Bicycle Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


Contraflow bike lane. Photo by Toole Design Group

Photo by Toole Design Group Contraflow bike lane with on-street parking.
Photo by Toole Design Group




Contraflow Bike Lanes

Bicyclists are expected to follow established rules-of-the-road. A particular example is riding in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic. However, there are certain situations where the placement of a bicycle lane counter to the normal flow of traffic may increase safety or improve access for bicyclists. Contraflow bike lanes, when designated on a street that has one-way motor vehicle traffic, even for a short segment, may enhance connectivity to the broader bicycle network and access to destinations, thereby reducing out-of-the-way detours and the desire for bicyclists to ride the wrong-way. The contraflow bike lane is a specialized bicycle facility that can be used in particular situations and is intended to reduce the number of conflicts between bicycles and motor vehicles and improve access for bicyclists. Contraflow lanes may also alleviate riding on a high-speed, high-volume route. However, there are safety concerns associated with contraflow riding, as this places bicycles in a position where motorists do not expect to see them. Thus, a careful assessment should be made before installation.

Contraflow bike lanes can be found in cities in the United States with large numbers of bicyclists, including Cambridge, MA (see case study); Boulder, CO; Madison, WI; and Eugene, OR.


Contraflow bike lanes create specialized on-street facilities for bicyclists that can be used to enhance bike connectivity. They can improve safety and bicyclist behavior by reducing out-of-direction riding and the wrong-way riding that may occur where the most direct or comfortable route is a one-way street. This treatment can also be used to provide an alternative to riding on a high-speed, high-volume route.


  • Install contraflow lanes on the correct side of the street, i.e. where the opposite vehicle travel lane would be on a two-way street.
  • Where contraflow bike lanes are considered, the road or street should be evaluated to determine if this facility is appropriate. For example, parking on the other side of the counter-flow bike lane should not be provided due to operational safety concerns.
  • Provide adequate bike lane width.
  • Provide appropriate pavement markings and signing along the route.
  • Consider whether colored pavement in the contraflow lane is needed.
  • Consider if a protected barrier is needed to provide a comfortable and safe contraflow lane on higher-speed, higher-volume roadway.
  • Avoid termination of contraflow bike lanes where bicyclists are left in a vulnerable situation.
  • Avoid situations where there are many driveways, alleys, or streets that would intersect with the contraflow lane.
  • Determine if there is room for a regular bike lane in the direction of motor vehicle travel on the opposite side of the street.
  • Determine if existing traffic signals need to be modified with loop detectors or push buttons or a bicycle signal to accommodate bicyclists.
  • Ensure contraflow bike lanes are legal under local traffic laws.

Estimated Cost

See countermeasure costs for bike lanes.


To view references for this countermeasure group click here.

Case Studies

Cambridge, Massachusetts
Washington, District of Columbia