Non-motorized access on freeways

Non-motorized access on freeways
Freeway entrance sign effectively banning everyone not traveling by heavy motor vehicle.

The concept of a freeway (a public way intended primarily for high speed travel over long distances) has resulted in highways in the USA with engineering features such as long sight-distances, wide marked lanes and the absence of cross traffic. These provide faster and safer travel.

Freeways are usually limited to motor vehicles of a minimum power or weight; signs may prohibit bicyclists, pedestrians and equestrians and impose a minimum speed. It is possible for non-motorized traffic to use facilities within the same right-of-way, such as sidewalks constructed along freeway-standard bridges and multi-use paths next to freeways such as the Suncoast Trail along the Suncoast Parkway in Florida.

In some US jurisdictions, especially where freeways replace existing roads, non-motorized access on freeways is the rule. Different states of the United States have different laws. Cycling on freeways in Arizona may be prohibited only where there is an alternative route judged equal or better for cycling[1]. Wyoming, the least populated state, allows cycling on all freeways. Oregon allows bicycles except on specific urban freeways in Portland and Medford[2].

In countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany, the difference between a normal road and a freeway-class road (motorway/autobahn) is the restriction of low-speed traffic. Many roads are built to freeway standards but are not legally a freeway-class road for this reason. Indeed, some freeway-class roads are downgraded for short stretches where no alternative exists, to allow low-speed traffic; examples in the UK include the Dartford Crossing (the furthest downstream public crossing of the Thames), and the former Cumberland Gap, as well as sections of the A1 not yet designated A1(M), various lengths of the A5, and the entirety of other important and near-motorway-standard links such as the A14, A34, A38, A42, A50, A55... long stretches of which carry 70 MPH (113 km/h) speed limits. The reasons for such designation vary - physical lack of space (A55), restricted budget (e.g. A42 - a full-standard motorway would have been more expensive than an A-road; a motorway with additional service roads further still), or because of legistlative or political wrangling (easier to have A-road construction or upgrade authorised and accepted than a more emotionally-charged "motorway scheme", and does not require issuing of Special Road orders). Continental European non-motorway dual carriageways can have limits as high as 110-120 km/h (68-75 MPH). U.S. Route 23 in Ohio has a speed limit as high as 65 MPH (105 km/h) but isn't legally a freeway-class road since it has no disclaimers saying that low-speed vehicles are prohibited; it also has at-grade intersections like expressway-class roadways.

Research shows 85 percent of motor vehicle-bicycle crashes follow turning or crossing at intersections[3]. Freeway travel eliminates almost all those conflicts save at entrance and exit ramps - which, at least on those freeways where cycling has not been banned, have sufficient room and sight for cyclists and motorists. An analysis of crashes in Arizona showed no safety problems with cycling on freeways. Fewer than one motor vehicle-bicycle crash a year was recorded on nearly 2000 shoulder-miles open to cyclists in Arizona[4].

See also


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