Best planning and implementation toolbox

Multimodal Level of Service - Bicycle Compatibility Measures:

Purpose of Tool:
There are several bicycle compatibility measures that were developed to determine the efficiency of roadways and their accommodation for bicycle travel. These measures are useful in both the planning and design of bicycle facilities, and they include a “stress-level” indicator for bicyclists, a Level of Service (LOS) indicator, and a bicycle compatibility index. These tools more accurately describe the current bicycling conditions. Each of these tools uses a methodology that considers multiple factors that affect bicycle travel.

The stress level analysis tool was initially developed as a method to assess bicycling conditions and how they relate to roadway attributes. In this methodology, characteristics of a roadway such as traffic speed, volume, lane width, and curb characteristics are used in the evaluation. This information is then related to the bicycling skill levels, including child, youth, casual, and experienced, to determine the suitability of each roadway for bicycling.

The “Pedestrian, Bicycle, Auto, Transit Level of Access” (P-BAT LOA) methodology, initiated by the International Bicycle Fund, utilizes the same principles that the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) uses to determine the LOS of a roadway, but instead applies them to the multimodal transportation system, including pedestrian, bicycle, auto, and transit facilities.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) developed its own method of determining the bicycling suitability of transportation facilities, called the Bicycle Compatibility Index (BCI). This is a very detailed, formula-based methodology that takes into account multiple variables to evaluate the efficiency of roadways that incorporate bicycle travel. Much like the HCM model, this method also assigns an LOS rating to the facilities being evaluated.

Benefits of Using Tool:
These tools enable local planning bodies to adequately evaluate the bicycling experience within their jurisdictions. Because Federal regulations require metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to provide multimodal transportation systems, these bicycle compatibility measures are an integral part of the multimodal planning process.

Steps Involved to Use Tool:
Each of these tools has a specific formula or model that is followed to determine the overall bicycling experience. Primarily, they each account for one or more of the following factors:

  • Roadway peak-hour volume
  • Curb lane speed and width
  • Volume of heavy vehicle traffic
  • Presence of a bike lane or bikeable shoulders
  • Presence of driveways
  • Parking turnover
  • Traffic speed
  • Lane width
  • Pavement condition
  • On-street parking

    Special Requirements to Use Tool:
    There are no special requirements or considerations needed to utilize these tools.

    Specials Resources Needed to Use Tool:
    These bicycle compatibility measures require a significant amount of data to evaluate the conditions of the bicycle network. These data may be acquired through on-site collection efforts, or in some locations, it may be available in state or local facility inventories.

    Communities / Agencies that Have Used Tool:
    These bicycle compatibility measures have been successfully used by the following communities and agencies:
  • Nashville-Davidson County, Tennessee: In its Strategic Plan for Sidewalks and Bikeways, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County utilized FHWA’s BCI to determine the suitability of streets with bicycle travel. The City then used these findings to develop a bicycle suitability map for the City and County. For more information, contact:

    Adetokundo Omishakin
    Sidewalks and Bikeways Planner
    800 2nd Avenue South
    Nashville, TN, 37210

  • New York City Department of City Planning: New York City issued their Bicycle Master Plan in 1997, which included a ranking of the compatibility of existing bicycle facilities. In order to accomplish this, the methodology for determining the stress level for bicyclists was closely followed. For more information, contact:

    Amanda M. Burden
    Director, Department of City Planning
    22 Reade Street
    New York City, NY, 10007

    Metrics to Use to Monitor Tool Effectiveness:
    These tools are valuable to agencies and communities because they help to assess bicycle facilities which aids in reaching their goals for bicycle facility planning by providing realistic assessments of current and future bicycling facilities. The tools help to provide more reliable data than was previously available, which is directly beneficial through their use in the following applications:
  • Comprehensive planning
  • Planning bicycle systems and prioritizing projects
  • Evaluating the multimodal transportation system
  • Undertaking the congestion management process

    List of Resources to Obtain Additional Info:
  • Guidebook on Method to Estimate Non-Motorized Travel: Supporting Documentation,” Section 2.15: Bicycle Compatibility Measures, Mozer et al.
  • “Calculating Multi-Modal Levels-of-Service,” David Mozer.
  • The Bicycle Compatibility Index: A Level of Service Concept, Implementation Manual,” FHWA-RD-98-095.
  • New York City Bicycle Master Plan, 1997.
  • Strategic Plan for Sidewalks and Bikeways, Metropolitan Government of Nashville-Davidson County, Tennessee.
  • Federal Highway Association Pedestrian and Bicycle Related Research Reports,