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City Phasing Out “Share the Road” Signs

 Brent Warren City Phasing Out “Share the Road” SignsPhoto by Walker Evans.
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The City of Columbus is phasing out the use of yellow “Share the Road” signs in favor of white signs that say “Bikes May Use Full Lane.”

The shift is meant to communicate more clearly the idea that, under city and state code, bikes are not required to hug the curb or stay to the far right side of a travel lane “when it is unreasonable or unsafe to do so.”

Many experienced cyclists prefer to ride in the center of the lane, whether to avoid the danger of opening car doors in the parking lane, to increase their visibility, or to avoid the tight squeeze that happens when a car tries to pass a bicycle while staying in the same lane.

Catherine Girves, Executive Director of advocacy organization Yay Bikes, said that the Share the Road signs meant different things to different people, with some drivers interpreting them as directions for cyclists – that they need to “share the road” with drivers and stay as far to the right as possible.

The city’s Bicycle Coordinator, Scott Ulrich, said the shift was “in response to to a growing body of research – and broad consensus in the bicycling community – that this signage is the most consistently comprehended device for communicating the message that bicyclists may occupy the travel lane.”

Ulrich added that the different shapes and colors of the two signs also sends a signal.

“A yellow diamond sign is for warning drivers of potentially hazardous road conditions, whereas the Bikes May Use Full Lane signs are white rectangles, which are regulatory signs that control lane use,” he said. “We believe it is more appropriate to treat bicyclists less like potential hazards and more like the legal road users that they are, and to remind other road users of that fact.”

The yellow signs were first installed along High Street in 2010 – along with shared lane markings (or “sharrows”) painted on the asphalt – as part of the implementation of the city’s Bicentennial Bikeways plan.

Ulrich said that for now, the policy only applies to newly-installed signs, but discussions are under way about a plan to eventually swap out all of the existing Share the Road signs.

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  • Columbusite

    This is so much more clear. It’s great. I’ve been yelled at a few times by ignorant drivers.

    • It doesn’t prevent the yelling, though it does seem to reduce the amount of it somewhat.

  • This would be a clearer sign. Found on a San Diego bike blog of course: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-CZiGYwCs4j4/TYUnfzjjrFI/AAAAAAAAAeg/s-VGjnYx3jE/s1600/Get%2BOver%2BIt.jpg

    • I first saw that in a post from Keri Caffrey, co-founder of Cycling Savvy and based in Florida. I think she actually made it. She’s also a graphic artist and has created most if not all of Cycling Savvy’s excellent graphics.

  • shmoopatties

    I fully support the legal right of bicyclists to ride in the center of the lane, going the same direction as traffic, using hand signals that few motorists understand. I similarly support the legal right of people to go skydiving. Neither one seems like a good use of judgement about one’s personal safety, but that’s none of my concern. I’ve skydived a couple times, would do so more if cost were no factor. It’s moderately thrilling…no big whoop. But there’s no way in hell I have the guts to take advantage of my legal right to bike on busy roadways. I can’t imagine the bravery involved in taking such dramatic risks with one’s life…

    • You seem to have a poor grasp of the fundamentals of risk assessment.

    • X.

      Riding in the center of the lane increases the rider’s visibility to motorists, reduces likelihood that a driver will pass when there is not sufficient room to do so, and lowers the risk of getting “doored” by a driver getting out of a parked car. I will admit, as a cyclist who has put a lot of miles in on the streets of Columbus, even I have “doored” a cyclist because he was riding in the gutter and I couldn’t see him.

      As for the hand signals, it’s much safer to point in the direction you intend to turn than to use the legally designated hand signals, which tell the majority of drivers only that the cyclist is about to do something but they don’t know what.

      • kagi

        Agree, w/r/t taking the lane; disagree w/r/t legal hand signals vs. pointing. When you point, sometimes drivers think you’re telling _them_ where to go, rather than indicating where you’re going. Flat-hand signals are much less ambiguous, and most states are moving toward right-arm-straight-out for right turns. Drivers tend to think that the “stop” signal means “stay back,” but that’s not usually a problem (unless they stay back so far that they don’t trip the signal induction loop).

    • Bicycle Driver
    • Most people who haven’t studied bike safety and the statistical realities of how bike-car collisions happen find it non-intuitive but riding in the middle of the lane is usually safer than riding at the edge of the lane or on a shoulder or in a bike lane or on the sidewalk. Most of the rest of the time it’s safety neutral. It’s rare that the edge is actually safer.

      Reality is that most collisions are a result of crossing conflicts and most crossing conflict collisions between bikes and cars are a result of drivers not seeing bicyclists or misjudging their speed or movement. Using the full lane puts them in the spot that motorists are looking for cars which makes them far more likely to be seen and noticed by motorists which makes these crossing conflicts far less likely to happen.

      As for same direction straight collisions, using the full lane even reduces the risk of those. As with the crossing conflicts, riding in the center of the lane actually makes the rider easier to see from a greater distance and it also makes it clear from a great distance that drivers can’t pass without moving into the next lane. All too often, edge riders are hit by drivers who thought that they had enough room to “squeeze by” but didn’t. When a rider is in the middle of the lane, there’s no way to get confused and think that you can squeeze by.

