Share the Road

Share-the-Road-SignA bike advocacy organization, Bike Delaware, has come out against “Share the Road” signs. I’m sure these signs are common in most places throughout the United States — I certainly see them on several city streets near me.

I’ve always been glad to see the signs. It’s an indication that the city recognizes that cyclists use our streets and roads, and is a reminder to drivers that we’ll be out there, too. So often, when a driver gives the excuse, “I didn’t see you,” it’s likely they were not expecting to see cyclists.

But the point Bike Delaware makes is that the signs can be interpreted differently by different people, under different circumstances. The group also contends the signs serve no traffic control function.

Hm. Hadn’t thought about that before. Apparently, some drivers think “Share the Road” admonishes them to give up something they own. Why share the road when it’s mine?

I think most drivers don’t realize that bikes are treated under the law as vehicles, subject to the same rights and responsibilities as cars. “Share the Road” is a reminder that bikes have a legitimate right to be out on the roads.

But I could be easily persuaded one way or another. What’s your take?


  1. says

    I agree with Delaware, somewhat. But I’m not as bothered by “Share the Road” as much as the new signs here in Maine that say “Three Feet, Please”.

    Please? I don’t recall any other traffic control signs asking motorist to please do something: “Please Stop”? “Do Not Enter, Please”?

  2. says

    I agree with the article too. Many times the “Share the Road” signs are out there by themselves and provides no context. Share the road with who? Among other drivers? Same goes for the “Three Feet, Please”. Three feet of what? These are terms used amongst ourselves in discussion of the known topic. They have no business on these traffic control signs. Billboards yes, but not on the streets.

    I like their solutions, provide context to eliminate ambiguity. “Bicycles can take a lane”, makes it clear on the who and what questions.

  3. Andy Mazer says

    I agree that it’s ridiculous to use phrases like ‘Share the Road’ without context, such as a pictograph (is that the word?) of a bike alongside the phrase. When I first saw the phrase ‘Three Feet, Please’ in the post above, for a moment my brain flashed on how anyone could possibly place 3 feet on the ground– like most of us, I have just one foot at the end of each leg!

  4. says

    I’ve long thought about those signs, not because of what they say but because of where they are placed. In Maryland, where I live, the signs show up exclusively where the road narrows and things get dicey for cyclists. They are almost never in the middle of a benign stretch of road. As such, I think of it as a monument to a previous accident or accidents between bikes and cars.

    They strike me similarly to “Deer Crossing” signs, which are generally erected after a number of deer-car collisions, not before. So where a car driver might read it as “Watch out in this section of road, it’s tight, be careful if there are bikes present” as a cyclist I see “Be extra careful here, it’s a danger zone for bikes. Mayhem happens here.”

    I agree with the Delaware folks somewhat; just not sure how to craft a more clearly-worded message.

    I do think that a massive public education program, one where everyone in the culture can’t miss it–in fact, gets sick of seeing it–is long overdue in the US.

  5. Mark X says

    Off topic: I agree with Folksnake. Those “Deer Crossing” signs are ridiculous. Deer NEVER obey them, they continually cross the road wherever they please ….

  6. says

    There is generally far too much sign clutter out there, and this vague and ambiguous sign is one of the culprits. Fewer signs means more time for drivers to look for actual cyclists, instead of looking at bicycle diagrams on a sign and trying to figure out what it means.

  7. J.W. says

    I’m a fan of the intent of the signs, but not the execution. “Share the Road” can also be turned around by motorists as “bikes have to move over to share the road with cars.” For me, the sign is too vague. I prefer the angle some (newer) signs I’ve seen in California use; which is “Bikes Allowed Full Use of Lane.” It does a little educating while removing any doubt about whom does the sharing.

  8. says

    I’ve too often heard from motorists that the signs mean that bicycles are supposed to share the road with them. That complete misreading is more common than we’d like to think, as J.W. pointed out above. I agree with signs that allow Bicyclists to take the lane. Better yet, I’d like to see a sign in high traffic cycling areas that just say “Watch for Cyclists.”

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