Abandon ‘Share The Road’

What does “Share the Road” mean to you and me?

 
Who: Me and the driver of a plum Dodge Caravan minivan.
When: Last Saturday morning.
Where: The corner of Kings Village Road and Mt Hermon Road, Scotts Valley, California.

I was running errands last Saturday morning and preparing for a right turn from Kings Village Rd. The right turn lane is about 11 feet wide. Me and my bike take up roughly three feet. The Dodge Caravan behind me is 79 inches; with the mirrors the minivan uses up 8.5 feet of lane width. 8.5 + 3 = 11.5 feet, so even if we’re touching there’s clearly not enough room in the lane for us to ride side by side. And besides it’s stupid to pass in a turn.

So I position myself smack in the middle of the lane for the turn and queue up behind the car ahead of me.

Scotts Valley Kings Village and Mt Hermon w/ bike

The driver behind me then guns her engine, moves left to pass then cuts right with me right next to her, pushing me into the curb!

I squeeze the brakes to avoid becoming road pizza, then pull around to the driver’s side window to explain (politely) that she should wait until it’s safe to pass. Her smug, snotty response? “Bikes are supposed to share the road.

Share the Road with bicycles sign

Anybody who cycles with traffic in America learns pretty quickly to ride defensively, and it’s no surprise to us that many motorists have little understanding of the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which is the law of physics that explains why a car can’t occupy the same space as a bicycle. Most of us realize that we share the road with a few idiots, shrug our shoulders and deal. I’m a big believer in politely cooperating with other traffic and I yield right of way where appropriate, but when there’s no space in the lane, I’m going to assert my right to be there through my position.

Last Saturday’s “Share the Road” incident was on my mind during Thursday night’s Twitter Bikeschool discussion when Martha from El Paso, Texas asked “What are you doing to raise awareness to share the road?”

There were many good answers, but some of the responses affirm my belief that cyclists are sometimes our own worst enemies. A number of people responded that they wear helmets to affirm road sharing (huh?). There was a big emphasis from several on safety education for cyclists, with somebody in Akron even tweeting that he reprimands badly behaved cyclists. Visibility was another big theme in road sharing, which I don’t understand. Safety and visibility are good things, but the driver last Saturday clearly saw me, she just didn’t care that I happened to be in the lane. The visibility arms race does not promote road sharing. I wear a yellow jacket and equip my bike with bright flashing lights, but less conspicuous cyclists should not be blamed when a careless motorist fails to share the road and causes a crash.

My response to Martha’s question? The “Share the Road” message doesn’t work. It’s time to abandon it in favor of this message.


Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign

64 Comments

  • February 18, 2011 - 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Its time like the one you describe that i wish i had something like a loud megaphone or something that might do some minor damage to a car if they get to close. Something like a flag with a pointy end for 3ft passing distance. If they get to close, they get a paint scrape. This is all in my mind though, as i think it would really piss people off! Possibly making it worse for me as well.

  • February 18, 2011 - 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Its time like the one you describe that i wish i had something like a loud megaphone or something that might do some minor damage to a car if they get to close. Something like a flag with a pointy end for 3ft passing distance. If they get to close, they get a paint scrape. This is all in my mind though, as i think it would really piss people off! Possibly making it worse for me as well.

  • February 18, 2011 - 8:03 pm | Permalink

    @Luke — Oh yeah, a flash flag!

  • February 18, 2011 - 8:03 pm | Permalink

    @Luke — Oh yeah, a flash flag!

  • February 18, 2011 - 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Being visible is a priority. Lighting is crucial at night.

    However, I had an incident this week when I was driving (it happens sometimes) and I was passing a bicyclist who was in the bikelane. The flashing red LED tail light was so bright, I could not look directly at the cyclist. I found this troubling because, I couldn’t look at them long enough to determine his speed, if he was say positioning himself farther left to avoid road debris, signaling a turn, etc.

    So its not just about making you presence known by searing retinas, but allowing others to see what you’re doing.

    Just like having someone in a car blind you with their highbeams in a car.

  • February 18, 2011 - 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Being visible is a priority. Lighting is crucial at night.

    However, I had an incident this week when I was driving (it happens sometimes) and I was passing a bicyclist who was in the bikelane. The flashing red LED tail light was so bright, I could not look directly at the cyclist. I found this troubling because, I couldn’t look at them long enough to determine his speed, if he was say positioning himself farther left to avoid road debris, signaling a turn, etc.

    So its not just about making you presence known by searing retinas, but allowing others to see what you’re doing.

    Just like having someone in a car blind you with their highbeams in a car.

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  • February 18, 2011 - 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Exactly. Except they are more malicious in purpose with the sharpened end.

  • Andy
    February 18, 2011 - 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I wish there were more “Bikes MUST use full lane” signs. There’s a few hills here that I see cyclists hugging the curb, and a car narrowly tries to pass while both are moving ~30mph downhill. There’s no room for error when that happens.

