Cyclist Oriented Road Signs 

– Suggestions for Cycling Friendly Signage

Who are the target audiences of any signage program?

What is to be achieved with a signage program?

Why is a program needed?

What should be included in a signage program?

 

For effective signs on select roads that will attract cyclists to use these roads and that will also create awareness in other road users of the presence of cyclists, extensive road signage is needed including, special bikeway signs affixed on top of street signs as well as other types of signs posted along the roadway.

A comprehensive set of road signage should heighten cyclists’ comfort on the road and encourage people to cycle as a means of transportation.  Signage should ensure that a cyclist knows where the cyclist is geographically at any time, that the cyclist is heading in the desired direction, that the cyclist is aware of any condition ahead that requires special attention, and that the cyclist becomes aware of any special interest along the route.  A cyclist should never be confused, hesitate, or uncertain where one should be cycling.  Road signs should provide destination, direction, information, and warnings in a timely manner.

Market Segment The target audience for any signage program may be segmented by purpose of trip for a cyclist.  In addition, motorists should also be included as a target audience for the program.
  • Commuter cyclists - work, school, repeat trips

  • Shopping cyclists

  • Utilitarian (or repeat trips) cyclists

  • Recreational cyclists – occasional, weekend, local, intraurban, regional

  • Exercise cyclists

  • Touring cyclists – weekend, trips. longer trips - provincial, national, international

  • Motorists

Range of Cyclists Images
What is Trying to be Accomplished?

Cyclists

A cyclist should always know where the one is, what is ahead, and what happenings are ahead where special attention is needed.
Comprehensive and consistent Bike Signage along roads is another component of making roads more ‘Cycling Friendly' and of attracting people to consider cycling as a transportation mode  for any trip purpose.
For people new to cycling, or less skilled or less confident cyclists, bike routes and bike route signage should be directed at attracting cyclists to plan their itinerary and travel along Cycling Friendly streets.  
For people new to cycling in the city or for new commuters, bike route signage will encourage people to plan trips and channel themselves along desirable cycling roads.  Frustration of ‘Where do I want to cycle today?’ will be simplified.
For touring cyclists, the feeling of where to go to next is most frustrating, especially if a bicycle is heavily loaded with travel and camping gear.  Word of easy, convenient, well marked signage into a city and to touring cyclists destinations will spread among touring cyclists and will elevate that city as a travel destination.  The economic benefit from touring cyclists to a city, especially the lower income, service workers are substantial.
For the city’s touring cyclists, comprehensively, well marked routes that will not cause frustration, will attract people to cycle on a trip to their destination rather using other forms of transportation, such as a car.  For example, if the way from Vancouver to the ferry docks at Tsawwassen were well marked and more conveniently served through the George Massey Tunnel, how many more people would cycle to Victoria or the Gulf Islands than take a car.  Ferry costs certainly are on the side of cycling.

Motorists

One of the purposes of bike signage on roads is to create awareness among motorists that certain roads are frequently used by cyclists.  As motorists will be sharing a bike signed road with cyclists, hopefully, a heightened recognition by motorists will be developed that special care and alertness should be taken while driving on such a signed road.  Hopefully, signage will also cause motorists to consider taking alternate roads where fewer cyclists may be present.
One of the hopes is that bike road signage will cause motorists to choose alternate travel routing and leave a designated Bike Route as a quiet, low volume street to be enjoyed by neighbours and by cyclists.  Lack of perceived or real intimidation by motorists should cause less confident people to give cycling a try.
Types of Signage

Information

It would be nice for cyclists to know where comfort stops are located, or drinking water facilities, or a doughnut shop, or a convenience store, and so on.  On hilly roads the elevation would be an interesting piece of information.  41 Information Sign to Park Facilities.jpg (12602 bytes)

Destination

Towns, cites, ferry docks, airport, major roads, geographic points of interest, significant shopping areas, parks, amusement areas, accommodation or camping facilities or anywhere cyclists would tend to ride to.  How much further ahead to these destinations? 42 Destination Airport.jpg (7492 bytes)

 

