The MUTCD and A.R.S.

What is the MUTCD?

From wiki:

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is a document issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to specify the standards by which traffic signs, road surface markings, and signals are designed, installed, and used…

Here is the MUTCD home page, where full versions of the document are published.

Most of what is of particular interest to bicyclists is in Chapter 9. has a webinar presentation that outlines the changes in the 2009 version of MUTCD.

H. Gene Hawkins, Jr., Ph.D., P.E. has an extensive history of the MUTCD.


The MUTCD in Other States

The FHWA maintains a handy page that has a link to every state’s MUTCD. There are 3 categories

  • States that have adopted the federal MUTCD in its entirety
  • States that have adopted the MUTCD with additions/subtractions (Arizona falls into this category)
  • States that have their own

California in particular has very copious and detailed additions to the federal MUTCD. California also has a very detailed design manual, and Arizona does not have an equivalent document (i.e. individual jurisdictions have their own design policies), and e.g. Arizona has no binding design standards for BLs:

  • CAMUTCD (especially see part 9 for bicycle-related)
  • HDM Highway Design Manual; especially see Chapter 300, “301.2 Class II Bikeway (Bike Lane) Lane Width”), reproduced here (retrieved 11/2019):
    The minimum Class II bike lane width shall be 4 feet, except where:
    • Adjacent to on-street parking, the minimum bike lane should be 5 feet.
    • Posted speeds are greater than 40 miles per hour, the minimum bike lane should be 6 feet, or
    • On highways with concrete curb and gutter, a minimum width of 3 feet measured from the bike lane stripe to the joint between the shoulder pavement and the gutter shall be provided.
    In short, CA allows for some pretty narrow bike lanes, in addition to door-zones.

With respect to CA law, this becomes legally-important because CA has a Mandatory Bike Lane (MBL) use law, whereas AZ does not, see CA VC 21208.

Applicability of the MUTCD in Arizona

ARS 28-641 establishes the MUTCD as the traffic control standard for all of Arizona and 28-643applies the MUTCD to all local jurisdictions; subject to adoption, and amendments which can be found on ADOT’s traffic standards page, where the latest amendments as of this writing are to the 2003 MUTCD, and were last amended in 2007 — there are no amendments to section 9, Bicycles.

The 2009 MUTCD and the Arizona Supplement

Note that in AZ’s supplement there is no chapter 9, in other words the federal Bicycling chapter is adopted as-is.

As of January 2012, Arizona has adopted the 2009 MUTCD, the Arizona supplement is linked at the ADOT Traffic Engineering References page, linked above. The official adoption memo is Departmental Directive No.12-01. As before, there are no amendments to section 9.

There are many interesting facts in a presentation by Richard Moeur  Implementing the 2009 MUTCD: State DOT perspective. In particular def’n of intersection:

UVC & many state laws: “intersection” only includes area within extension of curb lines… 2009 MUTCD: Where signalized, “intersection” also includes area enclosed by crosswalks & stop bars… This will create operational & legal problems

City of Phoenix Traffic Barricade Manual

Something that I learned from the wiki was that the City of Phoenix has this whole big thing they publish and maintain called the  City of Phoenix Traffic Barricade Manual, 9th Edition, 2017 d_039129.pdf  (uploaded for posterity to cazbike’s google docs)

(older info: 2007 Traffic Barricade Manual link, of course, went dead. stupid CoP. Here is same document on City of Glendale site, or alternately it can be retrieved from here. )

The manual “was prepared to guide people working in and near streets or planning events” (i.e. usually street construction) and is said to be in full compliance with the MUTCD. Here’s some info that bears directly on bicyclists:

Bicyclists may legally use both street and sidewalk and need to be considered under both conditions . . . Any bike lane that is effectively narrowed below 5 feet is considered a bike lane closure . . . Any time a bike lane us closed, proper signing shall indicate “BIKE LANE CLOSED AHEAD” and “BICYCLES MAY USE FULL LANE (R4-11) .

…Bicyclists have a legal right of access to most highway facilities and provisions for their safe conduct
through work zones are necessary.

p. 30, 32 Phoenix Traffic Barricade Manual, 9th Edition 2017

Another interesting oddly specific oddity is this is enabled by city ordinance 31-200 “The City of Phoenix Traffic Barricade Manual, 2007 Edition, developed and published by the City Manager is hereby adopted”. Other cities, e.g. Mesa, AZ refer to the CoP manual and have their own addendums.


