Traditional cycle lanes are painted lanes within the carriageway that are suitable for enthused and confident cyclists. The majority of interested but concerned cyclists are comfortable riding in cycle lanes at modest traffic volumes and speeds. Motor vehicle drivers may use the lane in certain circumstances such as to access parking or to turn at intersections or driveways.
Cycle lanes can be located adjacent to parking, next to the kerb (kerbside), and between two traffic lanes (for example, on the approach to an intersection). Contra-flow cycle lanes may be provided on one-way streets.
Buffered cycle lanes involve a painted buffer between the cycle lane and general traffic lane, plus some form of offset to any adjacent parking, and are an alternative option to separated cycleways.
Check whether cycle lanes are a suitable facility for your target users and for the type of road.
A motor vehicle driver must not drive in a marked cycle lane unless the size of their vehicle or load or the presence of a road obstruction means it is impractical to stay outside the cycle lane, and driving in the cycle lane can be done safely and without impeding other traffic(external link).
A motor vehicle driver may drive within a cycle lane if:
The purpose is to cross the cycle lane to make a turn, leave a road, enter a marked lane or line of traffic from the side of the road or another marked lane, or to park in a place clear of a special vehicle lane; or to enter a stopping place or loading zone to pick up or drop off passengers or a load; and
The driver drives in the lane for the minimum length necessary to complete the manoeuvre and for no more than a maximum length of 50m; and
Whilst in some parts of Australia there are cycle lanes that operate as another space during certain hours, this practice is not permitted within New Zealand legislation.
The Road User Rule does not require cyclists to use a marked cycle lane when one is provided. Clause 2.1(1) states, however, that a driver (note that the definition of ‘driver’ includes cyclists) must at all times drive as near as practicable to the left side of the road. This implies when a cycle lane is marked on the left hand side of the road a cyclist should use it although there are exceptions such as if the cyclist is manoeuvring to turn right, or if the cyclist is using an adjacent shared path.
Lane width is one of the most important aspects to consider when designing cycle lanes. The width of cycle lanes varies depending on matters such as whether or not parking is provided, parking turnover rates, road gradient, speed and volume of motor vehicle traffic, the ability to make road space available given the needs of other road users, and physical constraints.
Currently, width guidance is contained in MOTSAM and the NZ Supplement, however the imminent TCD Manual Part 5 will provide consolidated guidance regarding the widths required for specific cycle lane scenarios. In the meantime, best practice guidance is provided below.
Also check the guidance provided by the road controlling authority for the area in which you designing, as their minimum requirements may exceed those outlined below.
Cycle lanes next to the kerb or road edge should be implemented in accordance with the details shown in the table below and its associated notes.
The widths of cycle lanes should be measured from the usable point, which could be the kerb face (where there is no vertical lip (>5mm) formed between the carriageway and the fender) or the edge of a dish channel. An allowance also needs to be made where ramps, that have been provided at vehicle access ways, or sumps extend into the cycle lane. It also assumes that surface conditions adjacent to the gutter or road edge are of a high standard. Where there are poor surface conditions at the road edge, then the width of cycle lanes should be based on usable road space available to cyclists.
Table: Cycle Lane widths next to kerb or road edge or between traffic lanes
Cycle lane widths (m)
Speed Limit (km/hour)
Desirable Minimum Width
When using the table above, the following key width requirements of cycle lanes where no parking exists, are:
The speed limit is used unless the 85th percentile speed is significantly higher.
Interpolation for different speed limits is acceptable.
At least 2.0 m is desirable where the adjacent motor traffic is moving at high speed (e.g. 100 km/h) and there are few large vehicles, or where speeds are moderate (e.g. 70 km/h) and the volume of large vehicles is substantial. This is also the minimum width that will enable cyclists to overtake each other without encroaching into the adjacent traffic lane;
When it is not possible to achieve a wider cycle lane and the adjacent edge is a kerb, then 1.4 m is the absolute minimum width and should only be used in low speed environments, and only along very short sections of the road, say less than 100 m.
