Bicycle Toolbox

This toolbox describes bicycle facilities, markings, signs, and signals used in Cambridge and elsewhere to make streets, paths, and intersections safer and more convenient for people biking. Click the title of any of the tools below to be linked to more information.


Bike Lane

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Bike lanes are marked lanes on the street exclusively for the use of people riding bikes. They are often marked with a symbol of a bicyclist. Bike lanes are typically located to the right of motor vehicle travel lanes and flow in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic. They may bordered on the right side by a curb or parked cars. In addition to providing a designated space for bikes, bike lanes alert other road users to be on the lookout for bikes.

Left-Side Bike Lane

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Left-side bike lanes are bike lanes placed on the left side of one-way streets or streets with a median. They are typically used in places where the majority of bicycle traffic is going straight or it is easier to get to or from the bike lane from the left side. They can also be effective for keeping bikes away from conflicts on the right side of the street, such as parked cars or buses.

Contra-Flow Bike Lane

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Contra-flow bike lanes are bike lanes marked to allow bicyclists to ride in the opposite direction of motor vehicle traffic. They are typically used on one-way streets to allow two-way travel for bikes. 

Buffered Bike Lane 

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Buffered bike lanes are bike lanes with a marked buffer space between the bike lane and parked cars. This buffer is designed to create more physical separation between bikes and parked cars to reduce the risk of car doors opening into the bike lane, or “dooring." 

Separated Bike Lane 

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Separated bike lanes are bike lanes against the curb with a buffer and physical separation from traffic or parked vehicles on the left. Physical separation often comes in the form of bollards or a curb. Separated bike lanes reduce the risks of bicyclists getting hit by car doors and vehicles entering the bike lane. 

Two-Way Separated Bike Lane

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Two-way separated bike lanes create two-way bicycle travel on one side of the road, with a physical separation from motor vehicles. Compared to separate one-way facilities, a two-way facility often requires less road space and the wider facility can make maintenance easier.

Grade-Separated Bike Lane

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Grade-separated bike lanes, sometimes called "cycle tracks," are bicycle facilities raised above the street at the sidewalk level. They often include a buffer zone between the bike lane and street and/or pedestrian sidewalk with physical buffers like planters. This facility prevents motor vehicles from entering the bike lane, adding additional elements of safety and comfort for people biking.

Multi-Use Path

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A multi-use path is an off-road path for non-motorized use. These paths are designed to be shared by bikes, pedestrians, and other micro-mobility uses, and bicyclists should be respectful and aware of their surroundings when using them.

Shared Residential or Commercial Street

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A shared street has no curb or grade-separation between the roadway and the sidewalk, encouraging all users to share the space. Vehicle volumes are either low or discouraged. The concept is also known as a “woonerf” (a Dutch term loosely translated to “living street”). 

Bicycle Boulevard

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Bicycle boulevards are streets designed intentionally for low motor traffic volumes and speeds to prioritize bikes. Bicycle Boulevards use signs, pavement markings, and speed and volume management measures to discourage thru-travel by motor vehicles and create more comfortable alternative routes for bicyclists to busy arterial streets. 

Advisory Bike Lane

Advisory Bike Lane PhotoAdvisory bike lanes are used on low-volume streets that are too narrow to fit bike lanes and motor vehicle travel lanes separately. Bikes have priority in the advisory lane and motor vehicles travel in the center of the street, but are allowed to enter into the advisory lane when safe to do so to avoid oncoming traffic. Advisory bike lanes are marked with a dotted line to distinguish them from conventional bike lanes. 

Bus/Bike Lane

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A bus/bike lane is a restricted travel lane shared by bikes and buses that other types of motor vehicles are not allowed to use. They are intended to be more comfortable for bicyclists than normal vehicle travel lanes because buses are much less frequent than cars. They are typically used over short stretches approaching intersections or in places where bike traffic is low and there is not enough road space for separate bike and bus facilities.

Markings, Signs, and Signals

Sharrow/ Shared Lane Marking

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Shared lane markings (SLMs), or “sharrows,” are road markings used to indicate that the street is intended to be shared by bikes and motor vehicles. SLMs reinforce the legitimacy of bicycle traffic on the street and may be configured to offer directional and wayfinding guidance.

Colored Pavement Marking

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Coloring the pavement in a bicycle facility increases the visibility of the facility, highlights potential areas of conflict, and reinforces priority to bicyclists. Colored pavement is often used across intersections.

Bike Box

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A bike box is a marked space for bikes in front of motor vehicles at a traffic light to allow bicyclists to wait in front of traffic during a red light. They are effective for increasing visibility of people biking, enabling bikes to more easily turn left at intersections, and facilitating two-stage left turns.

Bike Route Wayfinding Signage & Markings

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Wayfinding signage and markings can be used to tell people how far they are from popular destination and guide them on the recommended or most comfortable routes.

Bicycle Signal

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Bicycle signals and beacons are traffic signals specifically for people on bikes. They can be used to give bikes priority crossing at an intersection and reinforce when bikes should stop to avoid conflicts. 

For More Information

For more information on bike policies and infrastructure in Cambridge, contact Cara Seiderman, 617/349-4629 or

Get ideas for more bicycle tools from NACTO’s Design Guide: