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This is the part of the roadway that is adjacent to and on the same level as the travel lanes. Adding or increasing the width of paved shoulders can provide improved accommodations for bicycling particularly where vehicle speeds are high or lanes are narrow. Paved shoulders are frequently used on rural roadways.
Design Standards & Guidelines::
  • Paved shoulder width to accommodate bicycling: 4 feet min.
  • Paved shoulder width to accommodate bicycling with adjacent barrier (guardrail, concrete barrier, etc.): 5 feet
  • Painted edge stripe: 4 inches min.
  • Rumble strips clear distance from edge of paved shoulder: 4 feet min.
  • Rumble strip gaps for bicyclists: 40-60 feet interval spacing, 12 feet min. length

Design & Safety Issues to Consider:
  • Shoulder must be paved to be usable by bicyclists
  • Parking can be allowed on paved shoulders unlike bike lanes
  • Additional shoulder width desirable if road speed exceeds 50 mph or bike volumes are high
  • Shoulders improve safety for motorized vehicles and extend service life of road
  • Shoulders on up-hill areas assist slower bicyclists
  • Deterioration occurs at edge of paved shoulder over time
  • Rumble strips not recommended and can make shoulder unusable for bicyclists
  • Shoulder can be signed as bike route (although typically not as a bike lane)
  • In Virginia, bicyclists can legally ride in the travel lane even when a shoulder is present
  • Suggest paving portion of intersecting driveways to prevent gravel spilling onto shoulder
  • Paved shoulders should be provided on both sides of a road
Review Checklist:
  • Adequate shoulder width
  • Paved to edge
  • Paved shoulders on both sides of road
  • Shoulder pavement same thickness/specification as road pavement
  • Design of rumble strips and impact on bicyclists
  • If rumble strips are used, gaps should always be provided to allow crossing by bicycles
  • Adjacent drainage to prevent pooling, washouts and debris accumulation
  • Check for gravel driveways along shoulder

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Guide for Reviewing Public Road Design and Bicycling Accommodations for Virginia Bicycling Advocates