CalBike’s 2011 CTCDC Reform Pays Off as committee approves new bike lane designs and 3-foot law sign

by Chris Kidd

In more evidence that CalBike’s work to reform the California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) is paying off, last week the committee approved new designs for bike lanes and a new traffic sign notifying motorists of the new Three-Foot Law. Their quick action enables these changes to be included in the new California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (CA MUTCD) to be published before the end of the calendar year. Engineers throughout California rely on the CA MUTCD heavily; if a design isn’t in that book, most won’t apply it.

All new designs have to first go through the CTCDC, historically leading to lengthy delays for designs that professional bike planners and engineers know work in other countries and other states. That the CTCDC approved so many new great designs for bike lanes shows that the tide is shifting at Caltrans.

The reform effort started in 2011 with a bill sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition and authored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins. The bill required Caltrans to include representatives of nonmotorized road users on their committee. Before the bill even made it through the legislature, Caltrans responded proactively by appointing two well-respected bike planners, John Cicarelli of Bicycle Solutions and Bryan Jones, now at Alta Planning.  Cicarelli introduced all the measures approved last week; without him, none of this would have happened.Pass 3 Ft Min sign mockup

3 Foot Passing Signage

With the 3 Feet for Safety Law going into effect last month, the CTCDC moved to approve signs that remind drivers to pass bikes with at least 3 feet of room. These signs will be essential to spreading the work about the new law and reminding drivers of their responsibility to pass bicyclists safely.

Buffered Bike Lanes

While buffered bike lanes are already allowed in California, there was no specific design guidance for them. The new design guidelines provide clear instructions for providing painted buffers between bike lanes and auto travel lanes or between bike lanes and parking lanes.  The design guidelines provide special guidance to call out driveway exits and areas where drivers must merge into the bike lane before making right turns.

Bike Lanes through Intersections

Brand new guidance now allows cities to strip bike lanes through intersections.  Intersections, the area of highest stress and danger for bicyclists, was always the place where bike lanes disappeared.  Thanks to this change in design rules, bike lanes can be striped with a dashed line through intersections to provide clear direction for drivers and bicyclists alike where bikes will be when crossing intersections.

Contra-Flow Bike Lanes

One-way streets can create key gaps in bike networks, encouraging wrong-way riding or biking on the sidewalk. The new CTCDC designs allow cities to build contra-flow bike lanes that are clearly marked and separated from one-way vehicle traffic going the other way.  The types of separation allowed even include physical separation like bollards or raised concrete curb.