Your guide to bicycle lane markings and colors

Published May 26, 2021, 5:14 PM

by Inigo Roces

Workers scrape excess paint on the newly-demarcated bicycle lane in downtown Davao City, (Keith Bacongco)

In order to decongest public transport as well as to promote a greener and healthier way to get around, the government has been busy building and setting up bike lanes throughout the country.

Most prominent along major roads, the DOTr, DPWH, and local government units have been establishing exclusive bicycle lanes on many major roads in major cities in order to provide these commuters a safer space.

These bicycle lanes are dedicated exclusively for active transport users, i.e. riders of bicycles, kick scooters, and their electric-assisted versions, and personal mobility devices like Segways and hoverboards.

These lanes are marked out by lines and sometimes patches of color to guide active transport users and motorists. You might have noticed some of these lanes have a distinct color: green. There are also some odd patterns, like patches of green, solid green spaces, and possibly even dashed lines. These markings all mean something. Their meaning is not just something cyclists and kick scooter riders should learn, but all road users as well. Unfortunately, there’s been very little information dissemination as to what these lines and markings mean.

Thankfully, with help from cycling advocacy groups both here and abroad, we’ve been able to decode them to guide both cyclists and motorists.

Cycling advocacy group, The Bike Lane Project, first shared what these lane markings mean. There’s a lot of thought put into the design and markings of the bike lane. In fact, these markings are based on the recommendations of the National Association of City Transport Officials (NACTO) of the US. It’s an association of 86 major north American cities and transit agencies that are working together to establish uniform transportation solutions. You’ll find bike lanes like these in cities like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Washington DC, and many more.

What does green mean?

NACTO recommends green because it’s less likely to be confused with other standard traffic control markings. By painting these areas green, cyclists will learn to associate the color with safe spaces where they can cycle in. The color also makes the lanes easy to see at night, even in dimly lit areas.

Solid white line borders

You’ll notice that these bicycle lanes have white lines on either side. Just like conventional road markings, white lines denote the edges of the road. In the bike lane’s case, these are meant to show the cyclists and other motorists the limits of the bicycle lane. For cyclists, when the borders of the bicycle line are a solid white line, that means they cannot go outside and have to stay inside the designated bicycle lane. For motorcycle riders or cars, solid white lines mean they cannot enter the bicycle lane.

Dashed white line borders

Just like conventional road markings, the solid and dashed white line borders have different meanings. For cyclists, when the borders are made up of dashed white lines, it means the lane is no longer exclusive. Other vehicles may enter into the bicycle lane. You’ll usually find these dashed line borders near major intersections. This is so that other vehicles may move to the right most lane and turn right to exit the road. Vehicles entering the bicycle lane at this point must also be cautious. Cyclists should give way.

Striped green lane

Green lanes that are broken into stripes like these are meant to warn the cyclist that they are approaching an intersection. Once in this area, cyclists should slow down and be aware of their surroundings. With an intersection up ahead, there may be vehicles passing through the lane to get to the inner lanes, entering the bike lane to turn right, or crossing the intersection at a traffic light.

Solid green lane

These markings show up at intersections and driveways. When in this area, cyclists must be wary because vehicles will enter and exit the bicycle lane to get to establishments or intersections. They should leave room, stop, or move to let other road users (pedestrians or vehicles) pass if necessary. You’ll find these at intersections or where driveways meet the road. They’re put there to remind cyclists to be cautious and give way.

Yellow box junction

A yellow box junction is a yellow box with a large X or several smaller X’s inside it. Motorists often get traffic violation tickets if they even put a single wheel inside the yellow box at a red light. This is because it’s a busy intersection and no vehicle is allowed to block the box area. Not even active transport vehicles.

When a ride stoplight light is on, cyclists and active transport users most stop just like all the other vehicles. Cyclists HAVE TO FOLLOW the traffic lights. That means stop on red, go on green. No exceptions.

Bicycle stop box

This is a version of the motorcycle stop box employed by cities where motorcycles are the majority. It’s present in places like South Korea and Taiwan. The bicycle stop box is basically an area at an intersection where bicycles can stay while waiting for the light to turn green. If cyclists see these ahead, it means they can filter through stopped vehicles and wait at the box for the stoplight to turn green. However, they still have to follow the traffic lights. Stop in bicycle box at a red traffic light. Other vehicles, like motorcycles and cars, should keep this area clear. Like the yellow box junction, they may get a ticket if caught inside this area. So far, we’ve only seen these in Quezon City, but they may be adopted by other cities as well.

Knowing the markings

That pretty much sums up all the markings you need to know about. Bear in mind that some of these colors may change depending on the city. In some cases, the white borders may be yellow. In others, there may not be a green background at all. However, it appears many are attempting to follow the international standard.

Even if you don’t intend to take up cycling, it’s handy to know as they indicate where vehicles can temporarily enter and exit bicycle lanes without issue or the risk of getting a ticket. Knowing this can be quite handy if you ever get pulled over by a traffic officer or get into an altercation with a cyclist.