Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Has "Share The Road" helped or hurt bicycle safety?


In North America, "Share The Road" (STR) is one of the most, if not the most popular slogan used when it comes to education and enforcement. The League of American Bicyclists website reveals a dozen or more articles and references that put STR in a positive light. But here in Delaware, the attacks continue unabated, from the only organization formally recognized by LAB as representing the State's bicyclists and constituent organizations. We continue to see the active removal of STR signs, and a push to erase any reference to the slogan found on-line. To help our readers draw their own conclusion about the effectiveness of STR, we ran an Internet search and found tons of successful campaigns, including vanity license plates in close to 20 States. Below is a small sampling, complete with links and excerpts:

From AAA, 5/10 -- AAA appreciates the continued efforts of stakeholders and transportation officials towards making roads safer for motorists and cyclists alike. In recognition of National Bike Month, AAA reminds both motorists and cyclists to be vigilant about sharing the road, and to exercise caution year round.

Cascade Bicycle Club, 7/13 -- “The Share the Road license plate is the only plate that actually sends a message to drivers of other vehicles about safe behavior on the street. A mini-billboard for better behavior, it lets every vehicle that sports the plate convey the message that Washington bikes - even our cars say so,” explained Barb Chamberlain, Executive Director of Bicycle Alliance of Washington.

Bike Portland -- Over the weekend, I noticed several new “Share the Road” billboards throughout the city. I also appreciate how the bicycle is prominently featured and (whether the designers realized it or not) the design highlights a dangerous road condition - sun glare.

ShareTheRoad.org -- Through the sale of the Share the Road specialty license plates, Bike Florida and the Florida Bicycling Association established mini-grant programs to provide funds to organizations throughout the State who are promoting bicycle and pedestrian safety programs.

Share the Road Cycling Coalition -- Following the 2011 CAA Changing Lanes conference in Vancouver where Share the Road spoke with an international cross section of experts, we approached CAA about helping us with a province-wide "Share the Road" ad campaign. They immediately said yes.

Bike Delaware -- In November, the Delaware Department of Transportation announced that, effective immediately, Delaware would stop using the MUTCD-approved “Share The Road” plaque (W16-1P). More, the department would also start removing all “Share The Road” signs currently installed in Delaware.

*  *  *

Both the Delaware Bicycle Council and Delaware Bikes supported DelDOT's initiative to retire STR signs, assuming that they were phased out going forward with new installations and maintenance. Our decision was based mainly on a technicality. The average travel lane in Delaware is substandard width (11'-12' in most cases), therefore, it is impossible for a bicyclist and most cars to fit within the same lane - abreast - when factoring in the 3' Passing Law. To fix the problem would require that we amend Title 21, making it legal for drivers to cross the double yellow line - with caution - when overtaking bicyclists and other slow moving vehicles. Ohio's Section 4511.31 is one example, and combined with a meaningful PR campaign, would have been the logical choice for us as well.

This latest grandstanding can only hurt the cause of on-road advocacy, and send confusing messages to our government leaders. Unfortunately, it is not without precedent. Bike Delaware's opposition to Same Roads, Same Rules, Same Rights as the official slogan for the See It Both Ways PSA instead gave us "Safety Begins With Sharing". While the former is not ground breaking by any means, it did have a much stronger educational component - and was the clear choice to make.

In summary, let's revisit a post written by Amy Wilburn, Chair of Delaware Bicycle Council, on August 13th: There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the phrase “share the road”. In fact, when it’s used in an educational setting where other information is provided, it’s not confusing at all. It imparts a positive sentiment about caring and respect which we would do well to propagate. We do after all want motorists and bicyclists to share the road, don’t we? We want to impart the idea that one form of transportation doesn’t dominate the others. It’s an important concept to get across, and one that makes biking viable in other countries. So how has a simple phasing out of the signs turned “share the road” into public enemy number one? Why are some advocates urging DelDOT to spend the time and money to completely eliminate the phrase from all promotional and instructional materials?

No comments:

Post a Comment