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Frequently Asked Questions – Part 9 – Traffic Control for Bicycle Facilities

The following list of categories lists questions relating to the MUTCD Part 9 – Traffic Control for Bicycle Facilities:

Signs

  1. The agency I work for has recently enacted a law that requires the motorist to keep a minimum lateral distance of 3 feet from the bicyclist when overtaking the bicyclist. I have seen this sign used elsewhere, but cannot find the sign in the Manual. Where can I find the standard sign for this situation?
  2. I found a symbolic "Yield to Bikes" sign in a nationally endorsed compendium of treatments for non-motorized vehicles. My agency would like to use it, but I cannot find this sign in Standard Highway Signs. Is it acceptable to use this sign?
  3. Does the MUTCD allow for travel times on Bicycle Destination signs?
  4. Can I use the bicycle symbol on a Street Name sign?

Markings

  1. Can a bike lane be established with pavement markings alone, or are bike lane signs also required?
  2. Paragraph 4 of Section 9C.04 in the 2009 MUTCD requires that a longitudinal line (lane line) be used to separate motor vehicle traffic from a designated bike lane, but are the word, symbol, and/or arrow pavement markings also required?
  3. Our city wants to encourage bicycling and has designated certain streets as bike routes, but some of the streets are not wide enough to have a dedicated bike lane striped on them. So the bikes share the roadway with motorized vehicles, and we have seen some problems with bicyclists colliding with doors of parked cars as they open unexpectedly. Are there standard signs and markings that can be used to warn bicyclists about this condition?
  4. Can I use the Helmeted Bicyclist Symbol pavement marking in lieu of the conventional Bicycle Symbol pavement marking for incorporation into the Shared Lane Marking shown in Figure 9C-9?
  5. Can I alter the design layout of the Shared Lane Marking (see Figure 9C-9) such as rotating the leading chevrons to indicate advance turns for navigational direction?
  6. Can I alter the design layout of the Shared Lane Marking (see Figure 9C-9) such as duplicating the leading chevrons on the trailing end but in the reverse direction to insinuate that bicycles are permitted to travel in both directions on the facility or lane that it is installed?
  7. Can the chevrons from the shared-lane marking be used alone in a bike lane extensions?
  8. Can shared-lane markings be used in the bike lane extension?
  9. Green colored pavement was approved for use in bicycle lanes under Interim Approval IA-14 dated April 15, 2011. Can I use the green colored pavement as a background to the Shared Lane Marking?
  10. I recently read in a nationally endorsed compendium of treatments for non-motorized vehicles that a bicycle lane approaching an intersection can be combined with an exclusive turn lane because there is insufficient lateral street width to facilitate the bike lane otherwise. Is this recommendation compliant with the MUTCD?

Signals

  1. Should traffic signals be timed specifically for bicyclists?

Other Topics

  1. What Section in the Manual is applicable to Bicycle Boulevards?
  2. The number of innovations and technological advancements in traffic control devices for bicycle facilities continues to increase. How do I know if the FHWA currently requires a request to experiment for a particular device or set of devices?
  3. Do signs and markings for bikeways, pathways and shared use pathways need to be retroreflective?

Part 9 – Traffic Control for Bicycle Facilities: Frequently Asked Questions

Signs

  1. Q: The agency I work for has recently enacted a law that requires the motorist to keep a minimum lateral distance of 3 feet from the bicyclist when overtaking the bicyclist. I have seen this sign used elsewhere, but cannot find the sign in the Manual. Where can I find the standard sign for this situation?

A: No standard sign exists. The purpose of highway signing is not to create awareness, which is typically the intent of a sign conveying programmatic rules of the road. Other media—such as radio, television, and newspaper ads; notices on 511 travel information systems; postal mailings; and Web sites—are more appropriate for and conducive to promoting and/or marketing specific programs and new regulations. Special word message signs for the three-foot law should not be installed haphazardly and should be limited to locations where the operation of the two vehicle types is demonstrating a problem or crash history. Thus, installing these signs where say a physically-separated bikeway exists would be counterproductive to achieving the agency's goal. An example of a special word-only message sign for this application could be a four-line black on white regulatory sign with the legend CHANGE :: LANES :: TO PASS :: BICYCLES.

