Bike Sign Meanings: What Does Each Bicycle Street Sign Mean?
May 19, 2023
Signs, signs, everywhere are signs! This is for your safety, of course. Bike road signs are a way to communicate where and when you can ride, and to ensure motorists understand as well, so you’re protected on the road and can continue to enjoy the ride.
There’s more than one kind of sign besides the one you’ll find riding in the bike lane. Here’s a list of road bicycle signs and other notable road situations we’ll go over in this road safety blog including bike laws and how they pertain to ebikes:
1. Bike Lane Classifications
Different types of bikeways are classified by the type of path used and the parameters that define it. Currently there are four different types of classifications as specified by the California Highway Design Manual. These classifications may change depending on where you live. For further information contact local transportation authorities.
Class I bikeways are found off-road and multi-use trails. This means they’re not shared use with motor vehicles, but mainly a space for cyclists and other recreational uses. California’s Highway Design Manual says that the minimum width of a Class 1 two-way bike path should be eight feet. Ten feet is the preferred width to give more space for cyclists going in both directions. When pedestrians are present, or heavy bike traffic is to be expected, they recommend at least 12 feet, or more.
Class II bikeways are “on-road” bike lanes, meaning they are standard bike lanes found in your city, usually separated from traffic with a 2 to 4 foot painted buffer.
Class III bikeways are preferred routes that are shared with motorists and other road users. For example, sharrows or bike boulevards. There are no barriers separating cyclists from traffic here, so like most bikeways it’s best to pay attention and be aware of your surroundings.
Class IV bikeways are protected bike lanes. That means they are physically separated from any other form of traffic, including pedestrians and motorists. These types of bike lanes provide extra protection and ease of mind while riding on the road. If you live in high volume traffic areas, contact city and transportation officials to implement Class IV roadways.
2. Bike Lane Signs
There’s more than just the average bike lane on the road. Here we’ll briefly go over what they are and what the bike sign means for you as a cyclist, or a motorist to keep in mind while on the road.
Bike Lanes with Solid Lines
We all know this symbol. This is your standard bike lane found in most cities across the country. It means “bikes only”. Riders should always travel in the same direction of traffic when using a bike lane, unless markings suggest otherwise.
Good news! Cyclists are not required to stay in this lane. In the event there’s parking allowed, a cyclist can move out of the way of what’s called the “door zone”. This is so riders can avoid the opening of a car door by motorists and continue on their way without worry.
Buffered Bike Lanes
The advisory bike lane is used on narrow, low-traffic streets. You can recognize it by the markings: solid line on the curb side, and dotted line on the traffic side. If you're a motorist, you might be wondering, “when can you enter a bike lane?” And the answer to that is when there’s a dotted line. It’s that simple.
Cyclists should be prepared in the event a motorist enters the advisory bike lane, and keep a safe distance should they stop suddenly.
Protected Bikeway (or Cycle Tracks)
Protected bikeways are exclusive areas for cyclists. They physically separate them from traffic and can either be one or two-way lanes. Protected bikeways are usually separated from traffic by parking spaces, medians, flexible traffic cones posts, curbs, planters, or any other kind of separating feature. These bikeways provide comfort and ease of mind, as well as added protection for cyclists.
3. Sharrows, or Shared Lanes
By combining “shared” and “arrow”, the sharrow can be recognized by the bike symbol with two arrows marked above it. The sharrow bike sign means the lane or lanes are shared between cyclists and motorists alike. The arrows point in the required direction of traffic. Remember to keep a safe distance while riding traffic.
4. Green Bike Lane
The green bike lane is used to draw attention where motorists merge across a bike lane. This is a visual reminder for motorists to yield to cyclists, and for cyclists to keep in mind to stay alert and watch out for vehicles making a turn.
5. Bike Boulevards
Unlike bike-friendly residential streets, the bike boulevard is bike only. The simple bike route sign is accommodating, and provides cyclists with a more comfortable space where they can relax and enjoy the view without having to worry about motorists. A bike boulevard provides safe crossings at major streets and encourages motorists to travel at slow speeds.
6. Colored Bike Signs
Different colored signs indicate different meanings. Keep in mind, some colors may change their meaning of a color depending on certain symbols located on the sign.
For example, green road markers can mean motorists are allowed to enter a bike lane, while a green bike symbol can mean the path is recommended for cyclists, located on scenic routes or low-traffic roads.
A yellow bike sign serves as a reminder that the road is supposed to be shared with cyclists.
A blue-circled bike symbol is a “bike only” sign that indicates 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.
Also, abide by the “Do Not Enter” sign, meaning not only for cars, but for cyclists as well.
8. Bicycle Hand Signals
Other than a bicycle sign on the road, riders can also make use of hand gestures to signal while riding in traffic. Here are two very important signals you can make with your hands:
The Turn Signal: A basic bicycle hand sign that involves sticking your entire arm out in the direction you intend to make your turn.
The Stop Signal: Done in two ways, the first by lowering your left arm straight down toward the ground with your palm open and facing behind you. The second is by placing your right hand at your back and making a fist.
9. Shoulders & Rumble Strips
While shoulders are designed to accommodate stopped vehicles and emergency use, cyclists can legally ride on them, though not required. Shoulders are a safe place to ride, especially on high-trafficked roads.
In the case that there are rumble strips on the shoulder (grooves in the asphalt to alert motorists when they’ve veered off the road) use caution when entering and exiting. Some shoulders with rumble strips often provide gaps for cyclists to maneuver around them and travel safely in the lane.
10. Bike Box
The bike box is designated for cyclists at the head of a traffic lane while stopped at an intersection. The bike box provides cyclists with protection through visibility during a red light, and facilitates left turn positioning. When the traffic signal turns green, motorists are supposed to yield to cyclists.
Bicyclists can use roundabouts either as a pedestrian or in the same manner as a motorized vehicle. When using them similar to a motorist, bicyclists should “take the lane” (meaning center themselves in the lane) to be more visible to motorists.
12. Bike Laws
Consider bike laws surrounding ebikes in your area. To learn more about bike laws in your state, check out our blog ‘Understanding Electric Bicycle Laws By State: The Ultimate Guide’.
ReadING The Signs
The more bicycles there are, the better. This means there is a cultural understanding of how important a role bikes play in everyday life, for many people. This includes ebikes. Besides the aforementioned road bike signs, there are still a few things left on the table, or road for that matter. We can’t forget the basics, such as stopping at stop signs, giving pedestrians the right of way on sidewalks, and most importantly, staying under the speed limit.
Stay vigilant. Stay alert. Stay smiling.