Advisory bike lane, Netherlands. (Photo: Andre De Graff)

A few weeks ago there was an unfortunate trial of a bike facility design known as “advisory” bike lanes. Advisory lanes, sometimes called “suggested” bike lanes are common in the Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium and increasingly North America. There are some good examples from NL in this guest post by Andre de Graaf .

Here’s how advisory lanes work. On narrow streets the centre line is removed leaving a 2-way combined lane ranging between about 4-5m. Wide bike lanes (1.5-2m) are located on both sides. When motorists pass a cyclist they take a more central position in the street. When cars pass each other they do so slowly, crossing the dashed cyle lanes. In the rare occasion when two cars pass when there’s a person on a bike nearby, the car driver slows down until it’s safe to pass. Advisory lanes reinforce an established etiquette in European cities – give way to cyclists, slower vehicle speeds, and sharing road space. Like conventional bike lanes they also communicate the likelihood of people cycling on the street.

Advisory bike lanes are used in low speed, low volume settings where there is not enough width for formal or segregated bicycle facilities. The Dutch CROW manual recommends their use on streets with less than 4,000 vehicles a day. When used in the Netherlands they are strictly implemented in conjunction with lower speed limits and traffic calming measures. On rural roads their use is limited to local roads with no more than 60 kph speed limits. Rural roads in the Netherlands are either 60kph or 80kph and they also have comprehensive speeding enforcement making their analogy to New Zealand tenuous.

This design is being experimented in urban settings in many emerging bike-friendly cities. They are often seen as a hopeful solution to constrained street corridors and limited budgets. The City of Minneapolis (Copenhagenize Bike Friendly City #18, US Bike Friendly City #1, 2015) has recently been using the design and Portland, Oregon has plans to use them on 42 miles of new bikeways.

Advisory bike lanes in Minneapolis. (via StreetsMN).

The North American versions seem somewhat awkward as the streets don’t have the same scale or context as European streets. That said, the Minneapolis project above has had impressive safety results.

The fizzer of the NZTA trial was a unfortunate setback as I see advisory lanes being a useful tool in urban settings to expand bike access coverage into wider residential catchments where vehicle volumes are low and speeds are slow enough for sharing. That said, I have been struggling to think of a place where they might be usefully deployed, until recently.

In Mangere Bridge there is an amazing waterfront street Kiwi Esplanade which I recently discovered.

The street serves as prime cycling route in its own right, but also as it connects up to Ambury Farm, making it a useful cycling link. On my last visit the roadie-type cyclists were using the street, and the more casual cyclists were bumbling along on the windy 1.4m footpath. The later arrangement doesn’t work well as there are also a lot of people walking.

Kiwi Esplanade, Mangere Bridge
Kiwi Esplanade, Mangere Bridge

While Mangere Bridge consists of a well connected grid, most streets are ginormously overscaled complete with motorway barriers, painted medians and other armature of the Manukau era.

Kiwi Esplanade

One thing that makes Kiwi Esplanade viable for sharing is that is mostly insignificant from a wider street network perspective. There are better alternatives to get around the place, to the town centre, and the motorway. The street cross section currently reflects this as well. The street is very narrow ranging between 6m – 9m, and there are also speed humps in some sections.

I could see this being a good street where sharing the carriageway with advisory lanes could work. Below is a mock-up of a segment with advisory lanes and dimensions (streetview).


In addition to a speed limit change to 30kph, it would also require traffic calming treatments at intersections (see below for example). This could be achieved by favouring the network alternatives and slowing through traffic (along Kiwi Esplanade) with chokers and/or raised crossings.

Tarmac, Mangere Bridge.

At some point advisory bike lanes will become a useful tool in expanding the core cycle network beyond the main arterials and in conjunction with enabling slow speed, bike-friendly neighbourhoods. At this point I do wonder if their experimentation is a bit cart-before-the-horse.

In the short term I think it would be better to update our antiquated road rules, institute lower speed regimes, and enable a culture that better respects the rights of all users of the street.

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  1. The problem with the NZTA trial is that they did it in a rural setting that had/has a higher speed limit and likely very few cyclists. Their design also didn’t have the colour coded cycle lanes that clearly show what it is. Instead motorists were confronted with what looked like 1+1/2+1/2 a lane and had a collective WTF?!

    1. Then perhaps they didn’t read the numerous signs approaching the trial that said “NEW ROAD LAYOUT”, “3M LANE – USE SHOULDERS TO PASS”, “GIVE WAY TO CYCLISTS ON SHOULDERS”. Not to mention the 60km/h speed limit that was applied as well. I don’t think “colour coding” the shoulders would have minimised the confusion factor either (and that would have been pretty expensive for a trial); most cycle lanes in NZ aren’t continuously coloured.

