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Better Signs Could Improve Safety for Cars, Bikes

Female cyclist in heavy traffic during rush hour. Credit: Andrew Cribb.
Female cyclist in heavy traffic during rush hour. Credit: Andrew Cribb.
September 8, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas - Misunderstandings on the road can be deadly. According to a new report by North Carolina State University, a simple change in the wording of traffic signs could help clarify how commuters in cars and on bikes should safely interact.

George Hess, report co-author and professor, says signs that say Share the Road are common but can be confusing.

"There seems to be a prevailing notion that bicyclists have to get out of the way, they're not allowed to be in the lane and that makes everybody feel unsafe," says Hess.

The study found people who saw a Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign were more likely to recognize a bicyclist's right to be on the road. He adds people who saw the traditional Share the Road sign responded the same as people who saw no sign at all, as though bicyclists shouldn't be there or were hogging the lane.

Hess says even though traffic regulations in all 50 states give bicycles the same rights on roads as motorized vehicles, the most important factor keeping people from riding their bikes to work is concern about personal safety.

"As a result of what we found, we think departments of transportation nationwide should reconsider the use of the Share the Road and think about replacing them with Bicyclists May Use Full Lane."

Hess notes commuting by bike might be the single biggest environmental move most people could ever make. He says bikes produce zero greenhouse gas emissions, reduce traffic congestion and can help lower obesity rates and improve public health so long as everyone agrees to actually share the road.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX