Delaware ditches “Share the Road” signs

The Delaware Department of Transportation announced last November that they would stop using the ambiguous “Share the Road” sign. For the rationale, I’m going to copy the entire article by James Wilson, executive director of Bike Delaware, and Mark Luszcz, chief traffic engineer of the Delaware Department of Transportation, as published in the Institute of Transportation Engineers Bicycle and Pedestrian Council Newsletter and -republished at Bike Delaware.


Bikes May Use Full Lane

“Share The Road”: It’s practically the national motto of cycling advocacy in the United States.

It’s the cycling “message” on license plates in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

But not in Delaware. In fact, as of last November, just the opposite.

In November, the Delaware Department of Transportation announced that, effective immediately, Delaware would stop using the MUTCD-approved “Share The Road” plaque (W16-1P). More, the department would also start removing all “Share The Road” signs currently installed in Delaware.

How did the state’s cycling advocacy group Bike Delaware react to the announcement that Delaware’s department of transportation was abandoning “Share The Road?” Were there howls of outrage and a letter writing campaign to protest? Actually, Bike Delaware just said “Goodbye ‘Share The Road’“.

Despite its ubiquity and apparent iconic status, it turned out that “Share The Road” is actually an example of common ground between traffic engineers and cycling advocates. We both hated it and for the same reason: its unresolvable ambiguity.

For traffic engineers, with our many years of experience with traffic control devices, “Share The Road” is yet another example of “feel good” signage that placates an interest group but has no safety benefit and adds useless and distracting clutter to the visual landscape.

For cyclists in Delaware (and elsewhere), “Share The Road” had long been interpreted as a sign primarily directed at motorists. Cyclists thought it meant something like “Motorists: be cool.” But for many motorists, “Share The Road” is often interpreted as a sign primarily directed at cyclists and meant something more like “Bicyclists: don’t slow me down.” But we finally realized (after years of pointless yelling back and forth between cyclists and motorists, both yelling “Share The Road” at each other!), that “Share The Road” not only doesn’t help, it actually contributes to conflict and confusion.

“Bicycle May Use Full Lane”

In Delaware, our important task now is to figure out the warrant for the “Bicycle May Use Full Lane” sign.

Perhaps the biggest point of conflict between motorists and cyclists is when cyclists “take the lane” (e.g. cycle in the middle of a travel lane on narrow two lane roads with double yellow lines and without any shoulders). This can sometimes make motorists traveling behind angry. But there is a solid reason that cyclists sometimes ride like this.

Riding at the right hand edge of a travel lane is an invitation for cars behind to pass. That’s fine. But where a double yellow line also exists, it is very easy for a motorist to interpret the combination of the cyclist at the right hand edge of the lane and the double yellow line separating her lane from the lane of oncoming traffic as an invitation to pass in the travel lane. But on roads where the travel lanes are only 10 or 11 feet, this is a potentially catastrophic misunderstanding. The only way for a motorist to safely pass a cyclist when the travel lane is that narrow is to (at least partially) exit her travel lane (into the lane of oncoming traffic).

This type of situation is an example of where the Bicycle May Use Full Lane (and shared lane pavement markings) can both help. The sign delivers a clear traffic control message that makes an ambiguous and confusing traffic situation clearer – for both motorists and cyclists. It’s a big, big improvement over that other sign…what was it called again?

View original at Bike Delaware: Why “Share The Road” Is Gone in Delaware. I think I probably first mentioned an alternative to sharing the road in this blog post.

3 Comments

  • April 9, 2014 - 10:35 am | Permalink

    The sign is still being used in Delaware. A brand new “Share the Road” just appeared in front of a CVS drug store in Newark. Probably because DelDOT waived the mandatory bike lane required in the New Castle County building code, and went with this for good measure. I’ll post photos on http://www.delawarebikes.org/ probably tonight.

    Bike Delaware should really work on advocacy for well designed on-road facilities, instead of the removal of a symbolic sign (which wasn’t even their idea or project in the first place). They have been virtually absent in this regard, instead focusing all their energy on trails and pathways.

  • Bike-Scoot
    April 9, 2014 - 1:30 pm | Permalink

    There are more reasons than passing distance why riding in the gutter is not a good idea. The extreme road edge is often not maintained like the rest of the road and has pot holes and sections that have eroded, making it difficult to maintain a straight and predictable path. There are sometimes drainage gutters to deal with, which often have spacings that look almost designed to catch a tire. Then there is the debris that collects near the edge which can cause frequent flat tires. Also the dooring issue. Driver seem to be completely uneducated about all these issues, and view the gutter bunny as the cyclist who is riding correctly.

    BMUFL should apply to all roads legally bikable, not just select road with the signs. I heard previous proposals to put the signs only on bike routes, but won’t this be interpreted by drivers as BMUFL not being allowed on all other roads, thus making the situation even worse everywhere else?

    Instead, FTR should be repealed and replaced with BMUFL as the default standard. If there are exception, then sign only the exceptions. FTR has only been used as a harassment tools against cyclists, and will lead to major confusion if mixed with BMUFL.

    Finally, the “bike friendly neighborhood” signs in San Jose should also be removed. Did the person who came up with this idea believe they could make a neighborhood friendly just by putting up a sign saying it is. And what happens when you leave that neighborhood…now its supposed to be unfriendly? Whats needed is real infrastructure, education, and enforcement, not useless misinterpreted signs.

  • Hogwash
    April 22, 2014 - 5:58 am | Permalink

    I enjoy cycling as well as driving daily. However there should be designated bike lanes on roadways that can safely handle the traffic of both types of users. BMUFL on roadways that are already problematic with poor condition, excessive traffic or other issue makes no sense at all. Cycling is no longer the primary means of transportation for the masses, neither is the horse. The rules should reflect the majority and do their best to accommodate the minorities. To be frank, many of my fellow cyclists have a chip on their shoulder and feel they have right to back up traffic for miles, obstruct traffic and don’t yield accordingly.

    Bottom line is that a 2+ ton car wins every time , regardless of signage. Separate the lanes much as they do in NYC.

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