When it is not possible to achieve a wider cycle lane and the adjacent edge is transversable (e.g. grass or hard shoulder), then 1.2 m is the absolute minimum width and should only be used in low speed environments, and only along very short sections of the road, say less than 100 m.
A cycle lane wider than 2.5 m is not recommended as it can be mistaken for a traffic lane.
If cycle traffic flows exceed 150 in the peak hour, then sufficient width to accommodate overtaking manoeuvres should be considered.
When greater than 2.5 m of space exists between the kerb and edge line, painted/flush diagonal bars should be provided in the rightmost part of the cycle lane to suggest a cycling area of between 1.5 m and 2.0 m in width, and to separate the cycling area from the general traffic lane. In such cases, the diagonal bars should be at least 1.0 m wide (refer to MOTSAM Part 2, Figure 2.11a [PDF, 2.3 MB]). A solid line on the left hand edge of the diagonal bars could be added.
The cycle lane width should also be considered in the context of the width of the adjacent traffic lane and combined widths of less than 4.6 m avoided.
Parking spaces should desirably be 2.0 m wide as per the table below. Where the combined width of parking space and cycle lane is limited, the parking space should be kept narrow, so that good parking discipline is encouraged, allowing people on bikes to avoid opening car doors.
A parking space width of 2.0 m should only be used if parked cars can easily park up against the kerb, with 1.9 m the absolute minimum width. Wider parking lanes should be provided on roads with steep camber, or on curved sections (where parking next to the kerb is difficult), where there is excess road space available or where heavy vehicle parking is common.
Cycle lanes next to parking should be installed in accordance with the details shown in the table and its associated notes.
When using the table, the following key width requirements of cycle lanes next to parking exists, are:
The speed limit is used unless the 85th percentile speed is significantly higher.
Interpolation for different speeds is acceptable
The absolute minimum width for a cycle lane plus parking should be 3.7 m. This width requires cyclists to ride close to the adjacent traffic lane to avoid potential collisions with car doors. This width is only acceptable where the mean traffic speed is no more than about 50 km/h, most parked vehicles are cars, and parking demand and turnover are low. Similarly, where mean vehicle speed is 70 km/h, the absolute minimum combined width of cycle lane and parking should be 4.2 m.
People require a high level of protection when cycling adjacent to angle parking, and therefore when implementing angle parking the needs of cyclists should be given appropriate consideration.
Cycle lanes should be a suitable distance away from angle parking to encourage cycling in a position that aids visibility between drivers and cyclists and allows cyclists to avoid vehicles that are emerging from a car parking space.
Angle parking is appropriate only where the speed limit is 50 km/h or less. Cycle lanes next to angle parking assist in reminding drivers of the potential presence of cyclists.
Cycle lanes adjacent to angle parking should be installed in accordance with the clearance details shown in the table and the associated typical facility layout shown below. Lanes should be coloured green and marked with standard cycle pavement symbols to enhance their visibility.
Table: Cycle lane clearance from angle parking
Clear space between parked vehicles and cycle lanes (m)
Cycle lane width should be between 1.5 m and 2.0 m.
The provision of kerbed projections or other treatments including channelisation are important in locations next to parking (especially angle parking) when motor vehicle drivers might drive in a parking area when parking demand is light. They should be installed immediately to the left of the cycle lanes at the start of the facility and at frequent intervals to limit the incidence of motor vehicles travelling over, or to the left of, the cycle lane.
Minimum widths should only be used in low speed environments (85th percentile speed of 40 km/h and below) and when it is not possible to achieve a wider cycle lane.
Where ‘reverse-in’ parking is used, the minimum clear space should be 1.0 m.
