Trails & Bikeway Master Plan Template

This template is designed to assist in the development of local community master plans for on-street bikeways and off-street paths/trails in the North Central Texas Region. These recommendations serve as guidance, and are intended to provide consistency throughout the region for seamless integration into the Metropolitan Transportation Plan, Mobility 2045.

For communities, it is recommended to combine or link together both a trail and on-street bikeway plan. Nonetheless many communities choose to develop separate on-street bikeway plans and trail plans. In many communities, trail plans are developed and implemented by parks and recreation departments and on-street bikeway networks are developed and implemented by Public Works or Streets Departments. Ongoing communication between groups is essential in the development of the entire network. It is important to understand who will develop and maintain “sidepaths” (a shared-use path or trail adjacent to a roadway), which are often built within the road right-of-way. On-street bicycle plans should also be closely coordinated with agency thoroughfare plans to identify opportunities for current and future facilities.

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Planning Process (Click to expand)
This section provides a planning process that can be used as a guide to formulate a local community plan. For more information on the planning process for a local community plan, see Chapter 2 of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities 2012 Fourth Edition.

I. Plan Committees and Public Process

  • A variety of committees may be used to provide support, technical information, and guidance for the plan for the plan. The committees should include city staff and members of the community who have an interest in improving bikeways and trail facilities.
  • Public involvement is needed to understand and illustrate the user needs of all ages and abilities. It can include input from community surveys, newsletters, and/or at least two or more public meetings, and other means of public feedback.

II. Coordination with other Documents and Planning Policies

  • Conduct a review of city policies, ordinances and processes regarding bicycle facilities.
  • Speak with other agencies such as the county, TxDOT, and NCTCOG to coordinate plans and policies at the local and regional level.

III. Planning Bicycle Transportation Networks

Conduct an analysis to determine where improvements are needed to connect important destinations. This is a multi-step process where choices should be made regarding which improvements receive priority, and what level of accommodation each will receive. See AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities 2012 Fourth Edition Chapter 2.5 for more guidance.
  • User Needs - Balance the full range of needs of current/future bicyclists and trail users of all ages and abilities.
  • Traffic Volumes, Vehicle Mix, and Speeds - Motor vehicle traffic volumes, vehicle mix, speeds, and driveways should be considered. Some bicyclists may avoid areas with high speeds, high volumes of traffic, and frequent driveways unless a facility offers some separation from traffic. Bicyclist may desire to use major roadways because their directness typically make them more efficient routes.
  • Overcoming Barriers - Overcoming constraints and physical barriers such as freeways or waterways should be considered when developing a plan. A single barrier may make an appealing route undesirable. Input from local bicyclists, along with a field analysis of major highway crossings, railroads, and river crossings, can help identify major barriers.
  • Connections Between Destinations - Bikeways should allow bicyclists to access key destinations, such as large employers, parks, schools, shopping, transit connections, and other uses.
  • Directness of Route - A bikeway should connect to locations with the most direct route as feasible.
  • Logical Route - Does the planned bicycle and trail network make sense? A network should include facilities that bicyclist already use, or have expressed interest in using.
  • Intersections - Bikeways and trails should minimize the number of stops as feasible. If bicyclists and trail users are required to make frequent stops, they may avoid the route or ignore traffic control devices.
  • Aesthetics - Scenery should be taken into account along facilities. People tend to prefer more attractive areas, and trees can provide shade in warmer months.
  • Spacing or Density of Bikeways - A bicycle network should be planned for maximum use and comfort, and thus should provide appropriate network density relative to local conditions.
  • Safety - Analysis of crash data and reviews of crash reports may aid in identifying where improvements to the bicycle transportation network are needed based upon safety experience.
  • Security - Security issues are important to consider especially for sections of shared use paths that are not directly visible from roads and neighboring buildings. Security measures may include increased lighting, Emergency Call Box System, and an Emergency Locator System (911 location signs placed along a trail to assist trail users identify their location to dispatchers so emergency services can respond to incidents without delay).
  • Overall Feasibility - Decisions regarding the location of new bikeways and trails may also include an overall assessment of feasibility given physical right-of-way constraints.

