Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Share the Road, Share the Rules

Over the last year (or so), a few documents, blogs, tweets, and related published materials were brought to my attention. The authors were discussing the idea that the "Share the Road" platform isn't really doing anything to help with awareness when it comes to bicycles and motorists sharing the roadways. As someone who has been on a bicycle and had a motorist actually shout at me to "share the road," I can see how this rings very true.
*Image from Bike Delaware
In fact, last year, Bike Delaware decided to discontinue the use of "Share the Road" altogether and instead opted to use the signs indicated above instead. I think these choices convey a message that is clear, whereas, Share the Road does not necessarily work in quite the same manner. In my personal experience, some motorists take "Share the Road" to mean, "Get off MY road," or "Stay over there in the gutter."

A couple of months ago, I was out traversing local roads and found myself out wandering some I hadn't traveled in quite some time. I noticed something immediately as I turned one of the corners - this sign:
I certainly understand that those on a bicycle and those traveling in a motorized vehicle share the same responsibilities/rules of the road. This sign however, caused a bit of agitation for me. In my opinion, the sign seems to be aimed more at cyclists than cars and reinforces the idea that many motorists hold on to... that bicycles are merely an inconvenience and if cyclists are in their way, it is completely in their right to harass those on a bike.

As can be seen in the photo above, this particular road doesn't really have a gutter or a bike lane, so obviously those on two wheels are more than likely going to travel in the lane. To be fair, this road is traveled quite regularly by cyclists which means that they probably, at least at times, ride two abreast in the lane. Regardless, the road (other than summer weekends) is not heavily traveled by motorized traffic, making this sign seem like something put up to tell cyclists that they need to stay out of the way of automobiles. In my opinion, I think the actual picture above the wording conveys a message that both motorists and cyclists use the road, but by adding the extra signage in the form of the statement below the picture, it comes across to me as more of a message to those riding a bike.

What do you think? Is this sign one that reads as one intended for both motorists and cyclists (as the picture above the wording indicates), or does this seem like more of a rant toward those on a bike? What about the Share the Road message? Do you think it works in regard to getting the message out to motorists that bicycles can use the full lane at his/her discretion?

9 comments:

  1. Before Share the Road signs and promotionals, cyclists didn't have much at all in the way of educating the public. To say it can be improved upon now - yes. Motorist education is still almost non-existent and road signs need to be very clear to improve safety. The majority of road users, being motorists, and politicians wanting to be re-elected may be a hurtle in getting what is needed.

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    1. I think having something is better than nothing. Sometimes, I wonder what sort of driver's education people have before getting a license. I know that when I took my initial driver's test (in written form) there was a lot of information about sharing the roads - with all sorts of other traffic besides typically found vehicles. There was information about bicycles, about horses, slower traffic like mopeds... so I can't help but wonder what it is that causes motorists to feel the roads belong solely to them? I am a motorist myself at times and I struggle trying to understand the difficulty for some to simply wait until it's safe and pass a slower moving vehicle (be that another motorist, a cyclist, or anyone else). Perhaps some of it is impatience that has grown over the years, or maybe some really do think that the road is for their use alone. It's hard to really pinpoint one issue to target it seems, but I do still hold out hope.

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  2. I think it is difficult to convey the complexity of some of these rules in a sign. I don't react to the sign the way you did; I just find it to be sending an unclear message. (Also, I don't ride flat bars, KIDDING!) I was recently reading about the failures of the "Share the Road" campaign because people in the bike advocacy community felt it communicated that it was the cars' road to share, rather than everyone's road to share. ALSO I get the idea that bikes should abide by the same rules as cars when on the road, equal under the law and all that, but at the same time bikes are NOT CARS and we are not doing a very good job of figuring out how to retrofit roads to comfortably accommodate both cars and bicycles. So in general, I believe I prefer a hi-viz sign with a bicycle plastered on it. To me, this type of sign sends the most simple and clear message that there are bikes on the road. As a cyclist, it makes me feel like I have a right to be there and that drivers should be looking out for me without any additional vague or unclear message.

