“Share The Road” Don’t Work, Somerville Gets That

Written by Boston Biker on Nov 05

People seem to be confused when they see the words “share” not just around here, but everywhere.  Which is why “share the road” signs are often less helpful than you might think.  I think the Boston interpretation of those signs is something like “everyone else get out of the way!”

Two_Signs_FBclose

It’s gotten so bad that at least one state has stopped using them all together.

 

Via BikeDe.org:

Comprehension of the familiar “Share the Road” signage as a statement of bicyclists’ roadway rights has been challenged, based on arguments that it is ambiguous, imprecise, frequently misinterpreted, and not designed for that purpose…In fact, the US state of Delaware discontinued use of the “Share the Road” plaque in November, 2013.”

– From “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” Signage Communicates U.S. Roadway Rules and Increases Perception of Safety, North Carolina State University, August 28, 2015

In November of 2013, Delaware formally discontinued the use of the “Share The Road” sign, the first (and so far still the only) U.S. state to do so. The sign was interpreted in diametrically opposite ways by cyclists and motorists and failed to prevent conflict and hostility between motorists and cyclists. Arguably, the sign may actually have been causing conflict.

Now a study published on Friday by researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU) has confirmed what Delaware already knew: “Share The Road” is a problem.

The authors of the new study – both NCSU faculty – surveyed nearly 2,000 people and found that there was “no statistically significant difference in responses between those who saw ‘Share the Road’ signage and those who saw no signage” whatsoever in terms of their comprehension that cyclists are permitted in the center of the travel lane; that cyclists do not have to move right to allow motorists to pass within the same lane; or that motorists should wait for a break in traffic before passing in the adjacent lane.

In sharp contrast to the complete uselessness of “Share The Road”, survey respondents who were shown the “Bicycle May Use Full Lane” sign showed uniformly high understanding of permissible cyclist lane positioning and appropriate safe passing behavior for motorists.

Which was why I was so happy to see this gem in Somerville yesterday:

It’s a little hard to see, but the giant blinking sign reads:

 

“IMPORTANT! IMPORTANT! IMPORTANT!”

“CYCLISTS MAY USE THE FULL LANE”

“ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, IT’S THE LAW”

This is the same intersection that recently got new bike boxes (which still sadly are not working all that well, drivers are ignoring the signs)

What also makes this sign so useful is that this particular stretch of road is just too narrow to safely “share” you have to take the whole lane or you will be squished. This road is so narrow that a bus and a car can’t pass going opposite directions if there is a parked car. It’s so narrow that a bus can’t fit in it’s own lane, even if there is no parked cars…so the sign is a good reminder to asshole drivers that cyclists need to take the whole lane, because otherwise they would get hit.

(There is also a cop who likes to hang around this intersection, he will give you a ticket for running this red light on your bike, but he is really nice guy, if you don’t sass him he will give you a warning, also don’t run red lights on your bike)


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Posted in advocacy, Commuting, infrastructure | 1 Comment »


One Response to ““Share The Road” Don’t Work, Somerville Gets That”

  1. By Bill S on Dec 12, 2015 | Reply

    I agree, but not in the way you might have hoped. I find that bicyclists tend to interpret “share the road” as “I can intrude on anyone else’s lane wherever and whenever I want”, despite laws that prohibit more than one vehicle to occupy a lane. Too many times I have been politely sitting at the wheel of a car, waiting to turn right at an intersection, and when it’s time to go, ZOOM! Bicycle comes shooting up the curbside, passing cars waiting their turn, ignoring turn signals, attempting to pass everyone between the curb and the right side door, and almost gets themselves killed when they intrude on a car’s legal right hand turn. I’ve heard a lot of complaining about cars not respecting bicycles. There’s is plenty of disrespect coming back the other way, and until bikes admit they are part of the problem and not just helpless victims their position won’t be as respected as it could be. It’s a pretty rare situation when a car disrespect a bike, and the bike hasn’t done something that was otherwise avoidable to bring the anger down upon their own heads. Share the road works both ways. Respect works both ways. You have to earn it.

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