IV. Technical Analysis Tools

Technical analysis tools may assist in the planning process of on-street bikeways and off-street trails and pathways. Listed below are technical analysis tools with information and graphics to communicate existing conditions and opportunities. For more information, reference AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities 2012 Fourth Edition Section 2.6.
  • Conduct data collection and a flow analysis for bike count data to determine future needs. Cities regularly collect and analyze data on motor vehicle traffic (average daily volumes, peak hour volumes, turning movements, and speed) to determine such items as number of travel or turn lanes, and signal timing. Bike-related data collection can also be used in this way. More information about data collection and flow analysis is available at the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project.
  • Quality of service (or Bicycle Level of Service (LOS)) tools can be used to inventory and evaluate existing conditions, or forecast future conditions for bicycling under different roadway scenarios. A variety of bicycle compatibility criteria have been created to quantify how compatible a roadway is for accommodating safe and efficient bicycle travel. Bicycle LOS evaluates bicyclists’ by safety and comfort with respect to motor vehicle traffic while traveling in a roadway corridor. To evaluate Bicycle LOS, a mathematical equation is used to estimate bicycling conditions in a shared roadway environment. This modeling procedure calculates a user comfort rating, from factors such as curb lane width, bike lane widths and striping combinations, traffic volumes pavement surface condition, motor vehicle speeds, presence of heavy vehicle traffic, and on-street parking. For more information, reference the Real-Time Human Perceptions Toward a Bicycle Level of Service and the Highway Capacity Manual 2010.
  • Conduct a safety analysis to review crash trends, which will help to choose and create safer facilities. By analyzing crash data, planners may target specific areas by understanding the combination of conditions that could be creating high crash rates. When using crash data to determine potential locations for improvements to reduce crash frequency or severity, it is important to review at least three years of data in order to account for anomalies that might occur in a single year. The Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool (PBCAT) is a software product developed by the Federal Highway Administration that can be used to develop and analyze a database containing details associated with crashes between motor vehicles and pedestrian or bicyclists. The Bicycle Intersection Safety Index can be used to evaluate individual intersection approaches and crossings.
  • Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to quantify the impact of new facilities. Discuss the findings in terms that are clear to understand for the general public, elected officials, and other key stakeholders. A cost-benefit analysis tool for bicycle facilities can be found at the Pedestrian Information Center.

Recommended Facility Types and Terminology (Click to expand)
The following overview outlines the type of facilities recommended for local plans in the North Central Texas Region based on the AASHTO Guide and the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). Comprehensive transportation plans may also include other types of walking and bicycling facilities for local mobility based on the context of the area in which they are located. For a more detailed reference of this information please review the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities 2012 Fourth Edition Chapter 2, and the bicycle and pedestrian facilities type overview developed by NCTCOG based on AASHTO and NACTO guidance.

I. On-Street Facility Types

  • Bicycle Boulevard - A street segment, or series of contiguous street segments, that has been modified to accommodate through bicycle traffic and minimize through motor traffic.
  • Bike Lane - A portion of roadway that has been designated for preferential or exclusive use by bicyclists by pavement markings. It is intended for one-way travel, usually in the same direction as the adjacent traffic lane, unless designed as a contra-flow lane. Bike lanes are typically 5-7 feet in width and should be determined by the context and anticipated use including the speed, volume, and type of vehicle in adjacent lanes.
  • Cycle Track - Space that is intended to be exclusively or primarily used for bicycles, and are separated from motor vehicle travel lanes, parking lanes, and sidewalks. Cycle tracks may be one-way or two-way, and may be at street level, at sidewalk level, or at an intermediate level. They may be designed as “protected bike lanes” using planters, curbs, parked cars, or post to separate bicyclists and auto traffic on busy streets.
  • Paved Shoulders - The portion of the roadway contiguous with the traveled way that accommodated stopped vehicles, emergency use, and lateral support of sub-base, base and surface courses. These facilities are generally used in rural areas for bicycle accommodations on roadways with higher speeds or traffic volumes.
  • Shared-Lanes and Marked Shared-Lane - A lane travel way that is open to both bicycle and motor vehicle travel, and can include a pavement marking symbol that indicates an appropriate bicycle positioning in the lane. These facilities are generally used on space-constrained roads upon which marked bike lanes are not feasible. Shared lanes with no special provisions are on minor roads with low volumes of traffic where bicyclists can share the road. Shared lanes with wide outside lanes are on major roads where bike lanes are not selected due to space constraints or other limitations.

II. Off-Street Facility Types

  • Shared Use Path (Trail) - A bikeway physically separated from motor vehicle traffic by an open space or barrier and either within the highway right-of-way or within an independent right-of-way. Shared use paths located adjacent to a roadway are called sidepaths. AASHTO recommends typical widths ranging from 10 feet to 14 feet, with the wider values applicable to areas with high use and/or a wider variety of user groups.

