Federal Highway Administration's Guide for Maintaining Pedestrian Facilities for Enhanced Safety also provides relevant information, especially the sections that address paths.


Roadways must be kept clear of debris and deterioration to provide a safe and predictable riding surface for bicyclists. Identify, plan, and budget for routine maintenance activities that are critical to 1) maintaining the safety of a facility; 2) protecting the investment in a facility; and 3) protecting aesthetics and the environment.


  • Good maintenance practices preserve the investment in facilities and keep them in safe, useable condition.
  • If facilities are well-maintained for bicyclists, they are apt to be in suitable condition for all shared uses.
  • Annual maintenance needs and costs should be considered at the time facilities are constructed since it is more difficult to secure outside funding specifically for maintenance.
  • Institutionalizing good maintenance practices may increase bicycling and reduce government liability.
  • Develop an annual budget for repetitive maintenance that reflects current and new facilities to prevent unexpected increases.

Estimated Cost

Historic costs provide the best roadmap for determining future costs. When estimating costs, there are four things to consider:

  • Frequency: Reports of hazards on bicycle facilities are going to come in at about the same rate each year with some increase as new bicycle facilities come on line and the number of bicyclists increases. They are also likely to increase in the spring and summer when more bicycling occurs. Getting a handle on the total number is the first step in developing a budget.
  • Types of hazards: Reported hazards should be put into basic categories such as potholes, longitudinal cracks in the pavement, debris that needs sweeping, etc.
  • Cost per incident: Once reported hazards have been put into categories, an average cost per incident can be determined. For example, it is relatively easy to come up with an average cost for fixing a pothole.
  • Budget: The final step is to develop a budget based on the frequency and cost per incident.
Existing maintenance budgets can often be used to cover the costs of fixing hazards. Once a budget has been determined, it may be possible to simply increase existing budgets proportionally. Some communities create separate budgets for addressing bicycle-related hazards.

Safety Effects

A summary of a study that looked at the risk of bicyclist injury in a construction zone can be found here.


To view references for this countermeasure group click here.

Case Studies

Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Green Bay, Wisconsin