      I’ve been riding this way for about 8 years maybe 50,000 miles and it’s vastly better than the over 3 decades before that when I was an edge rider. I don’t have accidental close calls anymore because it’s easier for drivers to see me and I’m far more predictable. I don’t use the full lane because I’m brave. I use the full lane because I understand that it is much much safer. It’s more like the opposite of thrill seeking.

      Read Bicycling Street Smarts (free online) for a good introduction. Cycling Savvy has an excellent course that’s even better but it costs money and may not be available in your area. Check their web site for availability.

    • Robert Cooper

      The risk of a fatality during an hour of skydiving is about five-hundred times higher than the risk of a fatality during an hour of cycling. And skilled cyclists can widen that gap even further.

    • John Brooking

      Like skydiving, you get more comfortable with lane control the more you do it. Remember when you were first learning to drive a car? I don’t know about you, but I was pretty nervous the first bunch of times, especially my first time on a freeway. I’m now totally comfortable with lane control on my bike, as I became comfortable driving a car as a teenager, but at age 50, I have yet to work up the nerve to try skidiving! :-)

  • Nikki

    Will the signs also say “cyclist must follow the rules of the road?” Because half of them don’t.

    • Scooty Puff Jr

      We could go that route, but then we’ll need to modify all automobile signs as well. Bicycles and cars commit traffic offenses at the same rates.


      Frankly, your proposal sounds a bit expensive for limited benefit.

    • Bicycle Driver

      How many stop signs do you “roll” everyday? How many times do you stop your front bumper at the stop sign,check the sidewalk the roll forward to check the road (the legally correct way) vs blasting over the sidewalk and stopping your front bumper at the edge of the perpendicular road (illeagal)? How often are you going 5 under vs 5+ over the speed limit?

      • Tim Bartoe

        Really did you conduct a scientific study to back up this? Was it peer reviewed and published? Or just personal opinion? I am guessing it’s the later. Don’t try and speak for cyclist unless you ride on the road. This is where we differ from you. Not only do we ride, we also own and operate cars. I can tell you this and it’s fact. There are more drivers who commit idiotic driving habits on a daily bases than the number of cyclists who actually ride regularly for transportation.

        • Bicycle Driver

          You clicked on the wrong person when you wrote your reply.

      • Nikki

        I’m talking about the cyclist who blantently break the law by not even hesitating at stop signs. I live in down town and I see it every day

        • theonlynikki

          Right, because drivers NEVER do that.

          • Nikki

            Way to contribute to the conversation.

          • assholemike

            Why do you care? Its only ok to protect a group of people if ALL of them are law abiding citizens? We have more protection for people on Death Row that I think would worry you then.

          • Bicycle Driver

            They contributed more than you have.

        • dfiler

          Drivers also don’t obey the law when we can conveniently break it, just like cyclists. Drivers can easily speed without giving it a second though, and pretty much all of us do. Probably the reason why is that we don’t perceive it as being that much more dangerous.

          Cyclists view stopping at stop signs the same way. Yet it is perhaps even more justified. While an increase of 10 or 15mph does result in many more fatalities a year, cyclists not stopping at stop signs kills very few. And most of those deaths are the cyclists themselves.

          This isn’t meant to justify breaking traffic laws. Instead it is simply pointing out that drivers break the law just as often. Don’t just focus on cyclists and ignore speeding drivers. Those speeding drivers kill thousands of people a year.

          So if you’re going to complain about breaking traffic laws, please focus on speeding…

          When a pedestrian is hit by a car:
          25% chance of death at 23mph
          50% chance of death at 42mph


        • Jeff Gondek

          I believe it’s legal to pass a stop if there’s no car traffic, FYI

          • dfiler

            Jeff, I think that’s only true in Idaho. Some states do allow cyclists to proceed through red lights though. But that’s generally only true if in a turning lane is signalized and has vehicle detector not triggerable by a bicycle, and that the rider waits through multiple cycles to confirm and then only crosses when allowed by traffic.

          • Sam

            Not in Ohio! ORC4511.43

        • Bicycle Driver

          I see cars not even slow down for them either. I’ve sent video to ups of one of their drivers doing it and they are supposed to be professional drivers.
          The point is for every single law that you say you witness cyclist break every day, we ALL see motorists do the same shit everyday. The only difference is you motorists make it a bigger deal when a cyclist breaks the law than when one of your own does it. And the worst part is a cyclist breaking the law is going to get THEMSELVES killed, a motorist breaking the law is going to kill Me OTHERS!

      • Mr Chapman

        Car drivers are so disciplined, they really can take the moral high-ground in this debate /s

    • Can there be a single article about bicyclists right to use the road without somebody commenting, “ZOMG bike riders break rules!!!1”

  • Tricia Kovacs

    I wish the city would hurry up and define the policy for where to place them and hope they will place them on Agler Rd and Airport Dr… it’s only been 7 years I’ve been asking. I try to be a patient person but it just kind of wears you down after a while. There are BMUFL signs on Long and Spring east of 71. I guess part of the unwritten policy is to place them where bike lanes transition to sharrows.

  • ecf

    This is huge for cyclists in Columbus! It makes me so proud of our city!

  • Abigail Flores

    way to go Columbus! Evaluation, Engineering, Education, Encouragement, and now enforcement.

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