Research: "Share the Road" signs vs "Bicyclists may use full lane" signs - Scientific American

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In all 50 states, traffic regulations state that bikes should be treated as vehicles. Which means that they have the same rights as cars when it comes to using the roads. But those rules are not always clear. Signs that urge motorists to “Share the road” are ambiguous. Cyclists may assume they mean that cars should make room for bikes. But some drivers may think they’re saying that bikes should get out of the way of traffic.

To see how such signs influence how people think about bike-riders’ rights, researchers recruited 1,800 volunteers to take a quick survey. Subjects were shown one of four images. Some saw a street with a traditional “share the road” sign; some saw an image of a bicycle painted on the pavement in a shared lane; some saw signs that read “bicycles may use full lane”; and some saw a street with no instructions at all. They then answered some questions about road etiquette.

It turns out that folks who saw the sign explicitly noting that bikes can use the full lane were the most likely to recognize cyclists’ rights to be on the road. And the ambiguous “share the road” suggestion? It had about the same influence on the study subjects as no sign at all.