      Look, clearly they should have shouted the trial from the rooftops even more than they did (and probably the background context too), so people understood what the point of it was. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the location was perfectly fine for this trial as a suitable low-cost treatment on a narrow low-volume NZ rural road. I mean, this was a trial of two 400m sections of straight road with <1000 veh/day; hardly a recipe for disaster.

      I also agree with the post author that these advisory bike lanes (or "2 minus 1" lanes) would be great in a number of urban environments around NZ too (that was one of my take-aways from my recent Netherlands trip). The Waikato trial however was part of a research project into RURAL cycling safety options.

      1. No Glen. It’s a shit idea and a shit layout for rural roads in this country.

        The above Esplanade thingy looks as though it has potential though, indeed it could make for quit a nice local environment in urban areas.

        One wonders about the need for lower speed limits given the pace 8 and 80 year olds may travel at :p

        1. Please propose your better alternative for these kind of rural roads then? And don’t say “separated cycleways”; we can’t afford to put those on every tinpot country road around NZ; not even the Netherlands does that. I haven’t come across too many other potential solutions around the world; “sharrow” markings could help (and they were trialling those on the same road section too) and speed reduction on its own would also be of value. The user behaviour option would be to introduce the currently topical 1.5m passing distance rule; that would go some way towards solving the problem as well, but it does rely on motorists actually complying with that too.

          1. Just gunna have to share the road like everybody else glen.

            As for road user compliance anybody who uses rural roads knows that’s a 2 way problem.

          2. I think you’ll find people cycling would love to share the road, but the other players don’t want to. There might be some idiots on both sides, but the cycle crash data and the major attribution of fault to motorists would also back up where the REAL problem is…

          3. That’s not true. The bulk of the ‘other players’ dont give a shit.

            As for crash stats, not even going there.

  2. It was all wrong on the high speed long straight stretches of country road where these advisory bike lanes were first trailed. Also I think the cycle lane markings didn’t “say” the right thing – the gaps should have been greater, the dashes shorter so that it was a little more obvious that cars could come over into these lanes.

  3. These aren’t needed in the context you’ve described. Residents will still want to park along here so there is one potential problem. Solution is to build parking bays in front of the houses to narrow the road. Once you’ve done that, assuming vehicle speeds come down as they should (if not, some more traffic tables) the road will be fine to ride without paint.

    1. The other thing we need to be careful of is not following last generation cycle infrastructure ideas. We need to copy current best practice, not what was deemed best practice. Note also that in the top photo from NL there are parking bays outside of the advisory lanes. We already know that removing parking can have a huge impact on delays to projects and is one of the main items behind resident’s complaining about cycle infrastructure. We should work with it rather than simply ignoring it.

  4. It is a very popular day trip destination for families from Mangere/Favona driving to the beach front. In summer it is commonly difficult to find a park on the roadside.

  5. I think you could do it, but you would need to have extensive information and consultation for local residents in order to bring them on board.

    I think that they will resist it if “their” parking is taken away, but luckily in most places along this road there is more than enough room for an advisory lane on either side as well as parking. Speed reduction tables at intersections will also help considerably.

    It’s a concept worth developing.

    1. The local residents would fall in line very quickly, Kent’s proposals are bound to be warmly welcomed as further gentrifying the neighbourhood.

      The local residents are owners of $million plus beachfront property, they’d be delighted with measures dissuading lower income families from visiting “their” beach. Unspoilt views and higher property values do surely follow the adoption of parking restrictions. The local residents would be vigilant in alerting AT to any cars parking on the cycle lanes and these would be kept clear for the enjoyment of cyclists.

  6. We don’t need this loopy stuff in New Zealand.

    We just don’t have flat straight roads with less than 4,000 vehicles per day.

    Transport should be a Horses for Courses approach. There is stuff that we can pick from overseas and implement here but this isn’t one of those ideas.

    1. There’s plenty of streets with not too much traffic here (and they don’t need to be flat). The first location which springs to my mind as suitable for this idea is Queen Street in Northcote Point. Others are Sylvia Road, Northcote, and Killarney Street, Takapuna.

    2. “We just don’t have flat straight roads with less than 4,000 vehicles per day.” – Really? Not in Christchurch, or Palmerston North or Hamilton or any of the other flat cities in NZ with flat topographies that used to be world leading cycle cities? Who says the roads have to be straight?

      There are also plenty of flat streets in Auckland – especially in Manukau where the cycling rates are ironically the lowest.

      Try to work with facts and not your pre-determined bias. It makes having an intelligent opinion much easier.

    3. A great place for the application of these would be the Devonport Peninsula. Seacliffe Terrace, Albert Road and Bayswater Avenue would be good places to start. Roberts Avenue and Vauxhall Road may also be good places to trial them.

      Right now there are sharrows on Seacliffe and others and I think this could be the next step up.

