Ride IllinoisRide Illinois

Designing Bike Friendly Roads

Most biking takes place on roads. Making roads comfortable for biking is a top priority of Ride Illinois and our members. Depending on the context, “comfortable” may mean paved shoulders, bike lanes, an off-road sidepath trail, something else – or nothing additional at all.

Ride Illinois has long advocated for bike-friendly roads. We do this by influencing local and state road agencies to adopt a Complete Streets approach at the design policy level. We also work to influence design at the specific project level, either as part of upcoming roadwork or through separate retrofit projects.

Our advocacy has successfully guided the design of bike-friendly roads in urban, suburban, and rural areas all around the state.

What roads near you need to be more bike-friendly? Let us know, and we will explore the possibility of a more bike-friendly road design!

Using Complete Streets Design Policies

“Complete Streets” is a design principle by which all roadway users – motorists, bike riders, walkers, etc. – can safely move along and across a street. With road design policies like Complete Streets, bike-friendly roads are built routinely whenever roadwork occurs. Ride Illinois advocates for Complete Streets policies at all road-building levels of government:

When we advise towns or develop municipal bike plans, we recommend these Complete Streets Guidelines for bicycle and pedestrian accommodation.

We also investigate county and municipal policies and completed roadwork to identify areas for improvement and determine best practice statewide. Some examples include:

More information about Ride Illinois’ Complete Streets design standards and scoring methodology can be found on our Bike Planning Resources page.

Working with the Illinois Dept. of Transportation

Ride Illinois has focused extensively on collaborating with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), due to the importance of state-maintained roads and the state’s approval authority of local road designs. Since its first bike policy in the 1990’s, Ride Illinois has worked closely with IDOT staff and leadership to identify issues and improve policy specifics. Our major collaborations include:

Influencing Specific Road Projects

Ride Illinois uses our knowledge of bike planning and standards to send road agencies detailed input on improving a road design for bikes. These suggestions might cover on-road or off-road bikeways, intersections, and so on. Our Providing Bike Planning Resources page can help you learn what is possible, too.

Bike improvements that are incorporated into larger road projects are usually cheaper than separate projects, so that is our main focus. Asking for design changes must be done early in the planning process – it is too late when the bulldozers arrive. One can find out what resurfacing, reconstruction, expansion, or spot improvement projects are in the pipeline:

  • State (IDOT) projects are in their “Multi-Year Program” – listing or map
  • Towns often have a “Capital Improvement Program” which may or may not be online
  • County departments of transportation may or may not have their upcoming roadwork online
  • Illinois’ 16 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) have Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs) listing federally- and state-funded roadwork in their metro areas over the next three years.

It might be that a bike improvement is needed to a street that is not scheduled for roadwork anytime in the foreseeable future. Letters are also submitted to road agencies requesting separate retrofit projects, if needed.

Whether a road improvement you have in mind would be a separate retrofit or part of other roadwork, let us know about it! If it would make your biking better, it would for others, too.