Bike lanes can be confusing, especially when they can even change from block to block on a bike route. In this guide, we outlined some of the most commonly asked questions about bike lanes to help you be an expert on all things bike lanes.
About Bike Lanes
What is a bike lane? A bike lane is any portion of a roadway dedicated to the "preferential or exclusive use by cyclists" per NACTO. (Source)
Why is the bike lane green? Per NACTO, "Colored pavement within a bicycle lane increases the visibility of the facility, identifies potential areas of conflict, and reinforces priority to bicyclists in conflict areas and in areas with pressure for illegal parking." Bike lanes that are green are not legally classified any differently than bike lanes that have not been painted green. (Source)
What are the advantages of bike lanes? There are lots of advantages to building bike lanes, including but not limited to Increased safety for bicyclists, increased ridership of bicycles, and lower carbon emissions.
What are bike lane armadillos? Bike lane armadillos are raised bump barriers made of recycled plastic. They are used to separate bike lanes from car traffic. A benefit of using armadillos in place of a full barrier is that they allow bikes to enter and exit the bike lane as needed. (Source)
What does a broken white line on a bike lane mean? When approaching a right turn on a road with a bike lane, the white line separating the bike lane from vehicle traffic will be broken for the last 200ft before the turn. This is to indicate to cars and bicyclists that vehicles have the right to enter the bike lane if they are making a right turn at the intersection.
What types of bike lane barriers exist? Types of bike lane barriers include bollards, armadillos, buffers (road paint), vehicle parking, raised dividers, and planters.
What is a bollard? In the context of a bike lane, a bollard is a plastic, metal, or wood post that provides an additional physical barrier between vehicle traffic and the bike lane.
How much does it cost to build a bike lane? It depends! When bike lane infrastructure is rolled into existing roadway projects (such as street repaving), costs are generally much lower. Whether bollards, raised barriers, or bike signals are being installed will also impact the cost. Estimates range from about $20k to $1 million per mile, for a standalone bike lane project. By contrast, roads are estimated to cost $2 million - $5 million per mile. (Source 1, Source 2)
What are the dimensions of a bike lane? Bike lanes vary in width, but range from a minimum of 3 feet of "rideable surface" to a recommended 6 feet from the curb face. (Source)
How effective are bike lanes? When it comes to lowering injury and fatality rates, separated and protected bike lanes showed a 44% decrease on average, in a study from 2019. By contrast, "sharrows" have not shown any statistically significant impact on cyclist injury and fatality rates versus having no street markings or bike lanes whatsoever. (Source)
How are bike lanes funded? Bike lanes are funded through state and federal taxes, as well as state/local bonds, which are paid by US residents and citizens. (Source)
How can I request a bike lane? To request or advocate for a bike lane, you should contact your city planning department. We also recommend the following:
Collect data on any bike injuries or fatalities that have occurred on the road(s) in question
Get in touch with a local bike advocacy program, neighbors, and community members
Check your city's plans for scheduled repaving of roads, and see if you can advocate for a bike lane as an add-on
Types of Bike Lanes
Bike Route: While "bike lane" refers to a dedicated section of a roadway alongside motorized traffic, a bike route is a recommended pathway for cyclists to use. Bike routes can include portions comprised of bike lanes, bike paths, and cycle tracks. (Source)
Buffered Bike Lane: Buffered bike lanes are bike lanes that include additional striping on the roadway that separates the bike lane from the adjacent vehicular traffic. (Source)
Bike Path: A bike path is a designated pathway separated from roadways, reserved for use by pedestrians, bikes, and other non-motorized vehicles. (Source)
Roadway: Roadway refers to the entire street shared by all vehicles.
Bike Trail: Bike trails are designated pathways separated from roadways. Unlike bike paths, trails may not always be paved.
Cycle Track: A cycle track is a bike pathway that is physically separated from traffic and reserved exclusively for bikes. They can be separated by traffic by bollards, raised mediums, or street parking. (Source)
Protected Bike Lane: Protected bike lanes are bike lanes that include physical barriers between the lane and vehicle traffic. These barriers can include bollards, armadillos, raised mediums, or vehicle parking.
Bicycle Boulevard: Per NACTO, "Bicycle boulevards are streets with low motorized traffic volumes and speeds, designated and designed to give bicycle travel priority. Bicycle Boulevards use signs, pavement markings, and speed and volume management measures to discourage through trips by motor vehicles and create safe, convenient bicycle crossings of busy arterial streets."
Can bicycles take the whole lane? In most states, bicycles can ride anywhere they want in the road if they are moving the same speed as traffic. If they are moving slower than traffic, cyclists are advised to ride as far to the right as is safe for them, or in the bike lane, if it exists. If the lane is too narrow for a bike and a car to share the road safely, bikes can take the full lane regardless of speed. Bikes can always ride in the lane in order to:
Overpass another vehicle, cyclist, or pedestrian
Make a left turn
Avoid a hazard on the road
Make a right turn
(In some states) on a one-way road (Source)
When can I use the bike lane? If you are riding a non-electric bicycle, you can always use the bike lane. Other vehicle restrictions vary by state and county. In many states, if you're on an e-bike or a motorized scooter with a top speed of 20 mph or fewer, you may use the bike lane, but it's important to check your local laws. (Source)
Pedestrians and other vehicles in the bike lane
Can a car drive in the bicycle lane? Cars may enter the bike lane in three instances:
When intending to make a right turn at an intersection, cars may enter the bike lane within 200 feet of the turn.
When leaving an alley, private road, or driveway, cars may cross a bike lane.
When pulling to the side of the road to park, a car may cross the bike lane.
In all instances of entering the bike lane, cars must yield the right of way to bicyclists. (Source)
Can motorcycles use the bike lane? Motorcycles are subject to the same laws are cars when it comes to using the bike lane. See "Can a car drive in the bike lane?"
Can mopeds use the bike lane? It depends on state and local laws, but generally, mopeds that require a license to operate and have a max speed greater than 20mph may not be ridden in the bike lane except in the same instances where a car or other vehicle (motorcycle) might enter the bike lane. See "Can a car drive in the bike lane?"
Can skateboarders use the bike lane? Regulations on whether skateboarders can use the bike lane will vary by region, and many states have no guidelines at all on the matter. Many laws explicitly ban skateboarding on the sidewalk but don't offer guidance on whether skateboarding in the bike lane is legal, so it's important for bicyclists to be keeping an eye out for skateboarders in the bike lane. (Source)
Can scooters use the bike lane? It depends on state and local laws. In some states, scooters are required to ride in bike lanes on streets with speed limits greater than 25mph. If your state law permits or requires you to use the bike lane, be on alert for cyclists in the lane traveling at slower speeds than you. (Source)
Can I park in the bike lane? In most states, vehicles, including non-motorized vehicles, are not permitted to park or idle in the bike lane. (Source)
Can pedestrians use the bike lane? As a general rule, pedestrians are not allowed to use the bike lane. However, in the instance that no pedestrian walkway is provided, they are permitted to use the bike lane. (Source)
Can e-bikes use the bike lane? E-bike laws vary by state and city, but most states classify e-bikes similarly to bicycles and permit riding e-bikes in the bike lane. (Source)
Can you get a ticket for driving in the bike lane? Yes, you can. If you are in a motorized vehicle, and you enter a bike lane to do something other than enter/leave the roadway, make a right turn within 200 feet, or cross the bike lane to park, you can be ticketed.