  7. I’d resisted reading about the abandoned bike lane because I assumed that it was abandoned due to reactionary car drivers rather than an unsafe, unsuitable location chosen for a trial. Advisory cycle lanes would need some serious driver education before they can be implemented here I would think.

  8. Great to have cycle-facilities getting media attention. We all learn from the conversation that is being had.
    But why even on this blog post, are people suggesting to copy, but not proposing to design to an equal standard as in the Netherlands, 2.1 + 3.4 + 2.1
    C.R.O.W. – 1996
    Table 4.3: “a one-way cycle-track of 2.00 m or narrower is not a good cycling-facility”

      1. Adjusted CROW standards are not a CROW standards. Explains way Dutch biking infrastructure is safer.
        Why not use CROW as starting point.
        In the Netherlands they design to have 2.0m plus space between Kerb and motor vehicle 1.0m (bike envelope) + 1.0m (passing).
        Why do people think the road markings should not explain what is truly safe.
        The reference to Bike1.2m does not feel or look safe. It is a reference that should be banned from being in design manuals. NZ Highway engineers love it and keep using it at ever opportunity, on any type of road.

        1. I don’t know why they have been adjusted the standards besides the comment that they are not proportional or realistic. From my research, there seems to be a wide range of applicable dimensions. This makes sense as they are solution to fit into constrained corridors with varying contexts. Here are three different streets in Delft with bike sections narrower than 2m.

          Delft 1 http://tinyurl.com/plv8ro9
          Delft 2 http://tinyurl.com/oomj33z
          Delft 3 http://tinyurl.com/oob2pm5

          1. Hello Kent, thanks for replay, could you provide link to manual you used for starting point.
            “they are not completely proportional or realistic”, Probably good reason not to use the above reference. Have driven large motor home (6.97m long x 2.32m wide) throw narrow streets in Holland. I also don’t know why “adjusted CROW values” are needed. From what I have seen in The Netherlands, the Dutch transport engineer is allowed plenty of adjustment using the CROW as a guide.

  9. I like how people always think the on-street parking can be removed just like that… Good luck!..

    Yes, the lane widths of “1.8m-4.0m-1.8m” look wonderful.
    Yes, this is a very low cost solution.
    Yes, there are not a lot of cars parked along Kiwi Esplanade if you take a look on Google streetview.
    Yes, the car parks are on the road reserve and belong to the public.
    But wait until you propose to remove even 10m of parking space there, be prepared to be swamped by the NIMBYs.

    Take a look at the Dutch street in the first picture again. They have indented car parks. Sometimes (unfortunately a lot of times) this makes all the difference when you are trying to install cycle lanes.

      1. And if you believe that part of the locals that will always oppose on-street parking removal, even doing two weeks of daily counts wouldn’t be sufficient to convince them either that their street has little on-street parking demand.

        While Streetview may not be “proof”, it is a strong indicator, especially where it tallies with other factors, such as lack of major localised parking attractors, as well as presence of low-rise residential and off-street car parking availability.

        1. Well I am a local (OK 3 minutes walk from the location) and a lot of the section highlighted (Between Boyd and Short Ave’s) is already no street parking and the rest is only really used if people are having a BBQ. Come ot think of it there are not that many people who park on Kiwi Esplanade.

          My biggest concern are the MAMIL’s that seem to come in from other areas of Auckland and feel they rule the road around Mangere Bridge. It is only a small percentage but man do they get upset if they feel you have done something wrong. Anyway the bikers who are local are a lot nicer.

  10. As a driver I’d rather they took roads away / built separate bikepaths than tried to get this sort of half-and-half, nobody-wins solution.

    It’s like shared spaces – batty. If you want a pedestrian environment then make it pedestrian only. Not rocket science. If you want bikes, then build (protected) bikepaths.

    Footpaths are for pedestrians – fullstop. Not parked cars. Not cars coming in/out of driveways. Peds rule. As with zebra crossings
    Bike paths are for bikes. Not parked cars. Not pedestrians, or cars coming in/out of driveways.
    Roads are for cars and trucks. Not pedestrians. Not bikes except in so far as bikes are equivalent to cars.

    1. If those advisory bike lanes are rolled out, you will normally not encounter them a lot as a car driver, as most of the time you’re driving on arterials and this should only be built in quieter local streets.

  11. If bike lanes are added anywhere they really need to keep the existing yellow no parking lines, as it is not clear at all to most road users. I have cycle numerous times around there and cycle lanes aren’t really necessary. It will just upset the NIMBYs in the area, and there are some of those old-school conservative types around.

    1. If it’s a local street then the best treatment for cycling is a (30km/h) lower speed limit. While some Dutch fietsstraat (“bicycle streets”) use these advisory bike lanes, most local streets there simply rely on a lower speed environment and designs to reduce unnecessary traffic. More cost-effective too.

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