City Ordinances that Promote Bicycling

There are a lot of city policies that promote bicycling, make bicycling safer, more convenient and altogether help level the playing field between auto and nonmotorized modes.

I thought that first, however, I would tackle City Ordinances, actual city laws that become part of the Municipal Code. There are far fewer such ordinances, than policies. Below is a list that I have compiled of topics that are covered by ordinance with an example of a US City that has such an ordinance.

Eventually i would like to include direct links to such ordinances,. so any submissions of actual links would be appreciated!

The most common ordinances:

  1. Developer Bike Parking requirements

Example: Many many examples all across the USA

2. An easy-but-not- so-common corollary ordinance is to require showers in new buildings, which facilitates bike commuting as well as other active lifestyle activities such as lunch time workouts runners etc.


Palo Alto California Title 18   of the Municipal Code (18.32.070 (c), 18.37, 18.41)

Mountain View California  Municipal Code Chapter 36 Article IV

3. Sidewalk bicycle riding is regulated  in most if not all states   by city ordinance. Note that this regulate the use of bicycles on sidewalks, they do not force cyclists to use sidewalks, which is contrary to most state vehicle codes.

4. Increasingly common since 2000 are Complete Streets Ordinances. More information can be found at

Note that many cities handle this by Resolution instead of Ordnance.

5. Subdivision/Land Development Ordinances:  The Subdivision Ordinance  requires that when a city expands onto undeveloped land, then the new development shall build roadways that meet city standards. Also when the frontage of a roadway is  developed or redeveloped, the roadway must be rebuilt to city standards (and city standards include bike lanes).

Example: The city of Bend Development Code requires developers to include bike lanes on required new roads if they are collector or arterial class streets (Chapter 3.4 ( ).  Bike “paths” are characterized as “primary” and “connector” multi-modal facilities and are also required to be dedicated and constructed by a developer if the City Transportation Plan shows them going across the developing property.  That portion is in the City’s Code Chapter 3.1.300.  There is minimal wiggle room in the Code, but there is some for special circumstances.

Land development  ordinances  such as The Smart Code  also cover other important bike connectivity issues such as _o mandate limited cul de sacs lengths.  connectivity at the ends of cul de sacs and between long blocks

Example: Davidson, NC and maybe Charlotte, NC).

6. A related type of ordinance is a Traffic Impact Fee. Typically only larger cities have a TIF, and not all of them do. But  if they do, bicycle infrastructure should be part of the list of improvements.

TIFs are established by ordinance and  allow agencies to collect fees in order to build infrastructure that will benefit an entire area.  The logic is that individually no one development would generate the need for large public works projects, for example a major roadway widenings,  new freeway interchanges, traffic signal interconnection. But many smaller developments cumulatively could create the demand for such infrastructure. The TIF allows all projects in the TIF area to contribute proportionately to the total cost.  The problem is that all too often, the only infrastructure  considered is auto-oriented, thus perpetuating the mode choice in favor of SOV’s.  TIF’s should include contributions to not only the needed bikeway infrastructure but also the transit expansion needed to serve the area covered by the TIF.

The following topics are covered by ordinance in at least one U.S. city. Thanks to those who submitted examples.

7. Drive in Facilities

—Palo Alto  California  Zoning ordinance section 18.43.040 requires that drive-in facilities, excluding carwashes, provide full access to pedestrians and bicyclists. The ordinance does not apply retroactively to facilities built prior to adoption of the ordinance unless the building is expanded or modified.

8. No narrowing of bike lane or right turn lane

—SF Traffic Code prohibits the narrowing of the right lane or the bike lane w/o Board approval on bikeway network.

The following are areas that could be covered by ordinance but I have not found an actual U.S. example to – date.

From John Cock

The best of these types of ordinances also require local street design that encourages slow motor vehicle speeds (narrow streets, on-street parking, vertical elements along the roadway – i.e., street trees,) and dispersal of MV traffic through maximizing connectivity.

Ordinances that limit driveways and encourage parcel/parking lot interconnectivity for commercial lots also help cyclist safety.

Check the Smart Code (applied in many locales, including Miami); also, Charlotte’s subdivision regs; and development standards in Davidson, NC; Salisbury, NC; Wilson, NC, for example.

From Jessica Roberts:

– Stolen bikes – require shops that sell second-hand bicycles to record photo ID and keep bike unsold for 2 weeks while they check it against police records of reported stolen bikes
– Snow removal on sidewalks – require a certain turnaround; have a mechanism for reporting/enforcing/doing it and charging homeowner
– Pedicab regulation
– Bicycle licensing – don’t do it!

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