Buffered Bike Lanes

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What are Buffered Bike Lanes?

Bike lanes are defined as a portion of the roadway that has been designated by striping, signing, and pavement markings for preferential or exclusive use by bicyclists.(1)  Buffered bike lanes are standard bike lanes that are paired with a designated buffer space to separates the bicycle lane from the adjacent motor vehicle travel lane and/or parking lane.

Benefits of Buffered Bike Lanes

  • Provide greater separation between motor vehicles and bicyclists
  • Depending on width of the buffer and width of the bike lane, can provide adequate space for bicyclists to pass another bicyclist without encroaching into the adjacent motor vehicle travel lane.
  • Provide additional width so bicyclists can avoid doors opening in their path – greatest benefit when buffer is provided between parked cars and the bike lane.
  • Provide a wider dedicated bicycling width without making the bike lane appear to be a travel lane or a parking lane.
  • Can appeal to both beginner and accomplished bicycle users – lower stress.
  • Can encourage bicycling – contributes to the perception of safety among users.

Where, when and why buffered bike lanes are typically used?

  • Wherever a standard bike lane exists/is being considered.
  • On streets with high travel speeds, high travel volumes, and/or high truck traffic.
  • As a part of “Right Sizing” – on streets with extra lanes or extra lane width.

Design Considerations

Basic buffered bike lane design features:

  • Marked by standard bicycle lane word and/or symbol and arrow markings.
  • Buffer area delineated by two solid white lines.
  • Buffer area wider the two feet is marked using diagonal cross-hatching or chevron pattern hatching.
  • Buffer boundary line is dashed where cars are expected to cross, as at driveways or to enter right-turn lanes.
  • Where bicyclist volumes are high, bicyclist speed differentials are significant, or side-by-side riding is desired, the 7-foot bicycle travel area width is desired.
  • For buffered lanes next to on street parking, a 5-foot minimum width is recommended.

Special buffered bike lane design features:

  • Signage and pavement markings indicate where buses or pedestrians/passengers will cross bike lanes.
  • Special design features are needed to manage bicycle-pedestrian interactions.
  • Special design features are needed at intersections to manage bicycle- vehicle interactions associated with turn movements.

Maintenance Considerations

  • Lane lines and stencil markings should be maintained to clear and legible standards – buffer striping may require additional maintenance when compared to a conventional bicycle lane.
  • Buffered bike lanes should be maintained free of potholes, broken glass, and other debris.
  • Bike lanes should be plowed clear of snow by crews.
  • Bike lanes should be maintained to be free of potholes, broken glass, and other debris.
  • Utility cuts should be back-filled to the same degree of smoothness as the original surface – avoid ridges or other surface irregularities.
  • Chip seal only to the edge of the bike lane for a smoother bicycling surface.
  • Trenching in the bicycle lane should include the entire bicycle lane to avoid an uneven surface and/or longitudinal joints.


(1) AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, 1999.


The following references provide additional background on current and ongoing City and regional bicycle facilities planning:

The following references provide additional information on bike lane planning and design:

The following references provide additional information on “right-sizing” design and planning considerations: