Bicycle Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


Separate shared-use paths provide opportunities for recreational riding for diverse bicyclists as well as potential utilitarian connections. - Laura Sandt - Dan Burden Shared-use paths can offer grade-separated routes through intersections. - Dan Burden




Separate Shared-Use Path

Bike paths and shared-use paths are typically paved bi-directional pathways that are separate from the road right-of-way. Ideally, shared-use paths will follow a distinct course in a separate right-of-way, often along former railroad beds, along water courses or other rights-of-way that usually have few crossing roadways. Paths immediately adjacent to roadways may cross numerous intersecting roads and driveways that create hazards and other problems for path users. There should, however, be sufficient access points from the road network.

Bicycle paths or shared-use paths offer opportunities for recreational cycling and commuting that differ qualitatively from on-street riding. Paths may be designed to flow through natural or scenic areas, connect town to town or even region to region, or allow bicyclists to travel through urban areas away from motorized traffic. Bicycle and shared-use paths also may tend to attract bicyclists with a wide range of skill levels, including young children. A path, even if designed primarily as a bike facility, also likely will attract a mix of other users including pedestrians, in-line skaters, and others depending on location and access. Special care must therefore be taken in the planning and design of such paths to provide a satisfactory experience for bicyclists, and safe sharing of the facility with a variety of users of differing speeds and abilities.

Good planning and design of bicycle and shared-use paths are crucial to provide for safe use, to maximize long-term benefits, and reduce future maintenance problems (such as erosion, water or edge deterioration). Pathways will never replace the road network for connecting to destinations and some bicyclists will prefer the road network for most riding due to the more direct route and fewer conflicts with slower path users. Separate paths may also offer alternative routes for some bicyclists, provided they link origins and destinations or create shortcuts between other bicycle facilities or routes on the street network (e.g., between cul-de-sacs or through open spaces). Creating safe and accessible intersections between paths and the road network is one of the most challenging and critical aspects of design (see path intersection treatments).

A good process that incorporates input from future users and property owners may be the most important element to realizing a path that will maximize recreational and travel benefits and minimize potential problems. Good initial design is also crucial for minimizing future maintenance costs and problems. The process should engage the community so that the facility that is ultimately designed fits with local needs and with the local cultural, natural, and built environments.


A separate shared-use path provides attractive off-roadway recreational or commuting bicycling opportunities and provides additional network opportunities to connect destinations. While the separation from motor vehicles provided by shared-use paths reduces the risk of some crash types, careful design is required to ensure safe roadway and driveway crossings and safe interactions among the different path users.


  • Paths sited along streets present numerous design safety challenges due to intersecting streets and driveways.
  • Good initial design will minimize future maintenance needs as well as access and safety problems.
  • A good public process can help in designing a path that best meets local needs and suits local conditions.
  • Paths should be designed to ensure safety among all path users caused by high use and differences speeds. Typical widths of 10 to 14 ft and grades under five percent are desirable.

Estimated Cost

Costs will vary substantially for shared-use paths, based on the materials used, right-of-way costs, and other factors.

Min. Low
Max. High
Cost Unit
# of Sources (Observations)
Shared-Use Path - Paved
Shared-Use Trail - Unpaved

Many factors, including regional materials and construction costs, topography, complexity of the environment and need for structures, and others affect path costs. For a 10-foot-wide asphalt paved path with signs, minor drainage, and limited urban road crossings, the cost per mile could be around $250,000; but costs as high as $4,288,520 per mile have been reported. Design typically runs about 18 percent of the total construction value.

Safety Effects

A summary of studies that have looked at the safety effects of shared-use paths can be found here.


To view references for this countermeasure group click here.

Case Studies

Portland, Oregon
Santa Barbara, California
Portland, Oregon
Boulder, Colorado
Columbia, Missouri
Greensboro, North Carolina
Research Triangle Region, North Carolina
St. Petersburg, Florida