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  1. Q: I found a symbolic "Yield to Bikes" sign in a nationally endorsed compendium of treatments for non-motorized vehicles. My agency would like to use it, but I cannot find this sign in Standard Highway Signs. Is it acceptable to use this sign?

A: The set of signs shown below and similar counterparts using green or red for the bicycle lane have not been adopted in the MUTCD and are not allowed for use. The signs were previously evaluated under official experimentation. FHWA has discontinued experimentation with these signs. Because the experimentation was unsuccessful, those agencies must remove the experimental signs and replace them with either a modified R10-15 sign or a sign with a word legend only.

Example of a YIELD TO BIKES regulatory sign not adopted in the MUTCDExample of a YIELD TO BIKES regulatory sign not adopted in the MUTCDExample of a YIELD TO BIKES regulatory sign not adopted in the MUTCDExample of a YIELD TO BIKES regulatory sign not adopted in the MUTCD
Examples of YIELD TO BIKES regulatory signs not adopted in the MUTCD.

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  1. Q: Does the MUTCD allow for travel times on Bicycle Destination signs?

A: No. Paragraph 4 of Section 9B.20 does not provide for travel times on bike destination signs because travel times vary greatly by bicycle user speed and experience. This can contribute to a disrespect of travel times in general by any bicycle user who would not fall into the category for which the numerical conclusion was made. Further, in terms of bike travel, the travel time does not provide any useful information that a distance would not already provide. Lastly, a predominant benefit to travel times is to provide the user with an opportunity to rationally determine if they should use an alternative route. Bikeways either have no alternative route or where they do, it is typically just one street over. Thus, the correlation to travel time is either non-existent or intuitive. Either way, disseminating this information on a guide sign can be presumed to be superfluous or irrelevant neither of which upholds principles of guide sign design.

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  1. Q: Can I use the bicycle symbol on a Street Name sign?

A: No. Sections 2D.43 and 9B.20 of the MUTCD do not provide for the allowable use of either the standard bicycle symbol or the helmeted bicycle symbol on street name signs. A possible source of confusion could be from The Urban Bikeway Design Guide authored by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. Feature 10 inside Pages 214 and 215 in the second edition of the Urban Bikeway Guide states, "To minimize sign clutter, a bicycle symbol may be placed on a standard street name sign, along with distinctive coloration.129" Note 129 on Page 307 further states, "A pictograph (see Definition in Section 1A.13) may be used on a D3-1 sign. If a pictograph is used on a D3-1 sign, the height and width of the pictograph shall not exceed the upper-case letter height of the principal legend of the sign. The pictograph should be positioned to the left of the street name. Federal Highway Administration, (2009) Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. 2D.42 (sic)."

The terms, "symbol", "logo", and "pictograph" as provided in the MUTCD are not interchangeable and each term has a distinct and clear definition provided in Section 1A.13. Paragraph 10 of Section 2D.43 provides for the allowable use of a pictograph on a Street Name sign. Agencies are reminded to perform due diligence on the Notes in the Urban Bikeway Design Guide and are also reminded that the Urban Bikeway Design Guide does not supersede the MUTCD.

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Markings

  1. Q: Can a bike lane be established with pavement markings alone, or are bike lane signs also required?

A: The 2009 MUTCD allows pavement markings alone to be used for a bike lane. The 2003 MUTCD required that bike lane signs also be used, but the use of bike lane signs is now optional per Paragraph 5 of Section 9C.04 in the 2009 MUTCD. The definition of a "bicycle lane" (Definition 13 in Section 1A.13) has also been appropriately revised to reflect the fact that the signs are now optional.

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  1. Q: Paragraph 4 of Section 9C.04 in the 2009 MUTCD requires that a longitudinal line (lane line) be used to separate motor vehicle traffic from a designated bike lane, but are the word, symbol, and/or arrow pavement markings also required?

A: Yes, Item C in Paragraph 6 of Section 3D.01 requires the word, symbol, and/or arrow pavement markings.

