Advisory Bike Lanes

I’ve been getting sicker since last week so it has been challenging to bike and participate in course activities. When I arrived at my apartment after class over the past week I went straight to bed so now I am behind on blogging. My coughing got worse yesterday and a 30+ mile group bike ride was planned for today so I had to miss my first group bike ride. Hopefully I can ride tomorrow in Houten.

Last Wednesday, July 8 we went on our second Delft facility tour with a large group of students from Northeastern University to visit bicycle and pedestrian only underpasses and bridges, standard bike lanes, and advisory bike lanes. As with the first Delft facility tour, details about the facilities can be found in the below map and on the Northeastern University blog.


I’m responsible for writing about one facility and providing a comparison to the United States. Since advisory bike lanes are rare in the United States, I chose to focus on advisory bike lanes. The below photo shows how an advisory bike lane works. As Peter Furth made clear to our class after almost every student misunderstood how the street works, the photo is incorrect in calling the center area a “lane” because the entire street is a shared-use space and has no travel lane. Travel lanes are usually understood to be for one direction and for one column of travel. Streets with advisory bike lanes have shared-use space because motorists are allowed to merge into the advisory bike lane when navigating an oncoming motorist.

Advisory Bike Lane

Advisory Bike Lane

The below photo is an example of two automobiles navigating advisory bike lanes on a rural road near Utrecht, Netherlands that I took during my previous study abroad trip. The use of two advisory bike lanes instead of two travel lanes forces motorists to pay attention (motorists have to navigate oncoming traffic since they don’t have an entire travel lane to themselves), which forces motorists to slow down (motorists aren’t going to speed when they have to navigate oncoming traffic).

Cars passing in advisory bike lanes

Automobiles passing in advisory bike lanes

Even though motorists and cyclists likely don’t think about how much safer they are when motorists slow down, advisory bike lanes increase the likelihood that motorists and cyclists will survive a crash because motorists are forced to go slower than they would be if they had an entire travel lane to themselves. The below infographic explains how people are more likely to live if we build our infrastructure to force motorists to slow down. Since cyclists have the advisory bike lanes to themselves and motorists are required to yield to cyclists when using advisory bike lanes to navigate oncoming traffic, cyclists are not forced to pay attention or slow down.

Driving slower saves lives

Driving slower saves lives

Even when there isn’t oncoming traffic, motorists in the Netherlands try to give cyclists as much space as possible. The below photo, which I took on a rural road near Utrecht, shows a motorist moving into an advisory bike lane so my classmates can feel safer while biking in the other advisory bike lane. In addition, notice how there is no center line and the advisory bike lanes are red. Coloring bike infrastructure in the Netherlands is very important because it guides cyclists to where they need to ride and informs motorists where to expect cyclists. This appears to work better than the “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs in the United States because cyclists are now predictable, which is important for all street users.

Motorist moving into advisory bike lane

Motorist moving into advisory bike lane

As the below photo from Delft shows, advisory bike lanes are just as common on urban streets and can be used by large trucks. While I didn’t see any oncoming traffic try to navigate around the large truck, I assume there is enough space for a car to maneuver around the large truck. Even though the truck driver probably doesn’t enjoy driving on streets with advisory bike lanes, the truck driver is forced to slow down, which saves lives. Since the Netherlands prioritizes safety over speed, everything in the Netherlands is about slowing automobiles and making streets and roads safe for all users.

Large truck using a street with advisory bike lanes

Large truck using a street with advisory bike lanes

Advisory Bike Lanes in the United States

If I am understanding advisory bike lanes correctly, I believe advisory bike lanes can be installed on streets with “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs or sharrows because these streets don’t have enough space for a standard bike lane. Even though Peter Furth’s 2009 report on Bicycle Priority Lanes: A Proposal for Marking Shared Lanes is recommending the use of bicycle priority lanes, the inspiration for bicycle priority lanes is the suggestion lane (AKA advisory bike lane). This means that he supports the use of advisory bike lanes on streets that don’t have enough space for a standard bike lane. While I don’t have the cross section measurements, the below photo shows an example of where I believe advisory bike lanes could be installed in Charlotte, NC.

Bikes May Use Full Lane Sign and Sharrows in Charlotte

Bikes May Use Full Lane Sign and Sharrows in Charlotte (Photo: Matt Magnasco)

The next step in understanding the feasibility of installing advisory bike lanes in the United States is discovering whether the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) allows the traffic control device. According to Peter Koonce’s blog post about advisory bike lanes, the MUTCD requires the use of a center line in the following cases so advisory bike lanes could not be installed where a center line is required..

MUTCD requires center line in these cases

MUTCD requires center line in these cases

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