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    1. Very true. Communicating the message that we have public roads that different forms of transportation use is key. I hope that as more bicycle infrastructure is built up, it will help ease some of the tension between modes of transport.

      In my reading, I have come across some comments from those who would prefer that cyclists not be on the roads. Some of them have argued that having a bicycle that weighs 20-ish pounds against a several thousand pound vehicle is just asking for trouble. I think the problem is actually more in the thought process than the size or weight of the vehicle being used. If we get into the size game, it would be just as easy to say that motorcycles or smart cars shouldn't be on the roads with pick up trucks, or that regular automobiles shouldn't be on the roads with larger vehicles like buses or transport trucks. I think if everyone is aware and doing what s/he should be doing, the roads can be a better place - and I hope we get there some day (soon would be awesome).

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  3. This is the second time I tried to post a comment. Blogger was indeed having troubles.

    I think the traffic sign you've pointed out is slightly slanted toward cyclists, but I think it also sends a message to motorists too. Frankly, something needs to be done, so your posting is well warranted. Traffic laws in most states have had little attention in the last 75+ years since motor vehicles were first well established. The traffic in urban conditions today certainly merit an informed review. That, plus I believe the vast majority of motorists and cyclists could not pass a test on the most basic rules of the road - especially those regarding bicycles. So often I see incidents while riding that are purely a function of ignorance - both on the part of drivers and many cyclists I see on the road.

    Bottom line, good discussion and I hope the cycling community can forward the need for better education, better signs and better traffic laws.

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    1. I wish I knew what was going on with Blogger comments. I can't seem to find any reliable information, but I do apologize as it seems to be an ongoing problem that goes unresolved.

      I know that I sometimes run a bit on the reactive side to things such as this sign on the road. I do appreciate that there is a message there, and most people who travel this specific road are aware that there are many cyclists (and for the record, I have never had anyone harass me out in this part of the county), but in a more general way, it almost feels like ammunition for some motorists to point and say, "See, you have to share the road." But, as you've stated, the level of ignorance is high on both sides of the coin. Yes, cyclists definitely need to follow the rules of the roadways, and motorists need to understand that we have shared roads that are paid for by everyone.

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    2. Ha ha! G.E. your "reactive" spirit is a breath of fresh air. I am a child of the '70's where we burned draft cards and bras (I lost a cousin to Viet Nam and my uncle had two purple hearts). So I hold in high esteem well placed emotion and thoughtful action for change (e.g., bogging).

      I track bicycle blogs in the two communities I live in, Seattle and Tucson. Just in the last couple of weeks there have been fatal accidents involving vehicles and bicyclists in both. Of course, always it is the cyclists that loses the "argument". If anything, I would encourage you to keep that fire in your belly stoked. This is really a life and death issue. We need people like you!

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    3. Well, thank you. I like to think of myself as a generationally displaced hippy, so I'll take that as a compliment. :O) I try not to be a hot-head (and I don't think I am), but there are certain things in life that just get under my skin and it's difficult not to react. On the whole, I try to just go with the flow, but when lives are at stake, it's more challenging to hold my tongue. I don't have the answers, but I do hope that things improve. It's very sad to read about fatalities with cyclists and cars, when most of the time the accidents are avoidable if everyone is doing his/her part. We have regular collisions here too, and it's so disheartening. In fact, one recent incident was simply a young girl falling asleep after a long work shift. Fortunately, the cyclist survived, but the accident was easily avoidable had the driver avoided being behind the wheel when she was exhausted... and let's not even get me started on the fact that the only punishment doled out was in the form of a careless driving ticket.

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  4. I find the picture a little disturbing. It seems to suggest that cars and bikes might be riding side-by-side, but there's no way to share the lane on that road. I like the two Bike Delaware signs above better.

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Word verification is on, but I've turned off the moderation portion in an attempt to make it easier for you to know that your comment has indeed made it through. We'll see how this goes, but I'm hopeful that this will help out and I'll try my best to weed through and remove spammers comments. Additionally, I recommend copying comments before hitting publish as the "blogger comment eater" seems to continue his snacking.