Anatomy of a Bicycle Friendly Street: Signage

(Ed Note: Most information on Bicycle Friendly Street treatments come from the Technical Design Handbook in the 2010 LA Bike Plan.  Though we are happy to present it in bite-sized pieces, we highly recommend you download it yourself and have a good read.  You can download the Technical Design Handbook here.  For a refresher on what a Bicycle Friendly Street is -also called a Bike Boulevard- you can read our introductory post here. You can also find previous posts on chicanes, round-a-bouts, loop detectors and other BFS treatments here

The LADOT Bike Blog hopes everyone had a nice Bike Week LA 2011. To commemorate this year’s  “Bike Friendly LA” theme, the LADOT Bike Blog continues its ongoing series detailing the specific treatments that go into making a Bicycle Friendly Street (BFS) – a big part of LA’s bicycle friendly future.

Today, we will take a look at the Traffic Control Device (TCD) known as signage. Signage is considered a “Level One” BFS application based on its relatively low level of physical intensity. It is important to note that BFS applications are site-specific, and that not all streets require the highest application treatments. The Bike Plan Technical Design Handbook (TDH) recommends gathering community input along with the necessary engineering and design work to determine the level of application necessary for each individual street.

CA MUTCD-approved signage


Signs are an important tool in the BFS design toolbox. They are a cost effective, yet highly visible BFS design treatment and are an important part of any complete Bicycle Friendly Street network. Signs, just like any other BFS design treatment, are subject to standards set forth by the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (CA MUTCD). The MUTCD regulates everything from sign shape and color to size and positioning.

According to the LA Bike Plan’s Technical Design Handbook, street signs come in two flavors: wayfinding signs and warning signs.

Wayfinding Signs:

New MUTCD approved bicycle wayfinding signs

Wayfinding signs help bicyclists and pedestrians get to where they want to go. While wayfinding signs are not currently approved in the CA MUTCD, they are a part of the FHWA MUTCD.  The California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) will soon meet to approve proposed revisions to the CA MUTCD, and we anticipate the approved changes will include wayfinding signage.

Once approved, the City will use wayfinding signs that display both destinations and distances, allowing BFS facility users to optimize their route selection. Wayfinding signs also reinforce the confidence of BFS facility users by offering reassurances that they are going in the right direction. Signs will be strategically placed at key locations leading to, and along, Bicycle Friendly Streets. Ideal locations for wayfinding sign placement include bike network intersections and other key bicyclist “decision points.” It is important during the design process for community members to provide input as to what destinations – neighborhood shopping centers, religious institutions, schools, etc – should be listed in community oriented wayfinding signage.

Wayfinding signage can also encourage drivers to get out of their cars and get to local destinations by bicycle.  Drivers often over-estimate how far away local shops are in their neighborhoods, discouraging them from considering modes other than driving.  Seeing a sign that points out just how close-by a number of desirable destinations are to their house can provide Angelinos with the incentive to try bicycling instead of driving. Wayfinding signage empowers everyone with the knowledge that their destinations are within reach.

Warning Signs:

Bike facility warning sign placement: Courtesy CA MUTCD

Warning signs advise motorists that they are driving in, or approaching, a bicycle priority street. These signs alert motorists to the presence of bicyclists and advise them to exercise caution. The Technical Design Handbook recommends placing warning signs at major bicycle trip generators –  schools, parks, other activity centers – and where major streets intersect BFS facilities.

Warning signs can warn bicyclists of conditions not readily present – bumps, curves, the presence of traffic signals, sudden roadway narrowing, etc. Warning signs can be pictorial and/or word message based. Some familiar examples include “Bump,” and “Bikeway Narrows.”  Word messages often accompany pictorial signs so that all users – regardless of their level of English language comprehension- can make informed decisions while they ride. An exciting new sign –  to be approved by the CTCDC for the CA MUTCD -, which can accompany “Sharrowed” streets is the “BICYCLES MAY USE FULL LANE” (BMUFL) sign.  We look forward to implementing this sign on Bicycle Friendly Streets in the not to distant future.

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