New York State Local Technical Assistance Program

Can you mark road shoulders as bike lanes?

(an update)

In our fall 2013 Nuggets & Nibbles newsletter, we had the following answer to the question.

The Vehicle and Traffic law definition of a Bike Lane is:

A portion of the roadway, which has been designated by striping, signing and pavement markings for the preferential or exclusive use of bicycles. If rural road shoulders are to be used by bicyclists and pedestrians, it is advisable to not mark it as a bike lane. Doing so would pose a safety hazard, implying that bikes and pedestrians would be required (illegally) to share a bike lane. A better choice is to place a sign advising folks to share the road. (Sign can be yellow or fluorescent yellow-green.)

Pedestrian walking along shoulder of Trenton Road

It has been pointed out that some highway agencies are putting bike lanes in on shoulders with the intent that they are shared with pedestrians with the go ahead from their legal office.  Such a treatment should be used with caution so as to not confuse road users. Part of our concern is that the shoulder is not technically part of the roadway as defined by the V&T.  The V&T defines a Roadway as:

That portion of a highway improved, designed, marked, or ordinarily  used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the shoulder and slope. While pedestrians have the right to use a roadway when there are no sidewalks (V&T Section 1156), they are supposed to walk facing traffic and staying to the left when practicable. Within a bike lane, the bicyclist would have ROW over the pedestrian and this could lead to unforeseen conflicts. Facilities that are expected to be shared by pedestrians and bicyclists are best marked with share the road signs.


Accommodating Bicyclists and Pedestrians on Rural Roads
Fall 2013 Nuggets & Nibbles

Vehicle and Traffic Law – New York State

Humorous photo showing automobile lane onlong the shoulder of a road consisting of multiple bike lanes

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This work by the Cornell Local Roads Program (CLRP) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.