Whether you use your bike to commute to work, enjoy the occasional tour into the countryside, are a competitive cyclist or somewhere in between, it’s a good idea to learn about the new Michigan bicycle lane markings.

Michigan is home to many spectacular ‘on road’ bicycle routes after all, so whether you are riding every day or intend to make the odd forage for groceries now and then, it’s important to keep up to date.

The Reasons Behind Michigan’s Bike Lane Markings

In 2018, more than 2,000 bicyclists were injured on Michigan’s roadways, and the number of bicyclist deaths doubled from the year prior from less than 20 to 38. Of those 38 people, 34 were riding straight ahead just prior to the accidents, which provides evidence that motorists continue to drive too close to cyclists, which puts them in grave danger.

The new Michigan bike lane signs are designed to designate lanes for both motorists and bicyclists, which improves traffic and travel flow and improves everyone’s safety.

Buffered vs. Separated Bicycle Lane Markings

There are two different bicycle lane markings you may come across on your ride. These include buffered and separated bike lanes.

  • Buffered Lane: A buffered bike lane is nothing more than a standard bike lane that includes a symbol of a rider on a bike that is accompanied by a buffer zone to the left. This buffer is designed to separate the bicycle lane from the roadway area reserved for motor vehicles.
  • Separated Lane: On the other hand, a separated bike lane offers a little more protection. You will see the same design as a buffered bike lane with the same symbols and markings, but it will also include some sort of barrier between the bike and motorist lanes. These may include a median, curb, parked cars, vertical posts, planters, or other objects.

Sharrows, Bike Boxes, and Green Pavement Markings

Bicyclists and motorists across Michigan should also be familiar with three other types of bike lane markings known as sharrows, bike boxes, and green pavement markings.

  • Sharrows: These are sometimes called shared lane markings, and they help indicate to drivers that they may come across bicyclists in their current lanes of traffic. In Michigan, drivers are always required to share the roadways with cyclists, but these markings indicate that bicyclists are far more common in these locations. Sharrows are often standard lanes of traffic that include images of bicyclists with double arrows above their heads painted onto the roadway.
  • Bike Boxes: Bike boxes are designed to help create space in front of stopped cars in the very front of a lane of traffic. This allows cyclists to wait for a light to turn green and get a head start over the oncoming motor traffic. This bike box, which is indicated by an image of a bicycle just beyond the white stop line at intersections, improves safety by providing cyclists with enhanced visibility.
  • Green Pavement Markings: When potential conflict points are identified, bike lane signs in the form of green pavement markings can help bring attention to these areas. Whether you are a cyclist or a motorist, you should remain exceptionally aware of your surroundings when you come across these markings.

Important Things to Remember

Both cyclists and motorists have the responsibility to drive and ride defensively and courteously on Michigan’s roadways.

  • Cyclists should remember to always use hand signals when moving through traffic. Put your left arm down to stop, out straight to turn left, and up at the elbow at a 90-degree angle to turn right. Conversely, you may also put your right arm out straight to turn right. You should wear bright colors during the day and reflective materials at night for visibility. Michigan laws require you to use a headlight or a rear reflector to ride when it is dark, as well – though it’s smart to use both.
  • Drivers should remember that it is against Michigan law to drive or park in any bicycle lane, though they can pass over bicycle lanes when taking turns in the driving lanes. When you turn right in your car, you should first look for and yield to any cyclists traveling straight through the intersection. “Hooking” a cyclist by passing them and then taking a right turn in front of them is dangerous and illegal.

Per Michigan’s no-fault law, bicyclists who are injured in an accident involving a car or truck are entitled to receive Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits depending on which of the two individuals have the coverage at the time of the accident.

Please wear a bicycle helmet that, at the minimum, meets the CPSC guidelines.  For extra protection, look for a helmet with the latest technology, MIPS or WAVECEL.

Riding a bicycle is a healthy, eco-friendly way to travel, and thanks to an increasing number of Michigan communities passing important laws that involve bicycle lane markings, it continues to become more popular with every passing year. Drivers and cyclists must follow the same laws on the roadways, and these new bike lane symbols will help to make Michigan’s roadways safer for everyone.