Bicycle drivers “own” the road to the same extent as motorists. The driver in front is supposed to have the right-of-way and lane control whether the driver is on a bicycle or another vehicle. Photo courtesy of Karen Karabell, St. Louis.
According to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) the
SHARE THE ROAD plaque is supposed to warn motorists that bicyclists are traveling along the highway. So why doesn’t it say that or something similar? Why the ambiguous SHARE THE ROAD message?
The W11-1 bicycle icon warning sign as a stand alone sign is sufficient to alert motorists to downstream bicyclists. Adding the W16-1 SHARE THE ROAD plaque results in a message that can be used and mis-interpreted the opposite of its officially intended meaning. If a supplemental plaque is to be used, there are better options than SHARE THE ROAD to warn motorists of bicycle users ahead.
The SHARE THE ROAD plaque is sometimes mis-interpreted by both motorists and bicyclists to mean that bicycle users are to SHARE THE LANE by riding far right. The plaque implies the falsehood that motorists control the lane, and can choose to share some of it with bicycle users.
The SHARE THE ROAD plaque is typically misplaced on narrow roads whose lanes are not amenable for sharing side-by-side. It does not fulfill 3 of the 5 requirements of a traffic control device as described in the MUTCD.
In contrast, the new R4-11 BICYCLES MAY USE FULL LANE regulatory sign is unambiguous. It is the evolution, and supersedes the SHARE THE ROAD warning sign as the preferable message to motorists and bicyclists. A CHANGE LANES TO PASS supplemental plaque would provide added direction.
The Share The Road Sign paper discusses this combination sign, and provides a rationale for dispensing with the “SHARE THE ROAD” placard.