Cycle lanes at pedestrian crossings:
Refer to MOTSAM Part 2, Figure 4.4 [PDF, 2.3 MB] for recommended cycle lane layouts at a typical pedestrian crossing with kerb extensions, although advanced stop lines (ASL) should be included. It is important that the cycle lane is not terminated prior to the kerb extension and that a taper of not less than 1 in 30 is achieved for the cycle lane where it tapers from a kerbside alignment. Where kerb extensions are provided to ensure sufficient intervisibility, but result in insufficient cycle lane width, more upstream parking could be removed or the general traffic lane narrowed. An ASL as per a normal intersection configuration should be used.
Cycle lanes at bus stops:
Bus stops may be marked where cycle lanes are in a kerbside position if buses are not frequent (fewer than about 10 buses per hour) and if buses stop only briefly. Where the buses are more frequent, alternatives such as taking the cycle facility off road or indenting the bus stop should be considered.
A bus stop used for ‘layover’ must not be provided within a kerbside cycle lane. In legal terms, a cycle lane stops where the bus stop starts, and commences again beyond the bus stop, seeMOTSAM Part 2, Figure 2.11b [PDF, 2.3 MB].
Buffered cycle lanes
Buffered cycle lanes are conventional cycle lanes with a painted buffer space separating the cycle lane from the adjacent parking and / or general traffic lane. These differ from separated cycleways in that there is no physical element to the separation method and people are still riding between parked cars and the traffic lane. The choice to use buffered cycle lanes therefore should consider the target audience, the context the route is travelling through, and the volume, speed and mix of vehicles using the road.
Previous trials have provided some insight into the style of buffer markings that are more likely to be successful. A well-defined line is required at the side adjacent to vehicle parking, so that drivers do not consider the buffer as an extension of the parking zone.
Examples of recently installed buffered cycle lanes in New Zealand are shown below.
Contra-flow cycle lanes
There may be situations where a contra-flow cycle lane could be used to provide for cycling on a route, for example on one-way streets where a bylaw allows this.
This treatment should only be applied in low speed and low volume environments, and where a suitable transition at each end of the street can be achieved. Treatments at any side streets or driveways should also be considered carefully.
The Transport Agency is willing to work with road controlling authorities that would like to use this type of cycle lane in an innovative way.
Many people prefer to avoid hills when cycling. When climbing steep hills, experienced cyclists tend to work the bicycle from side to side and less experienced cyclists tend to wobble. Therefore, where a steep uphill gradient is unavoidable, additional width should be provided to allow for this characteristic. Refer to Section 4.8.3 of Austroads Guide to Road Design Part 3: Geometric Design (external link)for further information.
In the Land Transport Rule: Traffic Control Devices (2004) a cycle lane is classified as a ‘special vehicle lane’. A road controlling authority must, at the start of every special vehicle lane and after each intersection along its length, mark on the road surface a white symbol defining the class or classes of vehicle for which the lane has been reserved.
Cycle lanes marked adjacent to the kerb are not legally required to have no-stopping lines. However, in practice, several road controlling authorities who have historically marked cycle lanes without no-stopping lines have found this to be insufficient. This experience shows that it is preferable to mark no-stopping lines within kerbside cycle lanes. Having a mixture of some kerbside cycle lanes with, and some without no-stopping lines in the same district should be avoided. Even more so, having some parts of a kerbside cycle lane with no-stopping lines and other parts of the same cycle lane without no-stopping lines sends confusing messages to drivers. This is undesirable, and requires either the removal of all existing no-stopping lines in kerbside cycle lanes, or, preferably, the addition of no-stopping lines where they are not marked.
There is a safety risk associated with vehicles parking in cycle lanes as this can result in people on bikes being required to travel out of the cycle lane into the general traffic lane in order to pass parked vehicles.
A paper titled Broken Yellow Lines in Kerbside Cycle Lanes(external link) presented at the 2009 NZ Cycling Conference presented case studies exploring effective management of kerbside cycle lanes, particularly regarding reducing the incidence of illegal parking. The paper established that education and enforcement options are unsuccessful in keeping kerbside cycle lanes free of parked vehicles. It went on to conclude that ‘broken yellow lines need to be installed in kerbside cycle lanes if the objective is to keep these lanes free from illegal parking.’