III. Other Local Facilities Not Included in AASHTO and NACTO Guidance

  • Nature and Equestrian Trails - Trails that have a permeable surface typically located in areas where a natural experience is desired, or area where constraints prevent the building of paved surface trails.
  • Private - Privately maintained shared use paths and sidewalks. Typically located on private property or within a subdivision and maintained by a Property Owners Association.
  • Signed Bike Route - A signed bike route is typically designated along more lightly traveled residential or secondary roads and is indicated by signs with or without a specific route number.
  • Wide Sidewalks - Wide sidewalks have a greater width than standard sidewalks to accommodate higher volumes of users. However, the facility width does not comply with AASHTO guidelines for a shared use path that safely accommodates a range of non-motorized users.

On-Street and Off-Street Bike Trails/Pathways Template (Click to expand)
The following are plan contents usually included in a comprehensive trails or bikeway plan. Each section listed below contains a title, followed by supporting sections. The sections provide a brief overview on how they relate to a plan, and what can be expected when implementing the plan.

I. Executive Summary

 A brief overview of the plan, providing the reader a clear and concise snapshot of the plan and its recommendations.

II. Introduction

  • Purpose - State why the plan is being written, and why it is important. Provide an outline to the reader of what is included in the plan, and how it relates to other local plans, policies, and regulations.
  • Plan Background - Provide a brief history of previous plans in the city, and how those plans influenced the new plan.
  • Stakeholders - Identify the key stakeholders for plan preparation and implementation.

III. Existing Conditions

Provide an analysis of the existing conditions of all bikeway and trail facilities. If no existing facilities exist, discuss the barriers in place which may have prevented facilities from being established.

IV. Guiding Principles

  • Plan Vision - Express what the community believes are the ideal conditions for the plan. This identifies how the network would look if everything in the plan is executed, as planned. Vision statements typically consist of a few sentences or short phrases which will express the community’s optimism for the future.
  • Goals and Objectives - Goals and corresponding objectives are critical for a plan, and are encouraged to be written as SMART goals (Smart, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound), with specific objectives meeting each goal.

V. Bikeway/Trail System Master Plan

  • Introduction - Introduce the physical network of the plan. Provide an overview of the type of facilities chosen, the connections that will be made, the trail or bikeway connectivity, traffic conditions, and end-of-trip-facilities.
  • Network Overview and Facility Types -
    • Provide an overview and a map of the recommended bikeway/trail plan network. This may include infrastructure and facility improvements which can address the needs for all bicyclists, taking into account the different comfort and skill levels, as well as facility use.
    • Provide a statistical summary of the network. The summary can include a breakdown of the type of existing and recommended facilities, along with the mileage count for each facility, and the overall mileage count for both on-street bikeways and off-street trails/paths. Include definitions and examples of the different facility types in the plan, including typical cross sections.
  • Significant and Signature Facilities - Recommend facilities that are significant and signature in design. These facilities may represent critical connections, or may serve as important thoroughfares for the network.

VI. Programs and Education

  • Bicycle Safety Program - This section can include areas that have a high concentration of bicycle related incidents and the data collection process that tracks these incidents. Discuss how safety can be improved and what programs can be established to improve safety. Coordinating with law enforcement and a discussion of city ordinances may assist in safety improvements and establishing safety programs.
  • Encouragement and benefits of a bike network - Provide an overview of the kind of benefits expected through implementation of the plan, such as: public health, air quality, transportation and commuting, recreation, community, and economic benefits.

VII. Implementation

  • Implementation Strategy
    • The implementation strategy should tie together the goals and objectives and clearly explain specific tasks and responsible parties for implementation.
    • Recommend policy changes that support the plan, which may include zoning and land development policies.
  • Implementation Schedule - Create a schedule that prioritizes the implementation plan and phasing, including short-term projects, medium-term projects, and long-term projects. As a guide, short-term is typically within two years, medium-term is typically within three to five years, and long-term may be six years and beyond.
  • Funding - Identify the funding requirements needed to execute the plan, including any recommended funding sources and strategies for execution. Also identify any sponsors and their commitments to the plan.
  • Performance Measures
    • Identify how the plan will be measured on performance. This is typically when commitments are showcased.
    • These performance measures tie into the SMART goals and objectives previously defined. In these performance measures, accountability and ownership is typically assigned for future performance measurements.

VIII. Appendix Sections

Supporting information and data may be included in an appendix such as: tables, charts, and maps, the public involvement process, in-depth funding information, related cross sections, definitions, and any other relevant information.