The University of Tennessee, Knoxville


FHWA Issues Interim Approval for the Use of "Bicycle Boxes"


On October 12 FHWA issued an interim approval for the optional use of intersection bicycle boxes. This interim approval allows for the provisional use of bicycle boxes pending the official rulemaking process that will add these optional traffic control devices to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

Background: With an increasing number of bicycle lanes marked on the curb side of streets, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has been requested to provide traffic control devices to facilitate bicyclists positioned to the right side of general-use travel lanes to enter the center of the general-use lanes at the approach to a signalized intersection.

The intersection bicycle box is a designated area on the approach to a signalized intersection, between an advance stop line and the intersection stop line, intended to provide bicycles a space in which to wait in front of stopped motor vehicles during the red signal phase so that they are more visible to motorists at the start of the green signal phase. Positioning bicyclists in the center of the appropriate lane allows them to turn from a location where they are more visible to surrounding traffic, can increase the visibility of stopped bicycle traffic at an intersection, can reduce conflicts between bicycles and motor vehicles, can help mitigate intersection right-turn ("right-hook") conflicts, and can help group bicycles together to clear intersections more quickly.

FHWA Evaluation of Experimental Results: FHWA's Office of Transportation Operations has reviewed the available data and considers the experimental bicycle box to be satisfactorily successful for the applications that were tested. Positive operational effects have been documented in the experiments after the installation of bicycle boxes, including:

The design of the intersection bicycle box is not proprietary and can be used by any jurisdiction that requests and obtains Interim Approval from the FHW A to use bicycle boxes in accordance with Paragraphs 14 through 22 of Section 1A.10 of the MUTCD. FHWA believes that the intersection bicycle box as detailed in this memorandum has a low risk of safety or operational concerns.

This Interim Approval does not create a new mandate compelling the use of intersection bicycle boxes, but will allow agencies to install intersection bicycle boxes, pending official rulemaking revising the MUTCD, to facilitate more efficient operations at intersections. Interim Approval of a provisional device typically results in its inclusion in a future Notice of Proposed Amendments to revise the MUTCD. However, this Interim Approval does not guarantee adoption of the provisional device, either in whole or in part, in any future rulemaking that revises the MUTCD.

Conditions of Interim Approval: FHWA will grant permission for the optional use of intersection bicycle boxes under this Interim Approval to any jurisdiction that submits a written request to the Office of Transportation Operations. Coordination with TDOT's State Traffic Engineer is recommended. Jurisdictions seeking permission to use intersection bicycle boxes under this Interim Approval must agree to:

  1. General Conditions: The use of bicycle boxes is optional. However, if an agency opts to use bicycle boxes under this Interim Approval, such use shall be limited to signalized intersections. The design of the bicycle box shall comply with the design conditions provided below.
  2. Design of Intersection Bicycle Boxes: The design of the bicycle box (shall comply with the following provisions:
    1. A bicycle box shall be formed by an advance stop line placed at least 10 feet in advance of the intersection stop line.
    2. At least one bicycle symbol shall be placed within a bicycle box.
    3. Where a bicycle box is provided across multiple lanes of an approach, countdown pedestrian signals (see Section 4E.07 of the 2009 MUTCD) shall be provided for the crosswalk across the approach on which the bicycle box is located to inform bicyclists whether there is adequate time remaining to cross to an adjacent lane before the onset of the green signal phase for that approach.
    4. Turns on red shall be prohibited from the approach where a bicycle box is placed using a NO TURN ON RED (R10-11 series) sign.
    5. At least 50 feet of bicycle lane should be provided on the approach to a bicycle box so bicyclists will not need to ride between lanes to enter the bicycle box.
    6. A STOP HERE ON RED (R10-6 or R10-6a) sign should be provided at the advance stop line defining the bicycle box with an EXCEPT BICYCLES (R3-7bP) word legend plaque below.
    7. Green-colored pavement (see Interim Approval No. 14) may be used within a bicycle box and the approach bicycle lane, where one is provided. A separate request for Interim Approval for green-colored pavement is required if the agency has not already received such an approval.

For more information on bicycle boxes, please visit the FHWA Bicycle and Pedestrian Program website at


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