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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

This report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-05-114
Date: July 2006

Lesson 15: Bicycle Lanes

The picture shows a new paved street with a newly striped bike lane. Debris (appears to be grass clippings and small brush) has accumulated in the right half of the bike lane.

Lesson Outline

  • Width standards.
  • Retrofitting lanes on existing streets.
  • Design at intersections and interchanges.
  • Pavement marking and signing.
  • Other design considerations.
  • Practices to avoid.

Width Standards

  • No curb and gutter: 1.2 meters (m) (4 feet (ft)) min.
    – If parking, then 1.5 m (5 ft) min.
  • With curb and gutter: 1.5 m (5 ft) min.
    – 0.9 m (3 ft) min. ridable surface, not including gutter pan.
  • Parking permitted but not striped:
    – 3.3 m (11 ft) total with no curb.
    – 3.5 m (12 ft) total with curb.

Retrofitting Bike Lanes

Typical "Road Diet"
  • Reduce travel lane widths.
  • Reduce number of travel lanes.
  • Remove, narrow, or reconfigure parking.
  • Other design options.

This illustration shows a before–and–after street configuration in which a two–way, four–lane street is changed to two lanes, a two–way left turn lane, and two bike lanes. The before condition has the following cross section and dimensions (from left to right): four motor vehicle travel lanes (two in each direction) that are each 3.6 m (12 ft). The after condition has the following cross section and dimensions (from left to right): bike lane of 1.8 m (6 ft); travel lane of 3.6 m (12 ft); two-way left turn lane or median of 3.6 m (12 ft); travel lane of 3.6 m (12 ft); and bike lane of 1.8 m (6 ft).

Road Diet

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Bike Lanes at Intersections

  • Encourage crossing/merging in advance of intersection.
  • Use of broken lane stripe at bus stops and intersections.
  • Many possible configurations.
  • Avoid dual right–turn lanes if possible.

The picture shows a bike lane as it approaches an intersection at which a right turn lane is added. The bike lane is dashed in the area in which drivers would merge across the bike lane to enter the right turn lane.

Bike Lanes at Interchanges

  • Cross high–speed ramps in areas of good visibility.
  • Cross ramps at right angle.
  • Consider grade separation.

This illustration shows how a bike lane is designed to cross exit ramps. For exiting bike traffic, a bike lane is striped to stay immediately adjacent to the vehicle lanes o the exit ramp. For through bike traffic, a separate bike lane is pulled out from the exit ramp so that it can cross the exit ramp at roughly 90 degrees. The approximate angle where the bike lanes separate is 15 degrees, and the inside radius where the bike lane crosses the exit ramp is 9 m (30 ft) minimum.

Pavement Markings

Bike lane symbols
  • Edgeline lane markings.
  • Bike lane symbols.
  • Traffic signal detector placement.
  • Obstructions.
Examples of optional word and symbol pavement markings for bike lanes.


Regulatory signs
  • Use of MUTCD.
  • Consistency in shape, legend, color.
  • Regulatory signs.
  • Warning signs.
  • Route guide signs.

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Colored Bike Lanes

  • Common in Europe.
  • Delineate the preferred paths through complex intersections or across high–speed ramps.
  • Tested in Portland, OR, with mixed results.

This photograph show the use of a blue bike lane in Portland, Oregon. The pavement surface of the bike lane is colored blue where an entrance ramp crosses it. A sign on the entrance ramp indicates that motor vehicles are to yield to bikes in the blue bike lane.

Contraflow Bike Lanes

  • Prevent circuitous travel on one–way streets.
  • High bike demand.
  • Warning signs at intersecting alleys and streets.

This photograph shows a contraflow lane that runs counter to the motor vehicle traffic lanes. The contraflow bike lane is separated from the vehicle lanes by a concrete divider, and a special signal is used for the bike lane. A sign next to the bike signal says -ONCOMING TRAFFIC HAS LONGER GREEN.

(This picture shows a bicyclist not wearing a helmet. FHWA strongly recommends that all bicyclists wear helmets.)

Practices to Avoid

  • Two–way bike lanes.
  • Continuous right–turn lanes.

This illustration shows that a wrong–way bicyclists is not seen in a driver’s primary field of view. A motorist on the main (vertical) street is preparing to turn left onto a side street and will not be looking for wrong–way bikes traveling parallel and in the same direction. A motorist on the side street who wants to turn right on the main street will also not see this wrong-way bicyclists coming from their right, as he/she is looking to his/her left to merge in traffic.

Lesson Summary

  • There are many ways to design for bicycle lanes on vehicular roadways.
  • Use of specific design elements create safe and efficient bicycle lanes.



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