Many people believe that construction of special bicycle facilities is necessary to increase bicycle safety and to encourage more cycling. However, bikeways can make bicycle transportation more dangerous and less convenient in so far as they discourage bicyclists and motorists from following the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles.
There are three types of bikeways:
sidepath: a path adjacent to the roadway but separated from it by a physical barrier.
bike path: a path that is not adjacent to a roadway, but is in its own right of way, such as a former railway line.
bike lane: a traffic lane on a roadway marked for bicycle use only, and separated from the rest of the roadway only by markings.
In North America, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Official’s Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities (pdf) makes a clear distinction between bicycle paths and bicycle lanes. This distinction is generally well respected among facility planners. In Europe the distinction is blurred, with bicycle lanes separate from the roadway by barriers and sometimes being routed on to sidewalks. In the UK and Ireland, bike paths are generally called “cycle tracks” whether they are adjacent to a roadway or not.