Bicycle Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


Signal detection for bicyclists using the bike lane. Photo by Carl Sundstrom - Marie Stake Example of pavement marking at traffic signal which shows bicycles where to stop to activate the signal. - Marie Stake


Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices This symbol may be placed in the travel lane to indicate the optimum position for a bicyclist to actuate the signal.
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices



Bike-Activated Signal Detection

At signalized intersections that require users to be detected to call a green light, detection should be designed to accommodate bicyclists. Properly designed detection can help deter red light running and unsafe behaviors by reducing delay at signalized intersections.

There are two categories of detection: active or passive. Active detection requires the user to activate the signal phase through a pushbutton. While existing sidewalk-based pedestrian pushbutton detection may adequately serve bicyclists that ride on the sidewalk, it should not be expected that on-road cyclists would leave the roadway to actuate a signal. As such, passive detection (i.e., when the signal system automatically detects the presence of the user) is preferred. The most common motor vehicle detection technology, the loop detector, can also be used to service bicyclists. Additional passive detection devices may include video detection and microwave detection. Passive technologies are continuously being updated, and new innovations in detection should be considered and tested as they are developed.

Bicycle detection devices can be used to call a phase or to prolong the phase to allow a bicyclist to clear an intersection. For bicyclists to prompt the phase at a signalized intersection, bicycle detection devices should be located in the most conspicuous location and supplemented by appropriate signing and pavement markings to inform bicyclists of where to wait.


Signalized intersections should include detection for bicyclists to facilitate safe, comfortable, and convenient crossings at intersections for bicyclists while also minimizing delay.


  • Detection devices should be placed in the expected path of the bicyclists, and aimed to maximize efficiency and responsiveness.
  • It may be desirable to install advanced bicycle detection on the approach to the intersection to extend the phase, or to prompt the phase and allow for continuous bicycle through movements.
  • If a pushbutton is used, the location of the device should not require bicyclists to dismount or be rerouted out of the way or onto the sidewalk to activate the phase. Signage should supplement the signal to alert bicyclists of the required activation to prompt the green phase.
  • Signal timings should be adjusted to account for the unique operating characteristics of bicycles. For additional details, see the countermeasure optimizing signal timing for bicycles.
  • It is important that the design of loop detectors consider the amount of metal in typical bicycles. Certain types of loop configurations are better at detecting bicyclists than others and settings for loop detectors should be adjusted to properly detect bicycles.

Estimated Cost

Detection devices are used to determine if a pedestrian or bicyclist is waiting for the signal. There are many different ways that these devices detect pedestrians and bicyclists. For instance, bicycle detectors ($1,920 on average per intersection approach, $1,070 to $2,680 range) are usually loop detectors embedded in the pavement, while pedestrian detectors use pushbuttons to detect the presence of pedestrians waiting to cross.

Min. Low
Max. High
Cost Unit
# of Sources (Observations)
Pedestrian/Bike Detection
Furnish and Install Pedestrian Detector
Pedestrian/Bike Detection
Push Button


To view references for this countermeasure group click here.

Case Studies

Portland, Oregon
Santa Cruz, California
Davis, California