Back in April, the FHWA granted “an Interim Approval for the optional use of green colored pavement in marked bicycle lanes and in extensions of bicycle lanes through intersections and other traffic conflict areas.”
Before this interim approval, communities that wanted to implement green bike lanes had to do one of three things:
- formally request permission from the FHWA to “conduct an experimentation“, a process full of red tape that comes with several strings attached. This process isn’t too difficult, but difficult enough that it dissuaded many communities from doing it.
- officially document that it’s a “decorative treatment” instead of a “traffic control device”, which means the FHWA has no jurisdiction over it. Needless to say, the FHWA did not appreciate this strategy.
- just do it anyway and risk the consequences.
The interim approval will have two immediate impacts:
- The announcement officially determines that colored lanes are a “traffic control device” rather than a “decorative treatment”, which gives the FHWA ultimate governing control over how it can be used.
- Communities can now use green colored pavement without navigating through the red tape of an FHWA “experimental treatment” process, so I expect we’ll start to see a lot more of it.
- The interim approval solidifies that green is the most appropriate color for colored bike lanes (several communities have used blue, but I expect we’ll see nothing but green in the future).
The real reason this is significant, however, is it means that communities can now use federal funding sources to pay for the colored lanes. Unapproved treatments are usually not eligible to be paid for using federal or state dollars.