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  1. Q: Our city wants to encourage bicycling and has designated certain streets as bike routes, but some of the streets are not wide enough to have a dedicated bike lane striped on them. So the bikes share the roadway with motorized vehicles, and we have seen some problems with bicyclists colliding with doors of parked cars as they open unexpectedly. Are there standard signs and markings that can be used to warn bicyclists about this condition?

A: A new pavement marking called a shared lane marking is described in Section 9C.07 and illustrated in Figure 9C-9. A new Bicycles May Use Full Lane (R4-11) sign is described in Section 9B.06 and illustrated in Figure 9B-2. These devices may be used in conjunction with each other or independently of each other to communicate to motorists and bicyclists that a lane is too narrow for the modes to operate on a side-by-side basis. The shared lane marking also provides some positioning guidance to bicyclists to remind them to ride outside of the door opening zone of parallel parked cars.

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  1. Q: Can I use the Helmeted Bicyclist Symbol pavement marking in lieu of the conventional Bicycle Symbol pavement marking for incorporation into the Shared Lane Marking shown in Figure 9C-9?

A: The Helmeted Bicyclist Symbol pavement marking (see Drawing B in Figure 9C-3) may be used for the Bike Lane Marking. However, for uniformity the conventional Bike Symbol pavement marking (see Drawing A in Figure 9C-3) as shown in Figure 9C-9 should be used for all Shared Lane Markings because that was the symbol tested during the experimental stages that yielded the best result.

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  1. Q: Can I alter the design layout of the Shared Lane Marking (see Figure 9C-9) such as rotating the leading chevrons to indicate advance turns for navigational direction?

A: No. Altering a standard marking symbol that results in an alternate meaning or potential unintended connotation is not permitted per Paragraph 1 of Section 3A.02.

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  1. Q: Can I alter the design layout of the Shared Lane Marking (see Figure 9C-9) such as duplicating the leading chevrons on the trailing end but in the reverse direction to insinuate that bicycles are permitted to travel in both directions on the facility or lane that it is installed?

A: No. Altering a standard marking symbol that results in an alternate meaning or potential unintended connotation is not permitted per Paragraph 1 of Section 3A.02.

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  1. Q: Can the chevrons from the shared-lane marking be used alone in a bike lane extensions?

A: No. Section 3B.24 provides that any chevron marking type is to be used to discourage travel on certain paved areas. Chevron markings are not used to convey or communicate an allowable portion of the roadway that encourages a vehicle to travel on the chevron or in the direction suggested by the chevron. The use of chevrons to perhaps convey an opposite meaning is counter to uniformity and has the potential to violate the expectancy of the road user. To increase or enhance conspicuity, bike lane extensions can implement any or all of a number of pavement markings including the standard arrow, the bicycle symbol, or pavement word markings in accordance with Section 9C.04 and Section 3B.20. In accordance with Interim Approval 14 and Paragraphs 14 through 22 of Section 1A.10, green-colored pavement can be used to also increase or enhance the conspicuity of the bike lane extension.

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  1. Q: Can shared-lane markings be used in the bike lane extension?

A: No. A bike lane extension is still a bike lane. Paragraph 3 of Section 9C.07 prohibits the practice of putting a shared-lane marking in the bike lane or extension thereof. To increase or enhance conspicuity, the bike lane extension can implement any or all of a number of pavement markings including the standard arrow, the bicycle symbol, or pavement word markings in accordance with Section 9C.04 and Section 3B.20. In accordance with Interim Approval 14 and Paragraphs 14 through 22 of Section 1A.10, green-colored pavement can be used to also increase or enhance the conspicuity of the bike lane extension.

It is assumed that a source of confusion for this design emanates from the second edition of the Urban Bikeway Design Guide (Guide) authored by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. Feature 7 inside Page 81 of the Guide states, "Shared-lane markings (MUTCD Figure 9C-9) may be used for increased visibility within conflict areas or across entire intersections. Placement shall be in the middle of the moving lanes, and close to crosswalks.66" Note 66 on Page 293 of the Guide refers to a 2008 study (Study) by the Transportation Association of Canada entitled, "Coloured Bicycle Lanes Simulator Testing. File 785". The recommendation from this Study that is directly quoted in Note 66 in the Guide is found on Page 11 of the Study. Agencies should be cognizant that the application of using shared-lane markings in bicycle lanes shown in the Guide is not what was tested in the Study nor is what is directly referred to in the Study or recommendation on Page 11. Figure 4 on Page 12 of the Study intentionally does not use dashed white lines to flank the shared-lane marking and used only a succession of shared-lane markings through the merging area. In fact, the recommendation in question is actually referring to Figure 5 on Page 12 of the Study. Figure 5 in the Study is complaint with the MUTCD.