  • February 18, 2011 - 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Time for U lock Justice… that or they need to prosecute this kind of harassment
    personally i think the changing of the DMV test they did a few years ago was a first step in increasing driver awareness.

  • February 18, 2011 - 9:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m with absolutely with you on night visibility.

    Don’t get me started on overly bright (or misdirected) lights! I hear you on that.

  • February 18, 2011 - 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Oh yeah, they now ask bike questions on the CA drivers license test.

  • Archergal
    February 18, 2011 - 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Criminey. So you met one of those folks who think that BIKES have to share but CARS don’t???

    I hate people sometimes.

  • glenn
    February 18, 2011 - 10:43 pm | Permalink

    i agree. Bicycles may use full lane!

  • John Connor
    February 18, 2011 - 10:48 pm | Permalink

    I find it very odd that you fail to bring up the “cyclist drives in between lanes of traffic” scenario. Every logical argument considers counterexamples.

    The day that cyclists get equal treatment on the road will be the day that cyclists behave, are fined, and are monitored equally on the road (e.g. one vehicle per lane, full ticket for blowing a stop sign/red light, and a license requirement). Until then, you’re simply demanding full representation without taxation. It’s not going to end well.

  • John Rides (at) gmail.com
    February 18, 2011 - 11:16 pm | Permalink

    I feel the same way about bike lanes. They are bicycle gulags, and if you dare ride in the traffic lane because the bike lane has cars parked or broken glass in it, heaven help you.

  • Anonymous
    February 19, 2011 - 12:00 am | Permalink

    John
    Although I agree that in many cases there should be equal rules for road users, there is also the fact that a 3000lb car can cause a lot more damage than a bicycle, and a 30,000lb truck is in another realm again. Because of this I think that motorists making moving violations should be subject to harsher penalties than cyclists, and the penalties should be even higher for larger vehicles.

  • February 19, 2011 - 12:35 am | Permalink

    “The day that cyclists get equal treatment on the road will be the day that cyclists behave, are fined, and are monitored equally on the road (e.g. one vehicle per lane, full ticket for blowing a stop sign/red light, and a license requirement)”

    RIght, because that’s resulted in such better behavior from cars.

    So tired of this stupid argument.

  • February 19, 2011 - 12:36 am | Permalink

    Mmm, yes. There’s a(n otherwise very good) LCI instructor instructor out there who uses blindingly bright rear lights. Hate ‘em.

  • Brian Ogilvie
    February 19, 2011 - 2:42 am | Permalink

    Here in rural western Massachusetts, the “Share the Road” message seems to work as intended. Motorists are extremely courteous, to the point where the few who aren’t develop reputations for being nasty. Given what I’ve heard from elsewhere in the US, though, I think you’re right: time to emphasize “Bikes may use full lane.”

    I wonder whether the bicycle pictogram on the “Share the Road” signs might be at fault. If you could have *both* a car and a bike on it, the message might be clearer. Then again, maybe not; it might make people think that bikes and cars should share the *lane*.

    That’s probably the point of confusion: some motorists think “share the road” means “share the lane.”

  • February 19, 2011 - 6:52 am | Permalink

    That behavior is because on some thoroughfares the cars will honk us off the road or run us off the road if we get in their way…

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  • February 19, 2011 - 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I want to put these signs up everywhere. At every intersection between my house and work. I just want to share with the motorist reading this. In Florida when you got your licence you got a book. In that book is this section please read and follow. If you cannot comprehend please contact your local elementry school teacher to read it to you and explain the parts you don’t get.

    Sharing the Road with a Bicycle
    •Allow a minimum of three feet of clearance when passing a cyclist and reduce your speed. On a two lane road, time your pass to not be next to the bicyclist at the same time as oncoming traffic is at the same location.
    •After parallel parking, check for bicyclists before opening a street-side door.
    •At night, avoid using high beam headlights when a cyclist is approaching. The cyclist could be temporarily blinded.
    •Do not follow a cyclist closely. If you are too close and the cyclist must slow suddenly in an emergency, you could run them over. Bicyclists are entitled to move away from the right side of a lane when that lane is too narrow to safely share with a motor vehicle. Most travel lanes in Florida range from 10′ to 12′ wide and guidance indicates that a 14′ lane is a width that allows safe sharing with most motor vehicles. Wet roads impair a bicyclist’s ability to brake and maneuver. Potholes or railroad tracks often require bicyclists to change positions within their lane. When railroad tracks are skewed, the bicyclist must change directions in order to cross over the tracks at a ninety- degree angle or risk a fall.

