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City Phasing Out “Share the Road” Signs

Brent Warren 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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