422 Destinations and Distances.jpg (7185 bytes)

Direction

Not all people easily recognize north or south or east or west.  The road system sometimes adds to this confusion.  Where is the next intersecting bike route or road with bike lanes? 43 La Route Verte Sign.jpg (5277 bytes)Straight and Right Turn Sign

 

Warning

Any upcoming situation that will require more acute cyclist attention.  Upcoming winding road, hilly, narrowing or steep road, roughness or changing road condition, poor line of sight, poor visibility, conflicting traffic. 44 Cyclist Yield Ped Watch for Turn Vehicle.jpg (50502 bytes)
Comments on Signage
Green Signs are Difficult to See

Signs

What is it all about?  Signs are meant to communicate information to a select audience.  Signs need to compete for attention for the intended audience.  Environmental and physical factors may strongly compete with the message of signs, including the visibility of the sign, changing colours of large plants and trees during the year, lack of colour contrast of signs against the background of buildings, greens, effects of the rising and setting sun, and the noise from sign clutter.  Also, the target audience may be focused and concentrating on the road ahead, traffic, people on the move, scenery, or the mind may be distracted by other thoughts.
57 Examples of Warning Signs.jpg (29768 bytes) Standard sign shapes, standard colours, standard sign messages lead to quick recognition, filtering of information, prioritization of importance of signs thereby identifying which sign needs to be read and attention needs to be given to it.
Considering that a cyclist covers 100 metres in 18 to 25 seconds, to grab cyclists’ attention for those few seconds that a sign is visible to a passing cyclist, a standard bike logo sign might proof quite useful.  Some jurisdictions have adopted a round sign with blue background, a white border, and a white bicycle logo.  Below the logo mounted on a pole the message signs are situated, also in blue with white border.  But not all signs need to be with a blue background.  Warning signs intended for cyclists only should still retain their traditional form and colour.  The purpose of the round bike logo sign is to draw quick recognition and attention of cyclists to read the attached signs.  The bike logo sign is a good start to compete for the cyclists’ attention complemented with strong, standardized colours of any additional signs that contrast with most backgrounds found along roadsides.  The diameter of the bike logo sign should be large enough to be spotted, at least, sufficient distance away for a cyclist to read the sign, understand its implication, and make safely whatever riding adjustment that is needed.  A minute response time from recognizing a sign to making the riding adjustment might be reasonable.  At the minimum, a cyclist should have time to read, interpret, and make a safe stop.  While it would be desirable to be able to read a sign at least half a normal city block away, at least the sign readability should be 200 metres for normal eye strength.  Half block signs may be appropriate for long blocks. 52 Round Blue Background White Border Bike Logo Sign.jpg (25596 bytes)
54 Yellow Route Name on Black Street Sign.jpg (7758 bytes) Yellow is normally a caution colour.  For Bike Route names, it seems to work well with black street signs rather than the green ones.  For consistent visual recognition of signs by degree of importance and purpose of signs, yellow would be better kept for warning signs.  Another contrasting colour could be selected for bike route names.
Green normally is a ‘GO’ colour or symbolizes green environment.  Unfortunately, as a colour it is sometimes hard to pick up if a sign is small. Green Signs are Difficult to see

The shade of blue used by a number of jurisdictions, especially with an inset white border, seems to be easily spotted while cycling.  55 Blue Round Bike Logo and Information Signs.jpg (33404 bytes)San Francisco Bike Route Signs
Whatever colour is chosen for cycling signs, the selected colour should be a bold colour that stands out well against the normal streetscape along roads including changing tree colours throughout the year, traffic lights, buildings and so on, visible in the strongest of suns and with night light shining on it. Cycling Route Sign - Straight Forward and Righ Turn Sign in Blue - Straight Forward and Right turn
On expressways with segregated through traffic lanes and collector lanes, it is normal for the through lanes to have blue signs and collector lanes to have green signs.  Maybe for maximum recognition by cyclists and drivers a signage convention should have:

.55 Blue Round Bike Logo and Information Signs.jpg (33404 bytes)