  • February 19, 2011 - 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Connor, almost all cyclist have drivers licenses and have automobiles. Many of us are motorist just like you and we see the same daredevils and complian about them just like you. I just wanted to tell you this because your post makes it seem that you think you are unique. Also cyclist have not and are not demanding anything. We are asking and have been asking since the invention of asphalt for equal rights to a public resource. I have no issue paying for what I use of the roadways. I use 28.571% of a 14 foot road. So since I am only using 28.571% of the road I should only have to pay $13.19 in registration fees here in Jacksonville, FL. So if I pay that then if I move left or right in the road you will have to yeild your FAT car out of my way right? You wouldn’t want to hold me up would you? After all I am a vehicle just not as FAT.

  • Curtis
    February 19, 2011 - 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I love your hi/lo tech graphic representation, and I’ll be stealing your style to explain my own interesting incidents in the future.

  • Ron
    February 19, 2011 - 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Howdy,

    I suggested Bike May Use Full Lane signs to our local Bicycle Pedestrain Advisory Committee when they talked about putting Share the Road signs up on a sharrows section. I pointed out that, ironically, sharrows lanes mean I get to take the lane, and no one should pass. Many drivers won’t see that as sharing. They seemed to agree, though I think they just went with no signs.
    I think the concept of sharing is too vague, and some people just aren’t good at it anyway. I’m thinking of the guy, on a three-lane, one-way road, who squeezed past me in the far right lane when the other two were empty. When I caught up to him and asked, politely as possible, WTF?, he said, “You were in my lane.” I wish I could say I offered some positive debating points, but, well, we never seem to think of the right thing at the right moment. Still, I hope he’ll think twice next time, even if it may be out of fear of the psycho biker instead of courtesy.
    Happy Trails,
    Ron Georg

  • Jack
    February 19, 2011 - 4:47 pm | Permalink

    In the MidWest, typically STR means Share the Lane not the right to use the full lane. Safety promotions always ignore the elephant on the road and are focused primarily on helmets, visibility and courtesy (STR), all have failed to incentivize significant gains in cycling.

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  • danc
    February 19, 2011 - 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Agree “Share the Road” (STR) does not work. In the NCUTCD Bicycle Technical Committee recommendation of “Bicycle May Use Full Lane” (BMUFL) mentions the STR

    “The current signs provided in the MUTCD cannot properly instruct road users in safe overtaking. Currently, the Manual only provides the bicycle warning sign (W11-1) and the Share the Road plaque (W16-1) to advise motorists and bicyclists. This sign assembly does not convey a clear message, as different users have different understandings of what sharing of the road means.”

    BMUFL is not new, it was recommend it six years ago and it took four years to adopt by the MUTCD. BMUFL is much better than STR but there’s a still a greater need for education beyond a sign.

    Does a cyclist know how to control the lane? Does the general pubic or law enforcement understand BMUFL is regulatory not warning sign?

  • danc
    February 19, 2011 - 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Agree “Share the Road” (STR) does not work. In the NCUTCD Bicycle Technical Committee recommendation of “Bicycle May Use Full Lane” (BMUFL) mentions the STR

    “The current signs provided in the MUTCD cannot properly instruct road users in safe overtaking. Currently, the Manual only provides the bicycle warning sign (W11-1) and the Share the Road plaque (W16-1) to advise motorists and bicyclists. This sign assembly does not convey a clear message, as different users have different understandings of what sharing of the road means.”

    BMUFL is not new, it was recommend it six years ago and it took four years to adopt by the MUTCD. BMUFL is much better than STR but there’s a still a greater need for education beyond a sign.

    Does a cyclist know how to control the lane? Does the general pubic or law enforcement understand BMUFL is regulatory not warning sign?

  • John Connor
    February 20, 2011 - 2:07 am | Permalink

    No, gasoline taxes are primary in the funding of roads, not license fees . Oh, wait, cyclists don’t pay those, so they shouldn’t be allowed to use the roads by your logic.

    Though I have a license, I don’t own or drive a car, so kindly keep your FAT car rants to yourself. I walk and take public transportation, but you don’t hear me screaming up and down the blogosphere about cyclists trying to run me over on the sidewalk, where they’re not allowed to ride AT ALL.

  • John Connor
    February 20, 2011 - 2:31 am | Permalink

    Your posit, good sir or ma’am:
    Cyclists should not have to obey the same laws as motorists because the laws are ineffective in improving the behavior of motorists.
    Laws that are not effective should not be applied.
    Therefore, motorists should not be bound by said laws.

    I’m so tired of illogical arguments.

    When cyclists blow red lights, blow stop signs, ride between lanes, ride the wrong way down a street, don’t wear helmets, wear headphones, don’t signal, ride drunk, and face no repercussions for it, they are endangering their own lives and the lives of others and they don’t belong on the road. Period.

  • Jeremy
    February 20, 2011 - 5:37 am | Permalink

    that’s great to hear, because just a few miles to your west in Albany NY, cyclists are constantly harassed by ignorant, rude & malicious motorists on a daily basis.