Bike Lane Sign, R3-17, from Adot’s MOAS

ADOT has a listing of all signs available to be used in Arizona — the Manual of Approved Signs MOAS, and is presumably consistent with the MUTCD. It’s easy to find, for example, a regulature bike lane sign, R3-17.

R4-11 from MOAS

It might even be handy to grab their thumbnails like so though they’ll probably change that often whenever the website gets reorganized. Oddly I can’t find, e.g. a bike route sign via those pages, they call that a Guide and Information Signs. It’s a D11-1, i found it in a pdf.


 The MUTCD and the BTC of the NCUTCD

Here’s some explanatory background on the relationship between NCUTCD’s BTC (Bicycle Technical Committee) and the FHWA’s MUTCD. so many acronyms. On the same blog, the reproduced a LAB proposal to update MUTCD procedures.

This handy link shows all the status of any recommendation (looks like anything back to 2010); e.g the sharrow has some pending proposals approved by NCUTCD… see more here.

Going forward? The FHWA is seeking input on how the MUTCD should be further developed going forward (i.e. after the 2009 edition), e.g. who is the target audience? Why do some states elect to develop their own versions? And here is an NCUTCD vision document.

MUTCD 2019?

Since there’s no fixed timeframe for new editions, the next version of the MUTCD’s appearance is anyone’s guess. The NCUTCD continues to churn out recommendations. Here’s a synopsis of what was is in the hopper from the June 2018 meeting of the NCUTCD.

17 thoughts on “The MUTCD and A.R.S.”

  1. Here is some info quoting the legal authority (from CFR) for the MUTCD, and how that applies to local jurisdictions.

    19 In accordance with 23 CFR 655.603(b)(3), States or other Federal agencies that have their own MUTCDs or Supplements shall revise these MUTCDs or Supplements to be in substantial conformance with changes to the National MUTCD within 2 years of the effective date of the Final Rule for the changes. Substantial conformance of such State or other Federal agency MUTCDs or Supplements shall be as defined in 23 CFR 655.603(b)(1).

    20 After the effective date of a new edition of the MUTCD or a revision thereto, or after the adoption thereof by the State, whichever occurs later, new or reconstructed devices installed shall be in compliance with the new edition or revision.

    21 In cases involving Federal-aid projects for new highway or bikeway construction or reconstruction, the traffic control devices installed (temporary or permanent) shall be in conformance with the most recent edition of the National MUTCD before that highway is opened or re-opened to the public for unrestricted travel [23 CFR 655.603(d)(2) and (d)(3)].

    22 Unless a particular device is no longer serviceable, non-compliant devices on existing highways and bikeways shall be brought into compliance with the current edition of the National MUTCD as part of the systematic upgrading of substandard traffic control devices (and installation of new required traffic control devices) required pursuant to the Highway Safety Program, 23 U.S.C. §402(a). The FHWA has the authority to establish other target compliance dates for implementation of particular changes to the MUTCD [23 CFR 655.603(d)(1)]. These target compliance dates established by the FHWA shall be as shown in Table I-2.

  2. hey that’s pretty interesting

    MUTCD now applies to ALL roads open to public travel even if owned & operated by a private entity (developer, association, etc.)
    Exception: Parking lots & aisles but circulating roadways in larger parking lots (such as malls) do fall under MUTCD

    i am sortof skeptical about the last bit — i mean what happens if a private circulating road *doesn’t* comply? I guess, just that “…failure to follow the MUTCD can be considered evidence of negligence in litigation.”

    Richard’s PPT also claims that the 2003 MUTCD required compliance of *all* TCDs within some default period of time (like 2 years), even if not given a “compliance date”.

    The closest I can find to that is:
    In accordance with 23 CFR 655.603(b)(1), States or other Federal agencies that have their own MUTCDs or Supplements shall revise these
    MUTCDs or Supplements to be in substantial conformance with changes to the National MUTCD within 2 years of issuance of the changes. Unless a particular device is no longer serviceable, non-compliant devices on existing highways and bikeways shall be brought into compliance with the current edition of the National MUTCD as part of the systematic upgrading of substandard traffic control devices (and installation of new required traffic control devices) required pursuant to the Highway Safety Program, 23 U.S.C. § 402(a).

