The Canadian Bikeway Comfort and Safety (Can-BICS) Classification System

Can-BICS uses the metrics of comfort and safety to establish a simplified and standardized naming convention for all bicycle facilities that can be used in public health research, surveillance, and cycling practice.

Cities use many different names for the same cycling facility which makes inter-city comparisons such infrastructure difficult and labour intensive.   Our vision is that planners across the country apply the Can-BICS classification scheme to categorize routes in their own communities with the ultimate goal of of making safe and enjoyable cycling more universally understood, accessible and feasible for more people, more often.


A. Creating the Can-BICS classification system

To identify existing cycling facility types, we reviewed six traffic engineering design guides from Canada, the US, and the Netherlands as well as public health literature on safety and preference for cycling infrastructure types. We established discrete facility types based on safety performance (exclusivity for cycling, proximity to other road users, injury or crash risk) and user comfort (preferences and stress). By grouping closely related facility sub-types, we reduced the number of cycling facilities types to five, categorized into three discrete comfort tiers.

B. Mapping Canadian cities’ open data cycling infrastructures names onto the Can-BICS

We then compiled cycling infrastructure names used in open data from Canadian municipalities and mapped them onto the Can-BICS nomenclature. We sampled from all 13 provinces and territories, maximizing population coverage (largest 10% of communities and 50.4% of Canada’s population). Of the 44 cities selected, 89% of cities had an open data catalogue, and 80% of these included a bikeway dataset.  Of the 269 unique facilities named, 60% mapped easily to the five Can-BICS facility types (e.g., ‘bike lanes’ were categorized as ‘Painted Bike Lane’). The remaining 40% of facility names were categorized by spot checking using Google Maps Street View.


A. Can-BICS facility typeCAN-BICS COMFORT TIERb. mapping canadian open data to can-bics
1. Cycle tracks
2. Local street bikeways
3. Bike paths
I. High Comfort Bikeways are low stress routes comfortable for most people, including those of all ages and abilities, with a record for best safety.23% related to high comfort routes (8% cycle tracks, 12% local street bikeways, and 3% bike paths)
4. Multi-use paths next to a roadway or along independent corridorsII. Medium Comfort Bikeways are low or medium stress routes comfortable for some people, but whose safety requires careful design.24% related to medium comfort routes
5. Painted bike lanes along busy roadwaysIII. Low Comfort Bikeways are high stress routes comfortable for few people, with little or no additional safety compared to no bicycle facility.
28% related to low comfort routes
26% were not considered a cycling facility in the Can-BICS system including 1) gravel trails, 2) major street shared lanes and 3) mixed traffic local streets.

For more details:

  • Report: The Canadian Bikeway Comfort and Safety (Can-BICS) Classification System:
    A Proposal for Developing Common Naming Conventions for Cycling Infrastructure, March 2019.
  • Poster: Presented at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, January 2020.
  • Publication: Winters, M., Zanotto, M., & Butler, G. (2020). The Canadian Bikeway Comfort and Safety (Can-BICS) Classification System: a common naming convention for cycling infrastructure. Health Promotion & Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada: Research, Policy & Practice40(9). [article]
  • Open data and facility names are available through the SFU RADAR repository

This project was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada and completed in 2019.