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A sealed shoulder comprises space and an appropriate surface for cycling outside the general traffic lanes along the edge of a generally un-kerbed road.  They are generally provided on higher speed rural roads.  Sealed shoulders also have other purposes such as pull-off areas for breakdowns.

Check whether sealed shoulders (see Sealed shoulders section) are a suitable facility for your target users and for the type of road.

  • Legal considerations

    Motor vehicles are able to park in sealed shoulders. In comparison, motor vehicles are prohibited from parking in or driving (for more than 50 m) in cycle lanes. Cycle symbol markings in New Zealand indicate the presence of a cycle lane and therefore cannot be used on a sealed shoulder. Where cycle symbols are used, the sealed shoulder thus becomes a cycle lane.

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  • Concept design considerations


    Where a sealed shoulder is provided for cycling then the table below, from the Specification for Design, Construction and Maintenance of Cycling and Shared Path Facilities , and its associated notes apply. This could also be used for local road networks. Note that zero shoulder widths may not be applicable where Interested but Concerned cyclists are using network.

    Table 1: Target shoulder seal width for state highway cycling network

    Target shoulder seal width for state highway cycling network

    50 km/h

    70 km/h

    100 km/hr

    Minimum adjacent traffic lane width

    3.0 m

    3.3 m

    3.5 m

    1-1000 AADT

    0.0 m*

    0.0 m*

    0.0 m*

    1000-2000 AADT

    0.75 m

    0.75 m

    0.75 m

    2000-5000 AADT

    1.0 m

    1.0 m

    1.0 m

    5000-8000 AADT

    1.2 m

    1.5 m

    1.5 m

    8000-18,000 AADT

    1.5 m

    1.7 m

    2.0 m

    18,000+ AADT

    2.0 m

    2.0 m

    2.2 m


    1. The speed limit is used unless the 85th percentile speed is significantly higher.

    2. Interpolation for different speed limits is acceptable.

    3. For lower volume roads (less than 2000 AADT) that have high proportion of heavy vehicles, consider providing additional seal width especially where the roads are used by vulnerable road users (eg elderly, children, etc)

    4. For any isolated fixtures (poles, furniture etc) or continuous obstacles (walls, barriers) adjacent to the shoulder, additional ‘shy distance’ should be added to the above values.

    When cyclists use sealed shoulders care must be taken to ensure that the shoulder is continuous and ideally maintained alongside passing lanes and across bridges, culverts and other infrastructure to ensure cyclists are not put at risk by being moved closer to motor vehicles travelling at high speed. Any lack of continuity should be identified and suitable treatment or warning provided for all road users. For example, electronic warning signs may be used to warn motorists that cyclists are present on narrow road bridges. Refer to the Appleby bridge case study.

    Parking on rural road shoulders should be discouraged in areas of high tourist interest and off-road parking provided, to maintain safety for cyclists using the shoulder.


    Many people prefer to avoid hills when cycling. When climbing steep hills, experienced cyclists tend to work the bicycle from side to side and inexperienced 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.

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