    To which the 2009 MUTCD adds this:
    After the effective date of a new edition of the MUTCD or a revision thereto, or after the adoption thereof by the State, whichever occurs
    later, new or reconstructed devices installed shall be in compliance with the new edition or revision.

    Perhaps that’s simply always the way it was (retroactive compliance) and the new statement is intended to effect a relaxed “opportunistic” compliance.

    FHWA issued two revisions a few months ago, which as I recall had no useful changes. Unfortunately, one of the changes was to remove most of the content of the “compliance dates”. The justification wasn’t “most of the compliance dates have already passed, so we’re just cleaning up the table, as the changes were required to have already happened”. Rather, the stated justification was “we want to gives states the power to make their own decisions as to when to do these things”. I don’t like that at all; by that argument, the whole MUTCD could go away.

    One of the things they removed was the requirement to remove “diamond” BL signs and markings, effective 2003/2004. Flagstaff still has 5-10 diamond signs, which I’ve been waiting for them to remove since April.

    Practically, it kind of doesn’t matter, as AZ hasn’t adopted the new revisions..

  3. Regarding MUTCD Compliance by Jurisdictions:
    (this came up with what seems to be a non-standard marking for shared lane marking by Tempe and Phoenix; showing a helmeted rider logo w/chevron, rather than the bicycle logo w/chevron)…

    The MUTCD almost always sets requirements only for TCDs maintenance and new installation; jurisdictions are almost never required to do anything by any specific time. The exception is the table of “compliance dates” in ch1 (which has now been whittled down to almost nothing). RTO BL conflicts are the type of thing that probably should have been added to that, not sure why not; perhaps it was enough of a struggle just to get the requirement added. That would also be a nice thing to see added to the AZ “supplement”.

    Right, “symbols” have to be either 1) the standard/approved/template symbol from the federal MUTCD; or, 2) be officially approved by the FHWA experiment process. “Compliance” with the MUTCD is not “enforced”, but is evidence of negligence in a lawsuit.

    I believe the relevant section is 1A10-1:

    The Manual goes on to 1) allow “text message” signs (and markings?) without experimentation for things which are not handled by a standard sign/marking (2A6-11); and, 2) allow symbols, predicated on FHWA approval of experiment.

    There are 3 options for BL, but shared lane markings must use the bicycle symbol. Flagstaff is switching from the “helmetted rider” to the “bicycle” for BL since it’s used for both, so more understanding by for drivers, and contractors.

    When was the (badly placed) symbol first installed? And when was its placement fixed?

    AZ adopted the 2009 MUTCD in (I believe) Jan 17, 2012.
    Re-installation of a non-standard symbol after that is noncompliant.

    Some (but probably not all) experiments are searchable here, but I can’t see anything relevant from Tempe. Note that if a state DOT submits a request to experiment, then all jurisdictions within the state are allowed to “piggyback”.
    And some even have detailed documents linked (If not, I’ve had success contacting Bruce/Kevin/Gabe at

  4. On June 17, 2013, the FHWA published a Response to the Request for
    Comments in the Federal Register. The direct link to the June 17th
    Federal Register notice is

    Given the lack of support from the MUTCD user community, the FHWA will not proceed with splitting the MUTCD into two documents at this time.
    Instead, the FHWA will focus on options that would make the MUTCD easier to use. The FHWA believes that focusing on these types of options while continuing to explore ways to enhance and streamline the current MUTCD updating process will best serve the user community. The FHWA will use the valuable information offered in the responses to guide its approach to updating the MUTCD.

    “92% of letters were aaginst splitting the MUTCD”

  5. Kevin Dunn@USDOT writes:

    [rulemaking process for the next edition of the MUTCD] is scheduled to begin in the fall of
    2014 with a new edition of the MUTCD targeted for 2016.

  6. list of proposed updates

    Date: Thu, 25 Jul 2013 13:56:48 +0000
    Subject: RE: 3b18-6: crosswalk markings

    No further action is required of you regarding these requests to change the MUTCD. We have used the website you provided to log and record 19 individual requests to change the MUTCD based on the headings you provided in your web page. If we have analyzed your web site in error, please let me know.

    As we understand your email below, you also propose 3 additional changes not found on your web page. These also have been logged and recorded in addition to the 19 proposals found on your webpage.

