Mary Paul Meletiou, Program Manager for Planning and Safety, North Carolina Department of Transportation, Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation
The North Carolina Department of Transportation Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation (DBPT) first installed “Share the Road” signs along designated bicycle routes in 1987. Funding was provided as part of the first annual allocation of Bicycle Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) funds received by the Bicycle Program, as DBPT was known at the time.
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) specifies what types of signs can be installed along Federal Aid Highways. In 1987, no authorized sign with the “Share the Road” message had been approved. DBPT recognized the need for such a sign and worked within the MUTCD guidelines to develop a state “supplementary” sign. The design chosen utilized an approved black on yellow diamond-shaped bicycle warning sign (designated as W11-1 by the MUTCD) with a supplementary “Share the Road” plaque. In 2000, the Secretary of Transportation decided to use a reflectorized fluorescent yellow-green version of the sign to increase visibility. This design was adopted as a national standard in the most recent MUTCD update.
The sign serves to make motorists aware that bicyclists might be on the road and that they have a legal right to use the roadway. It typically is placed along roadways with high levels of bicycle usage but relatively hazardous conditions for bicyclists. The “Share the Road” sign is especially useful in cities and towns where a significant number of bicyclists use a roadway that by its nature is not suitable to be designated as a bicycle route, but which is an important connection for bicycle transportation. The sign should not be used to designate a preferred bicycle route, but may be used along short sections of designated routes where traffic volumes are higher than desirable.
“Share the Road” sign next to a busy roadway.
The North Carolina “Share the Road” sign has been installed along many miles of roadways since it was created in 1987. It is used along cross-state, regional and local designated bicycle routes on sections of roadway where traffic volumes are higher than desirable. These sections of roadway typically are less than a mile in length and serve to connect the more lightly-traveled roads that comprise the majority of a given route. The signs are placed on the roadway in each direction, just before the bicycle route joins that particular road, so that motorists will be made aware that cyclists may be on the roadway. If a particular high-volume road must be used for a distance greater than two miles, additional signs are installed. These signs are placed where the greatest number of motorists will see them, based on turning movements off intersecting roads. To elaborate, if there is a choice between placing a sign just before a secondary road with traffic volumes of 1,500 cars versus placing it a short distance farther along the route before a more major road with a traffic count of 5,000, choose the latter. Fieldwork and engineering judgement are necessary to fine-tune the placement of signs.
“Share the Road” signs also have been placed along roads that are not part of a designated bicycle route, both in towns and cities, as well as on rural roadways. Roads and bridges heavily used by cyclists, particularly where on-road improvements cannot be made, are prime locations for such signs. Some examples include a major road near a college or university where many students commute by bike; coastal or mountain roads in tourist areas where no alternate routes exist; or on a bridge approach where no other convenient crossings provide an efficient transportation link.
Installation of “Share the Road” signs is an ongoing process. Each new route system that is developed is assessed for “Share the Road” sign needs. Periodic field inspections of existing routes are conducted not only to check the condition of existing signs, but also to identify areas where changing traffic conditions may warrant additional “Share the Road” signs.
As one example of the extent of sign posting, on a 241-km (150-mi) segment of roadway in Randolph County, NC, a total of 45 “Share the Road” signs were posted (in both directions of travel).
No formal evaluation on the sign’s effectiveness has been conducted, but public feedback has been favorable. Cyclists have noted that motorists seem more courteous in areas where “Share the Road” signs are prominent. One interesting note is that DBPT staff members have received calls from several motorists indicating their willingness to share the road but commenting that cyclists they have encountered do not seem willing to do the same.
“Share the Road” sign projects may be a low-cost way to increase the awareness of motorists and enhance the safety of cyclists. The fluorescent yellow-green W11-1 signs are visible from a great distance.
Fabrication and installation of “Share the Road” signs range from $75 to $100 each. The fluorescent yellow-green sign costs about twice as much to fabricate as the yellow and black version.
Mary Paul Meletiou
Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager
Institute for Transportation Research and Education
North Carolina State University
Centennial Campus, Box 8601
Raleigh, NC 27695-8601
(919) 515-8898 (fax)