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, but continue to hear that the schedule for the new MUTCD has not been set. Recent reports suggest that there may not be a newly adopted MUCTD until 2021.
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.