Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
UPDATE! New MUTCD open for Comments until May 14
In December 2020, the Federal Highway Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) for an update to the MUTCD. The League of American Bicyclists, and its representatives on the NCUTCD, began reviewing the NPA immediately and have already corrected an error that would have banned bicycles on many roads.
The League intends to publish its comments to the NPA developed with our NCUTCD representatives no later than April in advance of the May 14th comment deadline.
If you or your organization is interested in submitting comments, please consider these issues:
NACTO has four recommendations for changing the MUTCD:
- More city involvement and context-sensitive standards and guidance. Consider commenting about how a MUTCD standard is not well suited to a place in your community.
- More frequent updates. The NPA is the first update since 2009, meaning that the MUTCD does not currently reflect bike infrastructure that has recently grown in popularity and use, such as protected bike lanes. A once-a-decade update cycle will miss many issues, such as scooters, which are not mentioned in the NPA.
- Safety critical updates. NACTO identified 8 critical safety updates on issues like speed limit setting, bicycle signals, and crosswalk warrants.
- A better, more supportive, experimentation process. The MUTCD relies upon the experimentation process to provide data for updates, but currently the experimentation process is difficult and costly for cities. To deal with the safety issues facing people biking and walking more support is needed for experiments that provide safe places to bike and walk.
Additional issues that the League is concerned about:
- Section 5 is an entirely new section about the needs of Automated Vehicles and provides this guidance on bicycle lanes: “Section 5B.06 Traffic Control for Bicycle Facilities Guidance: To better accommodate machine vision used to support the automation of vehicles, bicycle facilities should be segregated from other vehicle traffic using physical barriers where practicable. Road markings should indicate the end of a bike lane that is merged with other traffic.” At this point, it is unclear whether this call will lead to additional support for separated bike infrastructure or lead to future efforts to restrict bicycling.
- The League has asked for changes to the MUTCD in two recent letters. We still support these changes and want them reflected in the next MUTCD. See our Letter about speed limit setting, and Letter about interim approvals of NCUTCD proposals
General Advice for Public Comments:
Provide one or two concrete examples of how the MUTCD section that you are commenting on has affected the safety of your community or the ability to implement bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
The rules for traffic control devices (traffic signs, pavement markings, traffic signals) are highly regulated. In practice, traffic controls must appear and be discussed in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) to be used by most communities. This system was set up to help insure that traffic signs’ appearance and meaning is the same everywhere in the U.S., but it makes it hard to get innovative treatments into widespread use.
The MUTCD does a very good job of ensuring that you can drive anywhere in the United States and not be too confused about what signs and signals mean. However, it can cause problems for the development of bicycle infrastructure because bicycle infrastructure does not have the 70+ year history of federal and state government support enjoyed by motor vehicle infrastructure. For many years bicycle infrastructure was not built, or when it was it was limited or experimental. If we are going to build a Bicycle Friendly America for Everyone we need bicycle infrastructure that is widespread, uniform, safe, comfortable, and easy to access. To help make this happen, the League of American Bicyclists has been a sponsor of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices since 2012. This sponsorship allows the League to have two representatives on the Bicycle Technical Committee who can advocate for better bicycle infrastructure and the signals, signs, and other devices needed for them to be implemented safely and successfully.
Since 2012 the National Committee has approved many proposals for long-desired bicycle treatments. These include treatments approved, in part, thanks to the work of League representatives, such as:
- bicycle boxes at intersections,
- buffered striping,
- bicycle signal indications,
- contra-flow bike lanes, and
- many applications of green pavement color coatings.
These treatments have added to prior successes such as shared lane markings (sharrows), Bikes May Use Full Lane signs, and bike route system signs.
The last MUTCD was adopted after public comment in 2009. Despite a goal to adopt a new MUTCD every 5 years, the Federal Government has not proceeded with this final step, and the tentative date to publish the notice has been set back many times. The members of the Bicycle Technical Committee and National Committee continue to work and develop new designs.
The League is proud of its support of the National Committee and committed to improving the MUTCD. We appreciate the support of our members for engaging in the National Committee process and working on institutional issues that affect all bicyclists in the United States.