FHWA Clarifies: Contraflows, Cycletracks and Other Innovative Facilities are Permissible

In response to a request for clarifications from Congressmen Connolly, Moran, Quigley, and Blumenauer, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) clarified whether certain bicycle infrastructure facilities were or were not permitted under the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The MUTCD is the roadway manager and engineer’s guidebook on the appropriate signage, markings, and control devices for traffic control. In many cases, state and local jurisdictions were unclear whether certain bicycle facilities–such as contaflow lanes and bike boxes–were allowed under the MUTCD. This lack of clarity resulted in some jurisdictions’ reluctance to adopt such facilities. This guidance from FHA clarifies that contraflow lanes and buffered bike lanes are allowed, so long as the accompanying signs and pavement markings are MUTCD compliant, and that a cycletrack is “not a traffic control device” within the scope of MUTCD, and therefore not restricted. In addition, the guidance clarifies which treatments and facilities are still under evaluation at the “experimental” stage. For cyclists and bike advocates, the clarity afforded by this document is welcome–as is its confirmation that many innovative bicycling improvements are permitted by the MUTCD. We look forward to seeing further clarification and documentation from FHWA regarding the nature and scope of experimental projects, and whether one jurisdiction can piggy-back on another jurisdiction’s application to test an experimental facility or treatment. Thank you to Congressmen Connolly, Moran, Quigley and Blumenauer for pushing for this clarification, which allows greater flexibility to transform our roadways to better include facilities tailored to cyclists.