Since late last year, Bike Fort Collins along with and the Scott Ellis Memorial Fund have been working with CDOT and the county to replace the existing “Share the Rules, Share the Road Signs,” or “Share the Road” signage with these formats (“Bikes May Use Full Lane” and “Motorists Shall Give 3-Feet Clearance.” These signs will be more communicative relative to not only traffic laws and regulations, but ensuring all road users know what to expect while co-existing on our Northern Colorado highways.

There are currently only 18 bicycle-related road or highway signs county-wide: 16 “Share the Rules/Share the Road” signs and two “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs. Ultimately there is planned to be as many as 80 sign locations. CDOT plans to put approximately ten up along Highway 34 between Loveland and Estes Park—5 in each direction. Similarly, they will install an additional ten along Highway 14 between Ted’s Place and Stove Prairie Landing, or Rustic—again approximately 5 in each direction. 

The county is also looking to install approximately 20 signs per year over the next three years on various county roads. The three of us (BFC, YGR and the Scott Ellis Memorial Fund) developed a map of proposed/potential locations, gathered from stakeholders across all three organizations and submitted it to the county. The county conducted an initial analysis of the proposed locations, cross-referenced with their own data and has initially estimated/determined approximately 60 locations (over and above the 20 locations by CDOT on Highways 14 and 34). We will be reviewing those locations with the county in the near future. 

Regulatory Sign vs. Caution Signs

Note how the signage is white with black text and in the shape of square or rectangular. That is an indicator that cyclists’ ability to use the full lane, and that motorists allowing 3-feet clearance when passing cyclists are state laws (think of what a speed limit sign looks like). By contrast, yellow signs with black text are generally cautionary signs or recommendations (think of the yellow speed limit signs as you enter a sharp turn, or road merging indicators). Per CDOT and the county, while road signage is not intended to educate road users, but rather simply state the law, or state regulations associated with the stretch of highway, given the substantial increase in the number of these signs that we will be seeing, we believe that they will also serve to educate and inform road users of the law. There are likely many motor vehicle drivers who have been driving (and received their driver’s licenses) before these messages were ever state laws, as well as the tourists traveling through our state who may not have such laws from where they have traveled. That said, we also have plans to pull together an awareness campaign for these news signs, as they get installed. 

The “Bikes May Use Full Lane” message and sign format is already a part of the Federal MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices), which defines the standards used by road engineers across the country to install and maintain traffic control signage on all public streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public travel. And, the “Motorists Shall Give 3-Feet Clearance” is currently in the process of being adopted into the MUTCD. 

Existing Signage

Some might be wondering about the sign format(s) that already exist in some places within Colorado (pictured), depicting a cyclist and car from a front/rear perspective with an arrow between them indicating 3-feet, and thus the 3-feet to pass regulation. There are design guidelines within the MUTCD that don’t permit this layout. So, CDOT along with 24 other states collaborated in a pooled study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that tested five alternative sign formats for this message and the “Motorists Shall Give 3-Feet Clearance” version was deemed the most effective. The sign performed the best relative to both road user groups (motorists and cyclists) understanding it. This former version with the arrow between the bike and car was sometimes interpreted by motorists that the cyclist needed to give the car 3-feet clearance. 

We’ll post more updates as this project continues to progress.