Conventional Bike Lanes


Bike lanes designate an exclusive space for bicyclists through the use of pavement markings and signage. The bike lane is located adjacent to motor vehicle travel lanes and flows in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic. Bike lanes are typically on the right side of the street, between the adjacent travel lane and curb, road edge, or parking lane. This facility type may be located on the left side when installed on one-way streets, or may be buffered if space permits. See contra-flow bike lanes for a discussion of alternate direction flow.

Bike lanes enable bicyclists to ride at their preferred speed without interference from prevailing traffic conditions. Bike lanes also facilitate predictable behavior and movements between bicyclists and motorists. Bicyclists may leave the bike lane to pass other bicyclists, make left turns, avoid obstacles or debris, and avoid other conflicts with other users of the street.

Click on the images below to view 3D concepts of conventional bike lanes.

Treatment details can be accessed below under design guidance.

Conventional Bike Lane Benefits

  • Increases bicyclist comfort and confidence on busy streets.
  • Creates separation between bicyclists and automobiles.
  • Increases predictability of bicyclist and motorist positioning and interaction.
  • Increases total capacities of streets carrying mixed bicycle and motor vehicle traffic.
  • Visually reminds motorists of bicyclists’ right to the street.

Typical Applications

  • Bike lanes are most helpful on streets with ≥ 3,000 motor vehicle average daily traffic.
  • Bike lanes are most helpful on streets with a posted speed ≥ 25 mph.
  • On streets with high transit vehicle volume.
  • On streets with high traffic volume, regular truck traffic, high parking turnover, or speed limit > 35 mph, consider treatments that provide greater separation between bicycles and motor traffic such as:

Design Guidance

Guidance below applies to street segments. See the Intersection Treatments section for guidance on the approach to intersections.

Required Features
The desirable bike lane width adjacent to a curbface is 6 feet. The desirable ridable surface adjacent to a street edge or longitudinal joint is 4 feet, with a minimum width of 3 feet. In cities where illegal parking in bike lanes is an concern, 5 foot wide bike lanes may be preferred.
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When placed adjacent to a parking lane, the desirable reach from the curb face to the edge of the bike lane (including the parking lane, bike lane, and optional buffer between them) is 14.5 feet; the absolute minimum reach is 12 feet. A bike lane next to a parking lane shall be at least 5 feet wide, unless there is a marked buffer between them. Wherever possible, minimize parking lane width in favor of increased bike lane width.
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The desirable bike lane width adjacent to a guardrail or other physical barrier is 2 feet wider than otherwise in order to provide a minimum shy distance from the barrier.
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Bicycle lane word and/or symbol and arrow markings (MUTCD Figure 9C-3) shall be used to define the bike lane and designate that portion of the street for preferential use by bicyclists.
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Bike lane word, symbol, and/or arrow markings (MUTCD Figure 9C-3) shall be placed outside of the motor vehicle tread path at intersections, driveways, and merging areas in order to minimize wear from the motor vehicle path.
A solid white lane line marking shall be used to separate motor vehicle travel lanes from the bike lane. Most jurisdictions use a 6 to 8 inch line.
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A through bike lane shall not be positioned to the right of a right turn only lane or to the left of a left turn only lane (MUTCD 9C.04). A bike lane may be positioned to the right of a right turn only lane if split-phase signal timing is used. For additional information, see bicycle signal heads. For additional strategies for managing bikeways and right turn lanes, see through bike lanes in this guide.
Recommended Features
Bike lanes should be made wider than minimum widths wherever possible to provide space for bicyclists to ride side-by-side and in comfort. If sufficient space exists to exceed desirable widths, see buffered bike lanes. Very wide bike lanes may encourage illegal parking or motor vehicle use of the bike lane.
When placed adjacent to parking, a solid white line marking of 4 inch width should be used between the parking lane and the bike lane to minimize encroachment of parked cars into the bike lane.
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Gutter seams, drainage inlets, and utility covers should be flush with the ground and oriented to prevent conflicts with bicycle tires.
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If sufficient space exists, separation should be provided between bike lane striping and parking boundary markings to reduce door zone conflicts. Providing a wide parking lane may offer similar benefits. Refer to buffered bike lanes for additional strategies.
If sufficient space exists and increased separation from motor vehicle travel is desired, a travel side buffer should be used. Refer to buffered bike lanes for additional details.
Lane striping should be dashed through high traffic merging areas. See through bike lanes for more information.
The desirable dimensions should be used unless other street elements (e.g., travel lanes, medians, median offsets) have been reduced to their minimum dimensions.
In cities where local vehicle codes require motor vehicles to merge into the bike lane in advance of a turn movement, lane striping should be dashed from 50 to 200 feet in advance of intersections to the intersection. Different states have varying requirements.
Optional Features
“Bike lane” signs (MUTCD R3-17) may be located prior to the beginning of a marked bike lane to designate that portion of the street for preferential use by bicyclists. The 2009 MUTCD lists bike lane signs as optional; however, some states still require their use.
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On bike lanes adjacent to a curb, “No Parking” signs (MUTCD R8-3) may be used to discourage parking within the bike lane.
Color may be used to enhance visibility of a bike lane.


  • Lane lines and stencil markings should be maintained to clear and legible standards.
  • Bike lanes should be plowed clear of snow by crews.
  • Bike lanes should be maintained to be free of potholes, broken glass, and other debris.
  • Utility cuts should be back-filled to the same degree of smoothness as the original surface. Take care not to leave ridges or other surface irregularities in the area where bicyclists ride.
  • If chip sealing, consider providing new surfacing only to the edge of the bike lane. This results in a smoother surface for bicyclists with less debris. Sweep bike lanes clear of loose chip in the weeks following chip sealing.
  • If trenching is to be done in the bike lane, the entire bike lane should be trenched so that there is not an uneven surface or longitudinal joints.

Treatment Adoption and Professional Consensus

Bicycle lanes are the most common bicycle facility in use in the US, and most jurisdictions are familiar with their design and application as described in the MUTCD and AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities. To offer increased levels of comfort and security to bicyclists, some cities have exceeded the minimum dimensions required in these guides.

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Reference Publications