Bicycle Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


Example of green pavement used to mark a bicycle lane through an intersection. Photo by Toole Design Group




Pavement Marking Improvements

A variety of pavement markings are available to make bicycling safer. Generally the markings are for lane separation; for indicating an assigned path or correct position for the bicyclist; and for information about upcoming turning and crossing maneuvers. The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is the national standard for all pavement markings (as well as signs and signals), and Part 9 of the MUTCD focuses on "Traffic Controls for Bicycle Facilities." Some states may have their own supplement to the MUTCD.

Examples of pavement markings include the striping and symbols associated with bike lanes, striping for paved shoulders, turning lanes at intersections, shared lane markings, railroad crossings, and drainage grates or other pavement hazards or irregularities. A general guideline for improved bicycle safety is to make sure the markings are durable, visible, and non-skid. Markings are usually done with paint or thermoplastic. Paint is cheaper but tends to fade quickly, while thermoplastic lasts longer. Methyl methacrylate acryline (MMA) is another pavement marking material being more commonly used. MMA is very durable (lasting five to eight years), but it costs approximately 10 to 15 times as much per mile as standard paint. Shared lane markings and bike lane symbols are typically applied using thermoplastic. Cost, lifespan, geography, weather, motorized traffic volumes, and pedestrian and bike counts are factors to take into consideration when choosing pavement marking material. The amount of skid resistance varies with each product. If thermoplastic is used for bicycle markings, a thin, non-skid type is preferred. Sometimes glass beads, crushed glass, and aggregate can be added during placement to increase skid resistance.

Green pavement markings have received FHWA approval and are being more commonly used, particularly in situations where there tend to be conflicts between motorists and bicyclists like where motorists must cross over a bike lane to make a right turn, or through an intersection.

Care in the placement of painted markings will increase their longevity. For example, placement of markings, near far-side bus stops or near driveways or other locations can be adjusted to avoid wear from tires. For far-side bus stops, markings may be dashed within the operational zone of the bus stop and continued as a solid line just beyond the stop. Also, all pavement markings perform better when applied to a clean roadway surface.


A variety of pavement markings can be used at intersections to indicate the presence of bicyclists and bike facilities; to provide information about upcoming turning and crossing maneuvers; and to guide bicyclists on the correct path through an intersection.


  • Long-term maintenance costs should be taken into consideration as durability and cost are generally inversely related.
  • Local weather conditions and how pavement markings are applied will impact pavement marking durability.
  • Use of thin, durable, non-skid thermoplastic material improves conditions for bicyclists.
  • Careful placement of markings (e.g., away from bus and truck traffic, away from driveways) will increase their longevity.

Estimated Cost

Min. Low
Max. High
Cost Unit
# of Sources (Observations)
Pavement Marking Symbol
Shared Lane/Bicycle Marking

Safety Effects

A summary of studies that examined the safety effects of colored pavement can be found here.


To view references for this countermeasure group click here.

Case Studies

Portland, Oregon
Cambridge, Massachusetts
University Place, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Santa Cruz, California
St. Petersburg, Florida
Columbia, Missouri