Visit Today!!!

What’s In A Name?
I got my start in bike advocacy back in 2002 when a local ran me off the road while the passenger yelled out the window, “That’s what sidewalks are for!” Thus, Bike Pittsburgh ( was born out of my frustration for the lack of respect that cyclists were getting on the road in Pittsburgh, PA. I talked to a reporter at one of the local newspapers and got my story published. The reporter asked what I wanted from my fellow cyclists, and I responded that I hoped they would join me in a “concerted ‘Share the Road’ campaign.”

Looking back, it seemed like a good idea. I was, after a fashion, only repeating a catchphrase that I had heard many times before. It was all that I knew. The phrase was part of a collection of sayings that my brain had stored over the years—Only you can prevent forest fires—Say no to drugs—Give a hoot, don’t pollute—Take a bite out of crime—you get the idea…

Now, nearly eight years into a career as a bicycle advocate I’m beginning to question the effectiveness of the phrase “Share the Road”. Before we go any further, it is important to separate the passive message of “Share the Road” from the active education and outreach efforts underway, such as teaching drivers and bicyclists how to coexist safely. Specifically, I am questioning the efficacy of the “Share the Road” message.

As it turned out, the “Share the Road” campaign that was my first stab at bike advocacy lasted a few months. Within a very short time, it became apparent to me that nothing would get accomplished in a town as gritty as Pittsburgh if all that I was peddling was a catchphrase.

Dynamics of Share the Road
Most people don’t like sharing things of value. Sharing their money. Sharing their chocolate. Sharing their time off with unwanted family members. And most importantly, sharing the road with other users that may slow them. So when a driver sees a sign that tells them to “Share the Road,” there is a voice in the back of their head that whispers, “But I don’t want to.” It’s the same voice that says, “Why do I have to go 35 miles per hour on this straight road in the middle of nowhere? I could totally do 60 and get away with it.” “Share the Road” is a message aimed at drivers who need to be reminded that their behavior can be aggressive and reckless. These same people rarely like to be told that they don’t own the road.

Getting back to my friend who didn’t see the “Share the Road” signs near her house, I did a little bit more thinking and asking around. As it turns out, most drivers pay attention to just two types of signs when they’re driving: speed limits, and control signs (stop, turn, yield, etc.). “Share the Road” signs fall into a third, less noticed category: environmental signs. These might include information like “Entering National Forest,” or “Soft Shoulder.” These signs are often missed, because there is almost no penalty for missing them. You don’t get fined for entering a National Forest, but you will get cited for failing to stop at a stop sign. Additionally, images are easier to process while driving than text. If you saw a picture of a tractor on a sign you would immediately know that you should expect to see farm equipment along that particular stretch of road even without reading any text on the sign. It is, in effect, a “Share the Road” sign for cars and farm equipment.

There is also the issue of sign pollution. Studies have shown that we can only process so many things while we’re driving. If there are too many signs, many of them simply fade in to the background and are never seen by us. Dense urban environments are classic areas for sign pollution. And these same dense areas often have a burgeoning bike population with little room for bicycle-specific facilities such as bike lanes or paths. Instead, cyclists are often in a shared use environment—replete with “Share the Road” signs.