    This concludes FHWA’s action on your request. Should you wish to provide new proposed changes to the Manual in the future, please use the email found in Paragraph 3 of Section 1A.10 in the MUTCD. This helps us separate and differentiate all requests.

    Thank you for your interest in the advancement and development of the MUTCD.

  7. Here’s some interesting thoughts about how a random sign might apply on a “private road” — whatever that means…

    It revolved around this sign:
    I’m not sure how private signs work; they’re probably not enforced, if they were, I imagine it would have to be by privately-hired police ??

    It seems like it doesn’t matter if it’s private anyway (except for enforcement):
    Q: What does “open to public travel” mean?
    A: Title 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 655.603 states that “for the purpose of MUTCD applicability, the phrase ‘open to
    public travel’ includes toll roads and roads within shopping centers, parking lots, airports, sports arenas, and other similar business and
    recreation facilities that are privately owned but where the public is allowed to travel without access restrictions. Except for gated toll
    roads, roads within private gated properties where access is restricted at all times are not included in this definition. Parking
    areas, driving aisles within parking areas, and private highway-rail grade crossings are also not included in this definition.”
    (Summary: The 2009 MUTCD makes it clear that its provisions apply on private roads, but not parking lots (I never found exactly where it
    says this, though, probably a definition?). There is no “enforcement” of the MUTCD, besides that a state DOT may withhold funding if TCDs
    are nonconforming, and that property owners expose themselves to increased liability.)

    The “bicycle prohibition” sign (an R5-6) is in the MUTCD, but the other stuff (of course) isn’t.
    1A8-7 Signs and other devices that do not have any traffic control purpose that are placed within the highway right-of-way shall not be
    located where they will interfere with, or detract from, traffic control devices.

    What statute would be used to enforce that?
    28-644 requires drivers (and bicyclist) to obey TCDs “placed in accordance with this chapter”. 28-641 requires ADOT to adopt the MUTCD “for use on highways in this state”. An argument could be made that the sign doesn’t comply, with the MUTCD, thus the generic TCD statute doesn’t apply.

    28-733 is specific to “controlled access highways”, which I believe this is not (see 28-601(2)). Chapter 3 is applicable, by default, on “highways” (aka streets; see 28-101(52), 28-621), which I believe this is. Do you think there’s any local ordinance that could apply?

    Does violation of an owner’s posted restriction just mean “trespassing”? I dunno.

  8. All TCDs must be supported by laws…

    Section 1A.08 Authority for Placement of Traffic Control Devices. Standard: …
    03 All regulatory traffic control devices shall be supported by laws, ordinances, or regulations.

  9. Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding, Design, and Environmental Review: Addressing Common Misconceptions

    9. Speed limits must be set using the 85th percentile methodology.
    This is false. The MUTCD Section 2B.13 contains the following mandatory (Standard) statement: “Speed zones (other than statutory speed limits) shall only be established on the basis of an engineering study that has been performed in accordance with traffic engineering practices.” According to the 2012 FHWA Document Methods and Practices for Setting Speed Limits, there are basic ways of setting speed limits. Use of the 85th percentile methodology is just one part of what FHWA calls the Engineering Approach… also see

    The Right to Travel by Human Power, Steven G. Goodridge at :

    Cyclists and pedestrians have a legal right to access every destination reachable by public roads. This means that they deserve safe accommodation on every road and across every intersection. Non-motorized travel must not be prohibited except where controlled-access expressways provide service that is completely redundant to safe and efficient routes for non-motorized users. Accommodation of cyclists and pedestrians must be provided via safe, lawful and courteous behavior by other road users and by appropriate engineering of roadways.

  10. Departmental Directive No.12-01
    Pursuant to the powers and duties conferred on me by Arizona Revised Statues (ARS) §28-364 and §28-365, and as required by ARS 28-641, and as authorized by ARS §41-1005, I hereby adopt the following:
    The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) 2009 edition and the Arizona supplemental modifications, dated January 13, 2012 are hereby adopted as a standard for traffic control devices for use upon the streets and highways of the State of Arizona. A copy of the MUTCD with the Arizona modifications is on file and available for
    inspection at 1615 West Jackson Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85007.
    John S. Halikowski, Director
    Arizona Department of Transportation

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