• Study Confirms: “Share The Road” Signs Don’t Work

    by  • August 29, 2015 • Traffic Control • 22 Comments

    “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.

    Large study from North Carolina State University confirms that "Share The Road" is a problem.

    Large study from North Carolina State University confirms that “Share The Road” is a problem.

    It’s been almost two years since Delaware discontinued any new installation of “Share The Road” signs. Perhaps this brand new study, with its unambiguous results, will now encourage some other states to finally follow Delaware’s lead. Hey, heads up Washington and Minnesota

    (*** Update: In February of 2016, Oregon joined Delaware.)



      James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware.






    • “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” Signage Communicates U.S. Roadway Rules and Increases Perception of Safety

    Why “Share The Road” Is Gone in Delaware

    • End “Share The Road”

    • Goodbye “Share The Road”

    Here They Come (“Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signs in Newark)

    • Delaware Cyclist Ticketed for Riding His Bike Is Arraigned


    James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware. He is a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (by whom he was named the 2014 Professional of the Year, Nonprofit Sector), the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Delaware Bicycle Council. He is the co-chair of the policy committee of the Advisory Council on Walkability and Pedestrian Awareness and serves on the board of directors of the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance. He holds engineering degrees from Yale University and the University of Texas at Austin and is the only registered lobbyist for cycling and walking in Delaware. He helped create, and continues to lead Bike Delaware's participation in, the Walkable Bikeable Delaware campaign. During his tenure as Bike Delaware's executive director, Delaware advanced in the national Bicycle Friendly State rankings for five years in a row, farther and faster than any other state, ever.

    22 Responses to Study Confirms: “Share The Road” Signs Don’t Work

    1. Judy winters
      August 30, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Where can I buy a used bike?

      • Diego Gamez
        September 1, 2015 at 3:57 pm

        On Craiglist / bikes

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    4. Bike Fan
      August 31, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      Actually in Minnesota you couldn’t use these signs because bicyclists are not legally allowed to use the full lane. State statute says bikes cannot impede the flow of traffic. They have to remain off to the side.

      • drew
        August 31, 2015 at 5:41 pm

        The Minnesota statues have the same standard statutory language used across the United States. And no, bicycles do not have to remain off to the side. You are not impeding traffic, and therefore, you are not violating the law by riding in the right lane.

        For a detailed interpretation of Minnesota’s bicycle laws, see Bob Mionske’s article in Velonews (http://tinyurl.com/omrpu4d)

      • Greg
        September 1, 2015 at 1:35 am

        Bicycles *are* traffic.

      • Mike T.
        September 1, 2015 at 8:11 am

        As Greg says – bicycles ARE traffic so they’re not impeding the flow of it. They’re part of it. That’s the problem Bike Fan, most motorists do not know the laws of the road; they just think they do but really what they have is just their own impression of what they think the laws say. Many police aren’t much better equipped than you are.

      • Carl
        September 2, 2015 at 9:29 pm

        @Bike Fan. Actually, Minnesota is already trying this. Century Avenue near I94 in Maplewood (near the 3M headquarters) is but one example. Here signage stating that “Bikes May Use Full Lane” is clearly posted north and south of the interstate.

        Thanks Delaware for leading on this issue!

    5. oliver
      August 31, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      If the number of hee-haws yelling “Share the road” out of the windows of their pickups as if the sign wasn’t a MUTCD standard sign for motor vehicles was any indication, I’d say the messaging has been lost.

      However, instinct tells me that the sign isn’t misunderstood per se, but rather we are witnessing petulant behavior of a man who is aware of the codes of conduct which seperate a gentleman from a ruffian, but finds himself unable to quite live up to them.

      And they are using, quite deliberately, the ambiguity of the medium as an excuse for their loutish behavior.

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    7. Marcy Jacobs
      September 1, 2015 at 1:05 am

      Agree with the premise. Unfortunately, many of the streets with sharrows in Portland OR are in poor condition, and not well maintained by the city. I know, as I recently had an accident riding downhill at slow speed onto gravel/potholes on a road marked with sharrows that many cyclists use to access Portland’s west hills. Drivers often do not understand that a cyclist must dodge obstacles that a car can drive right over with no problem. Drivers also do not understand that a route marked with sharrows is a suggested bike route, but not a mandated route, especially when road conditions are unsafe.

      Here is the Portland definition of sharrow: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/386150

      • Gerald F
        September 1, 2015 at 12:14 pm

        Within Portland’s definition is a contradiction. Did you notice the part that says “bicyclists use the sharrow to guide where to ride” and “don’t ride too close to parked cars.” This tells me that I should ride over the sharrow. At the very least it’s an ambiguous statement. I’ve ever seen PBOT staff argue amongst themselves over what the sharrow means. Clear language is needed.

        • Gerald F
          September 1, 2015 at 12:15 pm

          I interpret “bicycliss use the sharrow to guide where to ride” the same way I interpret “dashed white lane markers guide drivers where to ride” (i.e. in the middle of the lane).

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    9. September 5, 2015 at 8:00 pm

      I just posted a story on the topic of cars vs. bikes here in Northern California. The physical landscape is either designed for cars or it’s designed for humans. You really do have to choose. http://granolashotgun.com/2015/09/03/bridge-and-tunnel/

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    12. August 31, 2016 at 2:16 pm

      I was riding on a city road, and some yahoo told me that, since there were no markings, I should be riding on the SIDEWALK!

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