Bicycle Toolbox

This toolbox contains bicycle facilities, markings, signs, and signals that can be used to make streets, paths, and intersections safer and more convenient for cyclists. Look at these tools when thinking about what you’d like to see in Cambridge, or when answering our survey.


Bike Lane

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Bike lanes designate an exclusive space for bicyclists through the use of pavement markings and signage. The bike lane is located adjacent to motor vehicle travel lanes and flows in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic. Bike lanes are typically on the right side of the street. Benefits include providing obvious space on the road for cyclists and sending a message to other road users to expect cyclists.

Buffered Bike Lane 

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Buffered bike lanes are conventional bicycle lanes with a designated buffer space separating the bicycle lane from the parking lane. Benefits include reduced risk of “dooring” and greater space for cyclists to maneuver. Potential disadvantage is that motorists and delivery vehicles are more likely to illegally park in the lane.

Separated Bike Lane 

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Separated bike lanes are at street level and use a variety of methods for physical protection from passing traffic. A protected bike lane may use a parking lane or other barrier between the bike lane and the motor vehicle travel lane. Benefits include a reduced risk of “dooring,” preventing double-parking, reducing risks from motorists entering/existing parking spaces, and more comfortable for bicyclists of all levels and ages.

Raised Cycle Track

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Raised cycle tracks are bicycle facilities that are vertically separated from motor vehicle traffic. Many are paired with a furnishing zone between the cycle track and motor vehicle travel lane and/or pedestrian area. Benefits include that motorists are kept from easily entering and it is more attractive to a wider range of bicyclists at all levels and ages than less separated facilities. Read more on cycle track design.

Two-Way Separated Bike Lane

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Two-way separated bike lanes allow bicycle movement in both directions on one side of the road, with a physical separation from the road. This facility dedicates and protects space for bicyclists by improving perceived comfort and safety. A two-way facility usually requires less space than two one-way facilities, and can make maintenance easier. 

Left-Side Bike Lane

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Left-side bike lanes are conventional bike lanes placed on the left side of one-way streets or two-way median divided streets. They are usually done where the majority of bicycle traffic is going straight or accessing streets or other connections more easily from the left side. Benefits include avoidance of potential right-side bike lane conflicts on streets, such as parking or buses.

Contra-Flow Bike Lane

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Contra-flow bicycle lanes are bicycle lanes designed to allow bicyclists to ride in the opposite direction of motor vehicle traffic. They convert a one-way traffic street into a two-way street: one direction for motor vehicles and bikes, and the other for bikes only. One advantage is that they can provide more direct connections for cyclists.

Bicycle Boulevard

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Bicycle boulevards are streets with low motorized traffic volumes and speeds, designated and designed to give bicycle travel priority. Bicycle Boulevards use signs, pavement markings, and speed and volume management measures to discourage through trips by motor vehicles and create safe, convenient bicycle crossings of busy arterial streets. 

Shared Residential or Commercial Street

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A shared street in this meaning is one where there is no curbed delineation between the roadway and the sidewalk and all users 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”). 

Shared-Use Path

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A shared-use path is defined as a trail permitting more than one type of user. Paths function as transportation facilities as well as recreational facilities. A shared-use path is physically separated from motor vehicular traffic by open space or a barrier. In dense urban areas such as Cambridge, the width of the path should be 14’ (plus 2’ shoulders).

Separated Bike Facilities

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Learn more about separated bike facilities in Cambridge.

Bicycle Advisory LanesAdvisory Bike Lane Photo

An advisory bike lane is used on low-volume streets that are too narrow to fit bike lanes and car travel lanes separately. An advisory bike lane is marked with a dotted line to the left, directing cars to travel outside the lane if possible. These markings give bicyclists a space to ride, but are also available to motorists if space is needed to pass oncoming traffic. 

Markings, Signs, and Signals

Sharrow/ Shared-Lane Marking

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Shared Lane Markings (SLMs), or “sharrows,” are road markings used to indicate a shared lane environment for bicycles and automobiles. Among other benefits, SLMs reinforce the legitimacy of bicycle traffic on the street, recommend proper bicyclist positioning, and may be configured to offer directional and wayfinding guidance.

Colored Pavement Marking

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Colored pavement within a bicycle lane increases the visibility of the facility, identifies potential areas of conflict, and reinforces priority to bicyclists in conflict areas and in areas with pressure for illegal parking.

Bike Box

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A bike box is a designated area at the head of a traffic lane at a signalized intersection that provides bicyclists with a safe and visible way to get ahead of queuing traffic during the red signal phase. They increase visibility of bicyclists and reduce signal delay for bicyclists. Bike boxes that extend across an entire intersection can also facilitate bicyclist left turn positioning during red lights.

Bike Route Wayfinding Signage & Markings System

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A bicycle wayfinding system consists of signing and/or pavement markings to guide bicyclists to their destinations.

Bicycle Signal

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Bicycle signals and beacons facilitate bicyclist crossings of roadways. Bicycle signals make crossing intersections safer for bicyclists by clarifying when to enter an intersection and by restricting conflicting vehicle movements.

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: