Following the regulations of the road is necessary when cycling, just as it is when driving a car. In order to secure our own safety while riding as well as the understanding of other drivers and the maintenance of a safe riding environment, it I crucial that we comprehend the meaning of bicycle traffic signals. So what do the cycling signs actually mean?
1. Bike Lane Sign
Bike lanes with solid lines
Bike lanes are a special space on the road for bicycles. To recognize them, it is a bike with an arrow always pointing in the direction of traffic. You will find next to it a bicycle lane sign.
A bike lane is forbidden for cars except in a very special case, i.e. if it is necessary to exit or enter the roadway, or to park next to the bike lane.
Advisory Bike Lanes
An advisory bike lane is similar to a regular bike lane but is used on low-volume streets that are narrow. These markings give bicyclists a space to ride but are also available to motorists if space is needed to pass oncoming traffic. Because of this bicyclists should be more prepared for a motorist to enter the advisory bike lane than they would a typical bike lane.
Buffered Bike Lane
A buffered bike lane is similar to a regular bike lane but also includes a marked buffer between the bike lane and adjacent travel lanes. The purpose of a buffered bike lane is to provide extra elbow room for bicyclists and increase safety.
A buffered bike lane is restricted to bicycle traffic, except in instances when motorists need to turn, enter, or leave the roadway. Whenever motorists must cross a bike lane to prepare for a turn, they must yield if a bicyclist is approaching and let them pass. Like all bike lanes, bicyclists should not ride the wrong way in a buffered bike lane, and they should signal and yield to vehicles already in adjacent travel lanes when they enter or exit a buffered bike lane.
(AKA cycle tracks and separated bike lanes)
A protected bikeway is an exclusive area for bicyclists that is physically separated from motor vehicle traffic. Protected bikeways may be one-way or two-way and will be marked appropriately. This design provides a space within the public right of way for bicyclists and provides additional comfort and separation from motor vehicle lanes.
As bicyclists in a protected bikeway approach an intersection, they should use caution and assume turning or merging vehicles do not see them due to potential obstructions and their position in the public right of way. Bicyclists using protected bikeways with parked cars between the protected bikeway and the motor vehicle lanes should watch for passenger car doors and pedestrians crossing the bike lane.
2. Shared Lane or Sharrows
There are regular shared lane markings and green shared lane markings, they both mean the same thing. They are pavement markings used to mark a designated bike route. Placed in the travel lane, they encourage bicyclists to ride in a safe position outside of the door zone (where driver’s side doors of parked cars open). Motor vehicles are permitted to drive in travel lanes where shared lane markings are present. Bicyclists may be traveling in the same lane so motorists must travel behind them until it is safe to pass (they must give the bicyclist at least three feet).
3. Green Bike Lanes
Green bike lanes are pavement markings often used to highlight locations where motorists merge across or turn across a bike lane. To draw attention and increase safety at these locations, bike lanes are colored green to alert motorists that they must yield to thru bicyclists.
4. Bike Boulevard
This marking is denoted by a bike symbol accompanied by the text “BLVD” and indicates that the street has low-volume traffic with notable speed limits. The restriction is mostly for optimizing an area where cyclists can feel relaxed and safe.
It is common to see many other bike safety signs in a designated boulevard, such as the bike crossing sign, to provide cyclists with safer paths on major roadways.
While bicyclists are given priority in such areas, they are still expected to follow traffic rules and the right of way still applies to motorists and pedestrians.
In this space, drivers are not allowed to pass bicycles unless there is a safe allowance of 3 feet.
5. Bike Box
The purpose of a bike box is to allow bicyclists to wait at the front of traffic queues so they are more visible to motorists. This is to improve the safety of bicyclists at intersections.
The bike box includes two elements:
1) an advanced stop line for motorists to wait behind;
2) a marked space for bicyclists to wait in.
When the traffic signal is red, motorists must wait behind the bike box and behind the stop line. Bicyclists are allowed to ride to the front of the traffic queue into the bike box and wait for a green signal. When the traffic signal turns green, motorists must yield to bicyclists before proceeding or making a turn.
6. Colored Bike Sign Meaning – Bike Route Sign and Share Markers
Different colors also indicate different meanings. In some rare cases, color can change its meaning depending on whether it has certain symbols.
While the green road marks a crossing area for motorists in a bike lane, a green bicycle symbol means that the path is recommended for cyclists. This is a bike route sign and is usually located on scenic routes or low-traffic roads.
A yellow bicycle sign (or sometimes just a yellow diamond) serves as a reminder that the path is shared with bicycles. There is also the circle blue bicycle symbol, or a bicycle-only sign, indicating that no other vehicles may pass.
7. Restriction Bike Traffic Signs
Seeing a sign of a red circle with a bicycle in the middle means that bicycles cannot be ridden here. It’s also worth knowing that just a big red circle without anything in it means all vehicles, including pedal cycles, are prohibited in that area.
Aside from the no bicycle sign, there are also other types of restrictions that make use of the red circle. A pedestrian zone sign would have symbols of a car and motorcycle in it; this means that pedal cycles may be used in such a space.
8. Shoulders & Rumble Strips
Shoulders run parallel to the roadway travel lanes and are designed for the accommodation of stopped vehicles and for emergency use. Bicyclists may legally ride on shoulders, though they are not required to. While shoulders are often the safest place to ride, especially on roads with high speeds or traffic volumes, it is important to note that shoulders may not be as well maintained as the lanes of travel or may be too narrow for safe riding.
Some shoulders incorporate rumble strips, which are a countermeasure for mitigating run-off-the-road crashes. Rumble strips can be hazardous for bicycles. Use caution when entering or exiting the shoulder around rumble strips. Shoulders with rumble strips often have gaps allowing bicyclists to maneuver in and out of the travel lane.
Bicyclists should yield to traffic in adjacent travel lanes when navigating intersections from shoulders.
Bicyclists can use roundabouts either as a pedestrian or in the same manner as motorized vehicles. When using them similar to a motorist, bicyclists should center themselves in the travel lane (“take the lane”) in order to make themselves more visible to motorists and to prevent unsafe passing.
10. Bicycle Hand Signals
Aside from knowing the different markers, you can also make use of bike sign language to convey your intentions while on the road using hand gestures.
One such basic bicycle hand sign is the turning signal; this involves sticking out your entire arm in the same direction where you intend to make the turn.
Alternatively, you may also raise your arm, bending at a 90-degree angle with your hand pointing up. This indicates you’ll turn in the opposite direction, meaning raise your right to signal to turn left. Note that they’re not legal everywhere, so it’s better to stick to the first one.
The stopping signal can be done in two ways, the first is to lower your left arm straight down with your open palm facing backward. The other method is to place your right hand at your back and make a fist; however, this is more commonly used for riding in a pack.
There are many other useful signals that would be worth your time to learn. These include signs for slowing, informing others of debris or hazards, or signaling to let others through. However, we’ll leave these for another time.
What do the bicycle signs mean? Familiarizing yourself with the bike road sign meaning of the most common ones is a good start. Keep building your knowledge, and it in turn will keep you safer while on a ride.