  • Jeremy
    February 20, 2011 - 5:37 am | Permalink

    that’s great to hear, because just a few miles to your west in Albany NY, cyclists are constantly harassed by ignorant, rude & malicious motorists on a daily basis.

  • February 20, 2011 - 9:42 am | Permalink

    =v= Ms. Roberts was once told to “Share the road, bitch!” In my experience, StR means “Get the Hell out of my way.”

  • Ecoccio
    February 20, 2011 - 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree…at least once a day on my commute to work a driver makes a right turn with no directional In front of me. Thankfully I almost expect this, but it totally slows down my ride!

  • Ecoccio
    February 20, 2011 - 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree…at least once a day on my commute to work a driver makes a right turn with no directional In front of me. Thankfully I almost expect this, but it totally slows down my ride!

  • Ecoccio
    February 20, 2011 - 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree…at least once a day on my commute to work a driver makes a right turn with no directional In front of me. Thankfully I almost expect this, but it totally slows down my ride!

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  • February 21, 2011 - 9:16 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that some motor vehicle operators do the same things you mention also — does that then logically mean that all cars don’t belong on the road?

    No, if we had to wait for all drivers or all cyclists to obey all traffic laws we’d all be on horseback. I’m a car driver and a cyclist, and I believe I have to obey the laws that apply to cars when I’m driving, and those that apply to bicycles when I’m cycling. I believe most (though not all) cyclists think this way also.

    The laws already exist, both drivers and cyclists need to know and obey them. If there are enforcement issues, whether it be cars or bicycles being driven in an unlawful manner, then complaints should be made to law enforcement or their government supervisors.

    Depicting all drivers or all cyclists as scofflaws and declaring that the whole lot of them should not use the road can certainly stir a debate, but is good for little else.

  • February 21, 2011 - 10:19 pm | Permalink

    I had a similar incident a couple of years ago as I was traveling on a divided two lane street with on-street parking to the right. Between the raised median and parked cars there was just enough room for a car, so after a couple of times when some idiot tried to pass (I had about three blocks of this street I had to travel to get home daily) I started taking the lane.

    One day a woman in a Jeep gunned around me in the middle of an intersection to beat me to the next block and screamed “SHARE THE ROAD!” as she passed. I tend to agree that motorists have the wrong idea about STR.

  • February 21, 2011 - 10:19 pm | Permalink

    I had a similar incident a couple of years ago as I was traveling on a divided two lane street with on-street parking to the right. Between the raised median and parked cars there was just enough room for a car, so after a couple of times when some idiot tried to pass (I had about three blocks of this street I had to travel to get home daily) I started taking the lane.

    One day a woman in a Jeep gunned around me in the middle of an intersection to beat me to the next block and screamed “SHARE THE ROAD!” as she passed. I tend to agree that motorists have the wrong idea about STR.

  • February 21, 2011 - 11:50 pm | Permalink

    Mr Masoner, if I may wax expletive: F*CKIN’-A Buffy!

  • ht
    February 22, 2011 - 3:13 am | Permalink

    “Share the roads and follow the laws”

    That is what I usually append to it. Some one starts something I say learn the laws and follow them.

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  • Labann
    February 22, 2011 - 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Bicycling, self propelling, walking: Basic human rights on shared public space. Motoring: A privilege you earn by learning how and paying fees, and keep by obeying traffic laws, which only apply to motorists. Motor vehicle: A labor saving device. So easy to go slowly and tap brakes, so inconvenient to fill out accident reports and go to court. Smarten up, you impatient, inconsiderate morons!

  • locus
    February 22, 2011 - 9:46 pm | Permalink

    You’re correct that gas taxes are usually earmarked for road funding, however, they are not the primary way that roads are funded. A majority of the funds used for roads comes from each states’ general funds.

    Cyclists pay taxes that go into the general fund.

    As another poster noted, many cyclists also have cars and pay gas taxes. Since you don’t own or drive a car, you have little leg to stand on with your posturing about gas taxres.

  • Siouxgeonz
    February 23, 2011 - 12:03 am | Permalink

    http://www.flashback.ca/flashflags.html — that’s the address for the current rendition of flash flags, which *are* pretty darned effective. Instead of those silly “design a better bike so that more people ride” contests, I’d be up for designing a flag with a nonviolent disincentive (perhaps a paintball) and doing real brainstorming about the real issues (bike design really isn’t what keeps most folks off bikes!)

  • Siouxgeonz
    February 23, 2011 - 12:05 am | Permalink

    Do you have data to back that up?

    I didn’t think so. The facts don’t back you up.

  • Siouxgeonz
    February 23, 2011 - 12:07 am | Permalink

    How often have you tried it? I found I got less honking here… (but different roads are different)

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