Agencies are reminded to perform due diligence on the Notes in the Urban Bikeway Design Guide and are also reminded that the Urban Bikeway Design Guide does not supersede the MUTCD.

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  1. Q: Green colored pavement was approved for use in bicycle lanes under Interim Approval IA-14 dated April 15, 2011. Can I use the green colored pavement as a background to the Shared Lane Marking?

A: No. Green colored pavement is only approved for use in bicycle lanes where the bicycle lane is defined by the required longitudinal line(s) and the word, symbol and/or arrow marking(s). A Shared Lane Marking communicates a different bicycle operational connotation than a bicycle lane otherwise would. Use of green colored pavement to supplement Shared Lane Markings is only allowed under approved requests to experiment in accordance with Paragraphs 8 through 11 in Section 1A.10 if the MUTCD.

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  1. Q: I recently read in a nationally endorsed compendium of treatments for non-motorized vehicles that a bicycle lane approaching an intersection can be combined with an exclusive turn lane because there is insufficient lateral street width to facilitate the bike lane otherwise. Is this recommendation compliant with the MUTCD?

A: No. Figures 9C-4 and 9C-5 illustrate examples of how the bike lane and exclusive turn lane continue to be separated as they approach the intersection. There is no substantial research that quantifies whether combining the bike lane into the exclusive right turn lane yields a discernible safety benefit. In fact, both safety and legal concerns have been reported thereon in field applications of combining the bicycle lane with a turn lane. Facilitating the bicycle lane through the exclusive turn lane can be done at the present time if shared-lane markings are used instead of bike lane markings.

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Signals

  1. Q: Should traffic signals be timed specifically for bicyclists?

A: Section 9D.02 states that, on bikeways, signal timing and actuation shall be reviewed and adjusted to consider the needs of bicyclists. Because bicycles typically move more slowly than motor vehicles, it is important that the timing of the green interval and associated yellow change and red clearance intervals applicable to bicycle traffic be given specific attention. The MUTCD text is a general statement requiring that the needs of bicyclists be considered when setting signal timing. No specific warrants or guidelines are provided in the MUTCD.

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Other Topics

  1. Q: What Section in the Manual is applicable to Bicycle Boulevards?

A: A Bicycle Boulevard is not a traffic control device and therefore is not discussed in the Manual. However, the standardized devices used to sign, mark and operate a bicycle boulevard are. As a result, modifying any of these devices just to draw special attention, educate the community or brand a bicycle boulevard between one municipality and an adjacent municipality is a misuse of a traffic control device. In fact, non-uniformity can contribute to intolerance, community acceptance issues and enforcement problems.

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  1. Q: The number of innovations and technological advancements in traffic control devices for bicycle facilities continues to increase. How do I know if the FHWA currently requires a request to experiment for a particular device or set of devices?

A: Check the Interim Approval section of the MUTCD's Web site. If the device is not mentioned there or anywhere in the Manual itself, it most likely will require a request to experiment in accordance with Paragraphs 8 through 11 in Section 1A.10. More information can be obtained from the web site for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program in the FHWA's Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty found here: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/design_guidance/mutcd/.

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  1. Q: Do signs and markings for bikeways, pathways and shared use pathways need to be retroreflective?

A: Except as described in Item (c) of Condition 3 for Interim Approval IA-14 dated April 15, 2011, all signs and markings need to be retroreflective. Bicycle use can occur during non-daylight hours especially in communities where commuting by bike is popular. Nighttime recreational bike use can also be possible during the winter months when the period of daylight is shorter. Bicyclists that use headlamps during these times can receive a discernible benefit from the retroreflectivity on the sign faces and the pavement markings.

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