Bike Paths and Bike Routes


Amy asked: I am a bike advocate for the city of Anna Maria, Florida, and I cannot find any information on if there is a difference between a bike path and a bike route in the state of Florida. Is there a difference?


The term “bicycle path” is defined in the Florida statutes. It is not part of the roadway and vehicles powered by other than human power are not permitted.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

(63) Bicycle Path

Any road, path, or way that is open to bicycle travel, which road, path, or way is physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or by a barrier and is located either within the highway right-of-way or within an independent right-of-way.

s. 316.1995 – Driving upon Sidewalk or Bicycle Path

(1) No person shall drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a bicycle path, sidewalk ….

(3) This section does not apply to motorized wheelchairs

A bicycle path is usually shared with pedestrians unless a local ordinance to the contrary is in place and may be referred to as a “shared-use path”.  This post contains one such local ordinance:

Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook defines a shared-use path:

Shared Use Path – Facilities on exclusive right of way with minimal cross flow by motor vehicles. Users are non-motorized and may include but are not limited to: bicyclists, in-line skaters, wheelchair users (both non-motorized and motorized), and pedestrians.

The Florida Department of Transportation Plans Preparation Manual (FDOT PPM) gives design guidance about shared-use paths.

8.6.10 Separation between Shared Use Path and Roadway

When shared use paths are located adjacent to a roadway, a separation shall be provided. This demonstrates to both path users and motorists that the shared use path is a separate facility.

On roadways with flush shoulders, this separation is 5 feet measured from the outside edge of shoulder to the inside edge of the path. On roadways with curbs, the separation is 4 feet measured from the back of curb to the inside edge of the path, with consideration of other roadside obstructions (signs, light poles, etc.).

The Federal Highway Administration discusses this definition a shared-use path.

A shared-use path serves as part of a transportation circulation system and supports multiple recreation opportunities, such as walking, bicycling, and inline skating. A shared-use path typically has a surface that is asphalt, concrete, or firmly packed crushed aggregate. The 1999 AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities defines a shared-use path as being physically separated from motor vehicular traffic with an open space or barrier (AASHTO, 1999). Shared-use paths should always be designed to include pedestrians even if the primary anticipated users are bicyclists.

See the full discussion here:

The FDOT PPM discusses bike route systems.

8.4.6 Bicycle Route Systems

Bicycle routes include roadways or shared use paths designated through signage, pavement markings or mapping. They provide directional and distance information, and aid bicyclists in wayfinding, especially in complex urban locations or along established long distance bicycle routes.

More information about Bicycle Routes and the U.S. bicycle Route System can be found here.

Other bicycle related definitions are found in various sources.  Although there is no statutory definition of “bicycle lane” it is defined in the FDOT PPM. Note that it is part of the roadway and at times may be used by motor vehicles, most notably when entering and leaving the roadway and when preparing for a right turn.

Bicycle Lane: A bicycle lane (bike lane) is a portion of a roadway (either with curb and gutter or a flush shoulder) which has been designated by striping and special pavement markings for the preferential use by bicyclists.

“Bicycle Way” is also defined in the PPM.

Bicycle Way: Any road, path or way which by law is open to bicycle travel, regardless of whether such facilities are signed and marked for the preferential use by bicyclists or are to be shared with other transportation modes. Examples include bicycle lanes, paved shoulders, shared use paths, and traffic lanes.

As is a “Bicycle Facility”

Bicycle Facilities – Appropriately designed and located bicycle facilities play an important role in supporting safe bicycle travel. Bicycle facilities include buffered bicycle lanes, conventional bicycle lanes, paved shoulders, wide curb lanes, low speed shared lanes (posted speed 35 mph or less), shared use paths, traffic control devices, and bicycle parking facilities

The national Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices also has bike related definitions.

Bicycle Lane—a portion of a roadway that has been designated by signs and pavement markings for preferential or exclusive use by bicyclists.

Posted in Ask Geo, Bike Paths

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