Healthy communities share the road, with motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians watching out for one another, respecting each other’s right-of-way and enjoying using our byways safely and responsibly.
Ensuring bicyclist safety is more important than ever. The number of bicyclists on U.S. roads more than doubled from 1.4 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009, according to The National Household Travel Survey1. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that commuters biking to work rose from 488,000 to 786,000 between 2008 and 2012².
In August 2013, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) confirmed its commitment to helping communities create safe, accessible bicycle facilities, stating its support for “taking a flexible approach to bicycle and pedestrian facility design.” Urban Bikeway Design Guide3, published by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) can help you stay up-to-date on proper signage, pavement markers and traffic control delineators vital to helping bikers know where it is safe to ride and helping motorists understand where they need to watch for bicycles and/or give them right of way
Well-marked bike lanes allow bicyclists to travel at their preferred speed without interfering with car traffic and make it easier for motorists and pedestrians to predict bicyclists’ behavior. NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide provides helpful guidance on three crucial categories: pavement marking, wayfinding signage and bike signals.
Pavement markings vary throughout the U.S. from small dots a foot apart to stencils that take up a full lane. To minimize confusion with other traffic-control markings, NACTO recommends green pavement markings be used “either as a corridor treatment along the length of a bike lane or cycle track, or in limited locations as a spot treatment, such as a bike box, conflict area or intersection crossing marking.” Normal white bike lane lines should be used along the colored lane edges for consistency across facilities and for better nighttime visibility.
Recommended pavement marking materials:
In the FHWA’s “Separated Bike Lane Planning And Design Guide”, delineators are noted as effective forms of separation and are considered “one of the most popular types of separation”4 because of cost, visibility and installation.
Wayfinding signage identifies intersecting bikeways for cyclists and lets them know the distance and ride time to a variety of destinations, such as connecting bikeways, neighborhoods, commercial districts and transit hubs. NACTO requires bicycle identification and wayfinding signs be included on bicycle boulevards:
Bicycle signals make crossing intersections safer by clarifying when bicyclists can enter an intersection and by restricting conflicting vehicle movements. NACTO bike signal types and requirements:
The bicycle pavement markings, signs and signals discussed here only touch on NACTO specifications and requirements for bicyclist, motorist and pedestrian safety. For more complete information, visit https://nacto.org/publication/urban-bikeway-design-guide.
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1 2009 U.S. Department of Transportation. Federal Highway Administration. New Data Show Bicycling and Walking Up by 25 Percent.
2 2008-2012 American Community Survey Reports. "Modes Less Traveled—Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008-2012 (PDF, 1.06 MB)".
3 National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Bikeway Design Guide.
4 Federal Highway Administration. Separated Bike Lane Planning And Design Guide (PDF, 10.76 MB).