Whilst the definition of a cycle lane as a special vehicle lane means in theory it is not necessary to mark no-stopping lines in cycle lanes, this situation can be compared to other locations where the Road User Rule prohibits parking. For example, the Road User Rule stipulates that a driver must not stop, stand or park a vehicle within 6 m of an intersection, within 6 m of the driver’s approach to a pedestrian crossing, within 6 m of a bus stop sign, or within 500 mm of a fire hydrant (Road User Rule, Clause 6.4–6.10(external link)). However, these locations are commonly marked by no-stopping lines, or other markings, to reinforce what the Road User Rule requires. This indicates that Road Controlling Authorities do not rely on the fact it is illegal to park in these locations, but instead use markings to reinforce this requirement. It is suggested that the same applies to kerbside cycle lanes; without the no-stopping lines, compliance with the no-stopping restriction tends to be poor.
Note also that the common practice of marking no-stopping lines within 6 m of an intersection (despite the fact that this is not necessary under the Road User Rule) may cause other problems. If a kerbside cycle lane is retrofitted, then a no-stopping line will exist for some length of the new cycle lane, whilst other parts of the cycle lane will not have this marking if the Road Controlling Authority does not add it. This lack of consistency may be confusing for some drivers.
It is suggested that the no-stopping lines could be maintained at a much longer maintenance interval than usual, for example 10 years, as due to their location on the carriageway within the cycle lane, the paint marking will seldom be driven over and as a result will be visible for much longer.
Cycle lane signs may be erected to supplement a cycle lane, but are not legally required. The signage details for cycle lanes if provided is in MOTSAM Part 1, Section 2–28(external link). Signs are not recommended and where the aim is to attract driver attention, coloured surfacing is preferable.
Green coloured surfacing should be used at locations where motorists may be unaware of the likely presence of cyclists, or where motorists are likely to cross over the path of cyclists (for example at intersection transitions or across side streets). It is useful for highlighting the start of a facility and transitions between different types of cycle facility (eg from an on-road cycle lane to an off-road path). Refer to MOTSAM Part 2, Section 2.10. [PDF, 2.3 MB]
There are four green colours in use that are specified in AS 2700 S 1996. These are G13 Emerald, G16 Traffic Green, G26 Apple Green and G31 Verdigris. The first two are blue-green and become dark under yellow sodium street lighting. The latter two having some yellow pigment, remain green under sodium lights.
Examples of where coloured surfacing is recommended are shown below.
Crossfall is the slope of the surface of a carriageway measured perpendicular to the road centreline.
The maximum crossfall for a cycle lane is similar to the crossfall requirements for a traffic lane, which is approximately 2.5-3.0% for a sealed road (refer to Austroads Guide to Road Design Part 3(external link)). When installing a cycle lane on an existing road care should be taken to ensure the crossfall of the section of carriageway within the cycle lane is acceptable particularly on roads with humped profiles such as those with dish channel and/or have been subject to multiple reseals.
Drainage/sump grates are of particular concern as a bicycle wheel may get caught between the bars of the grate or any gap between the edge of the grate and the road surface. In general, grates that are perpendicular to the travel path of cyclists is preferable. However, this is not always possible depending on surface drainage and stormwater considerations. Hence, sump designs with grates in a zigzag or wavy pattern to maximise flow rates whilst minimising the risk of bicycle wheels being caught are now available (see photos below).
Examples of bicycle-friendly sump grates are shown below.
Cycle lanes are generally located in street environments that already have street lighting. If not, it is strongly advised to provide street lighting on key cycle routes. Detailed guidance on lighting design is available in the M30 Specification and guidelines for road lighting design.
Pavement specifications [PDF, 132 KB] for primary cycling routes including cycle-lanes and cycle-paths, shared paths and cycleways, as well as pavement shoulders where cycling demand is high and where a high level of service is desired, have been developed. For a secondary or minor route in a cycling network, a lower level specification may be appropriate.