A cycle track, separated bike lane or protected bike lane (sometimes historically referred to as a sidepath), is an exclusive bikeway that has elements of a separated path and on-road bike lane. A cycle track is located within or next to the roadway, but is made distinct from both the sidewalk and general purpose roadway by vertical barriers or elevation differences.
In urban planning, cycle tracks are designed to encourage bicycling in an effort to relieve automobile congestion and reduce pollution, reduce bicycling fatalities and injuries by eliminating the need for cars and bicycles to jockey for the same road space, and to reduce overall confusion and tension for all users of the road. In the United States, an academic analysis of eight cycle tracks found that they had increased bike traffic on the street by 75 percent within one year of installation. Rider surveys indicated that 10 percent of riders after installation would have chosen a different mode for that trip without the cycle track, and 25 percent said they were biking more in general since the installation of the cycle track.
Cycle tracks may be one-way or two-way, and may be at road level, at sidewalk level, or at an intermediate level. They all have in common some separation from motor traffic with bollards, car parking, barriers or boulevards. Barriers may include curbs, concrete berms, posts, planting/median strips, walls, trenches, or fences. They are often accompanied by a curb extension or other features at intersections to simplify crossing.
In the UK, cycle track is a roadway constructed specifically for use by cyclists, but not by any other vehicles. In Ireland cycle track also covers cycle lanes marked on the carriageway but only if accompanied by a specific sign. In the UK, a cycle track may be alongside a roadway (or carriageway) for all vehicles or it may be on its own alignment. The term does not include cycle lanes or other facilities within an all-vehicle carriageway.