Background on the MUTCD
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is a publication of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. All U.S. states are required to be in general compliance with this manual that regulates how traffic control devices (such as signs, markings, and traffic signals) can be used on public roadways and bikeways. A new version is released every 8-12 years, following a federally required rule-making process for any new or changed regulation that applies to States or the public.
The last complete version was issued in 2008, and some noteworthy revisions were added in 2012, but the date for the next complete update is not known. This manual is very important for bicycling, because if a treatment is not in the manual, it may be illegal to use it. If a treatment is in the manual, there is no Federal restriction on its use. The Manual applies to bicycling and bikeways as well as roadways, but it does not address many enhancements in bikeway traffic control that are seen in US communities.
The NCUTCD (or how the MUTCD is created)
The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) develops and reviews potential changes to the U.S. Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). LAB is a voting member of the committee where we advise and assist in development of new provisions and changes that facilitate bicycling. We are represented on the NCUTCD by Rock Miller and Bill Schultheiss. Rock and Bill are both professional civil engineers and are leaders in implementation of innovative bikeway improvements throughout the U.S. Other committee members represent states, Counties, Cities, private consultants, and representatives of nationally based non-profit associations who are interested in participating. Most committee members are experienced traffic engineers, highway engineers, or transportation planners with interests in traffic controls and regulations.
The NCUTCD meets twice per year. The January meeting is in Washington DC. The summer meeting is held around the Country in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). It was held in Denver this year.
The Committee makes recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to add or change the MUTCD on an ongoing basis. Most committee-approved changes are eventually included in the manual, but the changes must go through an internal consensus building process and the must await final action by FHWA. Some changes are made by FHWA without committee action, but this is not common.
A large number of proposals have been fully approved by the NCUTCD and are awaiting final action by the Federal Government. Many of these proposals relate directly or indirectly to bicycle infrastructure and bicycle traffic controls, and some date back to 2008. Many proposals affecting bicycling have been developed since 2012, generally to allow additional traffic controls for bikeways and better facilitate bicycle operation on streets. LAB has helped to develop many of these proposals and has supported others. The NCUTCD has generally not recommended any proposals that LAB has strongly opposed. Many proposals have been adjusted to assure that they properly consider and are generally positive for bicycling.
NCUTCD Bicycle Technical Committee
Most proposals that affect bicycling are developed by this committee. LAB representatives generally sit on this committee but observe and ultimately vote upon the actions of other technical committees when bicycling is involved. Several other league members also sit on this committee. Other technical committees focus on specific sections of the MUTCD, such as traffic signs, traffic signals, or construction zones.