Protected bike lanes

Finding ways to protect cyclists in urban areas is a longstanding challenge for city planners. Riding on sidewalks can be dangerous to pedestrians. Shared roads with motorists can lead to cyclist deaths. As urban areas become more densely populated, this biking safety challenge will only grow. Clearly marked, protected bike lanes are an easy-to-install, cost-effective way to provide safe routes for cyclists and encourage bike travel.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 859 cyclist fatalities in 2018, making it the deadliest in the last 30 years.
A rider rides a scooter in a protected bike lane on an urban road.
An urban safety solution: designated, protected, efficient bike lanes.

Safe space for cyclists. Better urban roads for all.

Safe bicycle travel promotes greener, healthier cities

Increased bicycle usage can offer significant benefits for large urban areas — particularly less motor vehicle congestion, less pollution and greener, healthier cities. A key factor in bicycle usage is bicycling safety. Cyclists need to feel comfortable, confident and safe as they ride their bikes around the city. Providing cyclists with designated, protected bicycle lanes can help accomplish this goal.

  • Dozens of bicycles parked on the sides of a path, with a dramatic modern building in the background.

    Case study: How the Netherlands became the biking capital of the world

    In the 1970s, the majority of people in the Netherlands traveled by car and the amount of traffic deaths and pollution was becoming unacceptable. So activists took action by promoting cycling as an alternative. As a result of their efforts, various cities started working to make their roads more bicycle friendly. Eventually, the Dutch Ministry of Transport created a national strategy — “Bicycle Plan in the Dutch” — in order to:

    • Increase bicycle usage
    • Invest in bicycle infrastructure
    • Promote public confidence

    The Netherlands now has 22,000 miles of dedicated bike paths and 27% of trips are on a bicycle.

Designing and building effective protected bike lanes

Two important components for effective, safe bike lanes are strategic road design and clear, highly visible traffic safety devices.

Here are some ideas to get you started. For more information, take a look at the National Associate of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

  • Stacked road signs, one depicting two driving lanes and one turn lane, and the other with the words “center lane.”
    Road diets

    A road diet is an FHWA recommended safety countermeasure that reduces the number of lanes designated for vehicle traffic, typically from four lanes to three. Road diets can help create safe infrastructure on your urban streets for protected bike lanes and cyclists on the road.

  • Row of bike lane signs identifying protected bike lane.
    Channelizers and delineators

    Install channelizers to separate bike lanes from vehicle traffic. This provides both a visual distinction and a physical barrier between bike lanes and vehicle lanes. High-visibility retroreflective sheeting on channelizers, delineators and bollards can help motorists see these important visual cues in a range of conditions, including at night, dawn and dusk.

  • Black and white signs with image of bicycle and words “bike lane ends.”
    High-visibility traffic signs

    Signage that clearly designates and communicates bike lanes, stops, turns, etc., improves safety and mobility for all travelers in urban areas. High-visibility retroreflective signage, particularly ASTM Type XI signage, reflects more light to drivers and cyclists, helping them see signs from further distances in a range of conditions and giving them more time to react.

  • Close-up of biker symbol in white, on black pavement, in urban bike lane with cars in the background.
    Bike lane markings

    Symbols, legends, lane markings and sharrows help cyclists navigate both protected bike lanes and shared bike lanes. They increase cyclist confidence and help drivers see bicycle lanes. Retroreflective markings are more visible at night, and wet retroreflective markings help to improve visibility in the rain. The addition of skid particles helps improve traction, particularly in wet conditions.

Building safer roads for urban growth in populated cities

Traffic safety products for protected bike lanes

3M traffic safety devices are engineered to be more visible, more conspicuous, more durable and more versatile, helping you build safe and effective complete streets where pedestrians avoid jaywalking.

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