Is There an Alternative?
OK. I’ve made it clear that I don’t think that “Share the Road” signs are particularly effective or welcome by most drivers. “That’s all well and good,” you think. “But you can’t just throw that out there and not offer some sort of alternative.” And you would be right.
My moment of clarity came one cold and icy January day while I was out with the Director of Public Works, helping to locate where signs would be placed along newly designated bike routes. The ground still had snow piled up on the sides of the road, effectively narrowing lane width, making these already difficult roads even more treacherous for cyclists. Drivers were behaving as aggressively and recklessly on these snow-compromised roads as they would on a sunny day. Sharing the road definitely wasn’t on their minds. The Director of Public Works was in his car with a clipboard, noting locations for bike route signs. I was on my bike pointing out good locations.
He asked me, “Where should we place the ‘Share the Road’ signs?”
It wasn’t a question of “if,” but merely “where.” I thought for a moment, and said, “Nobody pays any attention to those. What about another sign? How about simply, ‘Watch for Bicyclists’ with a picture of a bike under the words?”
He thought for a moment, and said, “Sure. We can have the sign shop make those, no problem.”
Why I Like “Watch for Bicyclists”
While “Watch for Bicyclists” falls into the same category of environmental signs, there is a subtle difference between that and “Share the Road.” First, it isn’t asking the driver to share anything —so no subtle hints that their driving experience will somehow be diminished. Second, it has a reasonably neutral tone to it—similar to “Caution, Children at Play” or “Pedestrian X-ing.” It imparts the idea that they should simply expect to see bicyclists along this stretch of road, as they’re already there.
But what I like most about “Watch for Bicyclists” is that it helps to convey a cultural change in the way that we think about how roads are used by people. A colleague, Jim Baross, often signs his emails with “Roads are for people, not just people in cars.” I think that “Watch for
Bicyclists” conveys this idea perfectly.
The signs were met with enthusiasm by both bicyclists and motorists—both of whom thought the new signs struck a mildly positive tone. Of course, all of this data gathering and polling has been informal. And, it’s all just one person’s opinion.
It’s time for a change. Don’t just share the road with us, be sure to look for us, as we’re out there!
What do you think? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.