Cyclist direction and destination signage should be on blue background with a white border 60 Destination Direction Signs for Cyclists.jpg (8879 bytes)
General geographic or local information signage should have a solid background that is highly visible with a white border.  Yellow or red should not be used.
Road information signs specifically for cyclists only should be on a blue background with white borders for consistency. 58 Bike Lane Begin Information Sign NZ.jpg (61152 bytes)
59 Safe Cycling Route Warning Sign.jpg (11168 bytes) Warning signs should be on a yellow background with black border.. 9c6 Cyclist Dismount Warning Sign.jpg (20114 bytes) 9c91 Cyclist Dismount Rail Crossing Sign.jpg (10570 bytes)
When apply both to motorized vehicles as well as to cyclists, road information and warning signs utilized should be the existing signs with the existing colours.  These signs should be reduced in physical size when mounted on the road when only addressing cyclists, considering the scale of cyclists to cars and the lesser distance covered by bicycles to cars.  

Sign Placement

Nothing is more frustrating than cycling down a bike route and then suddenly finding that there are no longer any bike stencils on the pavement, any bike route signs, or any other evidence of a bike route.  Did the bike route just suddenly stop?  Where was the turnoff?  Where were the direction signs?  Was a sign missed by the cyclist as concentrating was on something else, the traffic, the scenery, or some thoughts?  While cycling the bike routes in Vancouver, for some reason, it is easy for a conscientious cyclist to miss a sign when the bike route changes streets.  In fact, if one is not familiar with the bike route, it is not uncommon to keep on cycling along a road while the bike route has gone into a different direction.
For motorists there are warning signs of upcoming changes and then a direction sign at the change itself.  Why not the same for cyclists?  Change in road direction of a bike route is an excellent example where a pre-warning sign is justified.  Ideally, a cyclist should always be able to see the next sign ahead. 61 Cyclist Information Sign Advance Warning Change in Bike Lane.jpg (75789 bytes)
Street Name Signs What is the purpose of identifying a street as a bike street?  Who is the intended audience?  Well, people new to the city or new to cycling or new to commuting, infrequent cyclists, cyclists who do not frequently travel along a route, geographically direction challenged cyclists, touring and visiting cyclists no matter if from another municipality, province, or country form part of the audience.  A cyclist should feel comfortable at all times when cycling.  A well-signed road leads to that comfort.  Comfort and lack of confusion adds to the cycling experience.  It will contribute to drawing more people to cycling, especially the less skilled or less experienced cyclists.  Anxiety or discomfort is just a reason for a person to choose a car instead of a bicycle to make a trip.
Another important part of the audience for street signs is the motoring public.  Street signs with a bike logo and street signs with a bike route name increases the awareness of the motorist that the road will be shared with cyclists.  Hopefully, alertness, speed reduction, defensive driving practices will kick in.  More importantly, it may also make motorists, especially truck drivers, consider if the trip should include a bike route street.  A motorists may choose an alternate street where there will be less forms of conflicting of transportation, i.e. the cyclists.  Should this occur and it does on some roads, then the neighbourhood and the cyclists will gain.  A quiet street will draw more inexperienced or less skilled cyclists out and travel by bicycle rather than by motorized vehicles. 71 Green Street Sign with Bike Logo - Large Size.jpg (3632 bytes)

72 Black Street Sign with Green Logo.jpg (6106 bytes)

73 Black Street Sign Green Bike Logo Bike Route Name.jpg (4729 bytes)

A bike route should have street signs advertising that it is a cycling street.  Cycling logo on the street sign is an important identifier.  Bike route names on top of the sign adds to this awareness.  It also contributes comfort to cyclists in knowing that one is on the right road and direction.
74 Spot the Bike Logo on the Street Sign.jpg (18570 bytes) For some street signs it may be a case of ‘Can you spot the bike logo?’.  On some street signs the bike logo is small but readable if you carry a set of binoculars with you.  Even the block number is equal or larger than the bike logo.
For other street signs, especially those suspended from wires over the street, some are large enough to be read a good distance away and the bike logo is easily noticed.  We need to remember that a lot of people have eyesight less than desirable, use glasses, or are just feeling the effects of age, as our society is getting older. 75 Large Street Signs with Bike Logo.jpg (23030 bytes)
Street signs attached to poles tend to be smaller than overhead street signs.  The legibility from a distance is lesser.  There is a greater need for easily identifiable bike logo to allow cyclists and motorists to safely make decisions on the use of an upcoming street.  Choice of colour is important here.  Having a black street sign with white lettering and a green bike logo affixed on the outward end is useful.  A totally green street sign would be less visible at a distance.

