Bicycle Signage: Signs, Markings & Signals

Bicycle signage is implemented to guide cyclists and to improve roadway safety for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. There are three general categories of signage, including posted signs, roadway markings and electronic signals, and within these categories, there are numerous variations.Signs for cyclists are typically wayfinding signs placed at intersections where bikeways or bike routes are present. According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), there are three types of wayfinding signs, including confirmation signs, turn signs and decision signs. Confirmation signs serve two purposes: they let cyclists know that they are on the right path to a specific destination (and often include mile markers for these destinations), and they also alert motorists that they are driving among cyclists on a designated bicycle route. Turn signs let cyclists know where to turn to stay on the bike route, and decision signs are placed where multiple bike routes intersect and indicate which direction a cyclist should head to continue on each route. Having a network of signs is especially helpful for new or infrequent cyclists, and the most effective bike routes have a complete network of signs to guide cyclists at all decision points along the way.

Image Credit: NACTO
Primarily in urban settings, painted roadway markings are used to assist cyclists and motorist. Sharrows, officially known as Shared Lane Markings, not only indicate to the cyclist that he may take the lane along a given route where a designated bike lane is not present but also alert motorists that cyclists may be sharing the lane. In congested intersections, colored pavement is used to call out a potentially hazardous juncture. By applying a section of colored pavement, attention is drawn to the multi-modal nature of a corridor and can help to reduce confusion as to who has the right of way in complex intersections. Sharrows and colored bike facilities, as well as signs, are generally used together to create a complete network of cycling infrastructure.
Image Credit: NACTO
Bicycle signals are very similar to conventional electronic traffic control signals, and NACTO recommends only installing bicycle signals where conventional signals are present. Just like conventional signals, bike signals in the United States very often use green, yellow and red lights in the shape of bicycles to control bike traffic; in other cases, round signals are called out as bike and pedestrian signals with posted signs. These signals are most useful when cyclists would need to traverse an intersection at a different time or pace than automobiles. For instance, if a cycleway or multi-use path intersects with a heavily trafficked road, the combination of a conventional signal and a bicycle signal can allow all types of users to cross the intersection safely.
Image Credit: NACTO
In cities around the world, these various types of signs and signals are used in different ways, which is an important piece of information for traveling cyclists to keep in mind. Effective and safe cycling infrastructure within a city should use a combination of these indicators, and they should be used in a consistent application throughout the city. With the proper bicycle signage, cyclists can ride with more confidence and motorist can drive with a greater amount of awareness.


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