An alternate approach would be to have a traditional street sign with a round, blue bike logo sign affixed to the end.  A standardized bike logo sign would provide that additional early recognition as it stands out better against the background than the green bike logo as part of the street sign.

 

76 Street Sign Route Sign Blue Bike Logo.jpg (7153 bytes)

71 Green Street Sign with Bike Logo - Large Size.jpg (3632 bytes)

73 Black Street Sign Green Bike Logo Bike Route Name.jpg (4729 bytes)

77 Bike Route Sign and Bike Logo on Road.jpg (28756 bytes) A street sign identifying a bike route or bike lane should be augmented with curb mounted bike route signs and cycling logo stenciled on the road.
Route signs should be placed frequently enough so that cyclists have one in sight at all times. 79 Bike Route Sign - Ontario.jpg (32754 bytes)
78 Bike Route Sign at Start of Street Block.jpg (50254 bytes) As a minimum, there should be one at the start of the street block and another one halfway down the block, unless a block is very short and the next intersection is in sight.
Cycling logos on the pavement should have the same frequency.  For the awareness of motorists that cyclists are also sharing the road, there should be on logo continuously in the sight of the driver.  

Bike Route Signs

Highway name signs mounted on the road curb are well used on roads in the country and in urban areas to provide a comfort level to motorists that one is driving in the right direction and on the right road.  There are information signs before an intersection advising that a highway or a named road is coming up.  There are highway signs at the entrance of the intersection.  There are highway name signs just after the intersection to let a motorist know that the right road is being driven on.  Between intersections there are highway named signs at specified distances.  All this provides a comfort to motorists on their trip.
Why should not the same apply to cyclists?  After all, should  cyclists not know where they are at all times?  Should cyclists not have the same comfort level on a trip as the motorists?  In fact, an error by a cyclist going down a wrong road is much more difficult, in human exertion terms, to correct than for a motorist who just wasted some time and fuel but no human effort.  Just as for bike route identified, street name signs, cyclists who are less experienced with a geographic area will be drawn to cycle on streets that are well signed.
Bike route or bike lane signs should be placed at exit side of an intersection, as a minimum, then more frequently along the block depending on the length of the block, visibility, and conflicting intersections.
What is the most desirable Bike Route Sign?
Identifying highways or county roads by number seems to an effective means for communication to motorists a certain road that should be taken to arrive at a desired destination.  Why should cyclists not be treated similarly?  Why would the same approach not provide the same comfort level to cyclists as motorists and influence their decision to take a bike rather than a car?  How many times have we heard that someone took a car for a trip rather than a bike because one was unfamiliar with the road network or signage level was too poor to feel comfortable to cycle?
  81 Green Bike Route Sign.jpg (14857 bytes) La Route Verte Bike Route Sign - Numbered83 Bike Lane and Bike Logo on Pavement.jpg (52168 bytes)
What is a desirable bike route sign?  It should have a circle, blue background with white border bike logo sign on top.  Then the direction sign should have the name of the bike route or bike lane with an arrow to show direction of the bike route.  There should be a route number sign with a bicycle logo, as well.
If a bike route is incontiguous, then a 'To Bike Route' signs should be placed along the road until the next transverse bike route is reached.
Cyclists may have planed the trip carefully copying down each road that needs to be traveled or may have just set out with a directional trip plan in mind.  Being able to depend on destination and direction signs that will lead from bike route to bike route or bike lanes will make cycling so much more care free and will attract the more timid or inexperienced person to cycle.  After all, one of the hopes of good signage and cycling friendly roads is to draw more people to cycling rather than using a motor vehicle.

Destination Signs

What other signs are required to make a bike route cycling friendly?  Well it would be nice to know the destinations that the bike route will take you past or to.  When cycling on Cypress Bike Route, it would be nice to know that the route will lead you towards the airport or in the direction to the Tsawwassen ferry and the Gulf Islands or Victoria, or towards the border with Washington State.  Coming the other way on Cypress Bike Route, it would be helpful to touring cyclists to be aware that the route will take cyclists to the downtown area, Kitsilano, and other destinations.
It would be helpful to cyclists to know that the Cypress Route will lead to the Burrard Bridge and safe cycling into downtown or to the Midtown / Ridgeway bike route.
Bike routes should have signs indicating popular destination points and distance in town, in the region, in the province, or to the border.  Destinations could be anything from municipalities to tourist attractions, to historically significant sites, to lookouts, to parks, to interesting shopping areas, to accommodations and so on.  The more information provided along a bike route will make more cyclists want to tour and will give our visiting touring cyclists that extra confidence and comfort that they know where they are going and how far away it is. Destination and Distance Sign - Montreal

Information Signs

Let us not forget that a cyclist usually needs to visit a water-drinking tap, a toilette, possibly a stop for some energy such as a juice, muffin, or yogourt on a ride.  Elevation signs along roads climbing up a mountain is interesting and a deviation from the drudgery of continuous climbing.  Direction signs along the bike route make the trip so much more enjoyable. 9b1 Park Drinking Water and Toilettes Destinations.jpg (74256 bytes) 9b2 Bike Trail Direction Sign NZ.jpg (67122 bytes)
9b3 Restaurant Information Sign.jpg (2525 bytes)
Bike Paid Parking Sign - Ottawa

Cyclists Beware and Focus on the Road Signs

Safe, enjoyable cycling for people of all skills level, experience, and age is certainly a state to try to achieve with bike routes and bike lanes.  The more cycling friendly, the more cyclists that will come.  Warning signs are needed when road conditions change - tight corner, reduced visibility, merging traffic, narrowing pavement, rough road surface, slippery road, and so on.

9c6 Cyclist Dismount Warning Sign.jpg (20114 bytes) 9c91 Cyclist Dismount Rail Crossing Sign.jpg (10570 bytes)
9c4 Sharp Turn and Railway Crossing Sign.jpg (14171 bytes)
9c1 Warning Sign - Bike Straight and Road Traffic Left Turn.jpg (6739 bytes)9c5 Bicycle Signal.jpg (6353 bytes)Steep Hill SignCycle bu Curb Sign

Pinch Point SIgnCyclist Stop Warning Sign9c8 Watch for Vehicles - Cyclists Yield to Pedestrians.jpg (52785 bytes)

For sake of quick recognition of warning signs messages, these signs should be the same design and colour as those used on motor roads.  If the warning is for both cyclists and motorists, then the signs should be full size.  If the warning is only for cyclists, then the signs should be so sized to be in perspective of a cyclist.  A round, blue background white border bike logo sign should be mounted above the warning sign to heighten recognition by cyclists.  

Motorists Be Aware Signs

One way to make a road more cycling friendly is to create awareness in motorists that cyclists are present on a road.  Hopefully awareness leads to good sense and respect for others that are near by.
Watch for Cyclist Sign Side roads intersecting bike routes and bike lanes are ideal places to create  motorists awareness of potential cyclists presence.  Warning signs should be installed on all intersecting roads at the intersections.  Ideally, all non-artery or secondary intersecting roads should have a stop sign or, at least, a traffic circle.  Pedestrian and Cyclists   Cycling Only Sign   9d4 Warning Signs for Motorists.jpg (9661 bytes)
Well-Signed Roads With well-signed roads, cyclists should feel comfortable that they are proceeding in the right direction and feel secure that their end destination will be reached.  Warning signs should lower any fear on cycling on the road.  Well-behaved motorists showing courtesy to the cyclists should contribute to even the less skilled or confident cyclists enjoying the cycling experience.
Knowledge leads to wisdom, so they say.
Cycling on Road Images
 

Signs Targeted to Touring Cyclists

Cycling Signage - My Perspective

Cycling as a Transportation Option, Our Contribution to a Better, Healthier Future

 

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