What Does “Share the Road” Mean?



What Does “Share the Road” Mean?

http://www.cvrti.utah.edu/~macleod/bike/images/Share-the-road-Marin.gifI’m putting on my flack jacket in preparation for the inevitable onslaught of comments this post will encourage…  Eden from Team Estrogen posted the following creeds:
As a cyclist…

I will ride predictably and follow the rules of the road.

I won’t block your way without reason. I will ride to the right when it is safe for
me to do so. I’ll use a bike lane or shoulder if it is contiguous, free of parked cars, copious pot holes, gravel or debris or other obstacles. I may choose to not use these areas if the above conditions apply. I may choose to occupy an entire lane of travel if I feel it is necessary.

I get to determine what is safe and what is not safe. I may be able to see things that you may not. I may have different tolerances for different situations than you do. I know the limitations of my equipment and physiology better than you do.

I will use lights and reflectors – lots of them. I want you to see me.

I will be respectful of pedestrians.

What I expect from motorists (and how I behave when driving)…

I will drive predictably and follow the rules of the road.

I won’t harass other road users – if they are going more slowly than I would like
to go, I will wait until it is safe to pass and then I will do so. Even if annoyed, I
will not tailgate, honk, yell, flash lights etc. I will not pass recklessly. I will wait
until I can see far enough and until I have enough space to go all of the way
around you. I will not attempt to pass you at all if your speed is reasonable for
the conditions – regardless of the speed limit.

I won’t take your turn at a 4 way intersection, just because I think I can
accelerate faster than you….

I will be respectful of pedestrians.

I will remember that some road users are more vulnerable than I am and that I
should exercise extra caution around them. I will not be upset at them for
existing, nor will I call for their banishment from “my” roads for simply because I
do not wish to be inconvenienced or to have to be properly careful.

For both riders and drivers:

I will pay attention to what I’m doing. If I am on a bike I will keep my eyes
*and* my ears open – no cell, no headphones. If I am driving I will not use
even a hands free cell device and I certainly will NEVER text while driving.”

So what would you add or subtract from this list?


  • Victor Martelle
    Jan 28, 2011 at 3:55 am

    The point is no matter how much cyclists follow the laws, we will ALWAYS be honked, hit, bashed, and yelled at. I was riding to the right of the road the other day and a truck decides to go to the right lane, clip me while blaring his horn, move to the left lane and speed off.

    I get this everyday even if I follow every damn law.

  • Jan 28, 2011 at 6:06 am

    The next time this happens, make sure you get a license plate and contact the police. No, they are aren't actually going to do anything the first time, the second time, or maybe even the third time, but at least they have a record of the complaint. You can't back down, the police may give you a hard time about taking the report, but they should do so.

  • Jan 28, 2011 at 6:47 am

    We need something up there from DOT. When the DOT only takes automobiles into consideration, and continues to be so auto-centric, it is hard to blame drivers for thinking the road is theirs alone. The DOT had that in mind when they built it afterall.

  • Jan 28, 2011 at 6:53 am

    Oh! Come on!

    Being a bicyclist – here and now in much of America – is a new and, as yet, not fully accepted mode of transportation. If you're a commuting cyclist you are a bit of a pioneer…and sometimes pioneers get arrows in their backs.

    Man up! Ride so that – in the event something happens – you are blameless. And be proud in knowing that you are on the leading edge of the change that must and is coming to the USA.

  • Jamie Re
    Jan 28, 2011 at 6:56 am

    I like these rules. They are a good start. If both cyclists and drivers followed half of them we would be in a MUCH better situation. I think the biggest issue is the anger issue and the idea that this is MY road. On both sides really, I can tell you that the longer I ride the more pissed I get at vehicles not really understanding how easily I can be killed, maimed or injured and so I ride more aggressively by taking the lane riding closer to the lane of travel when on the side of the road etc. All of which piss off the drivers in turn because they don't understand that I am doing it so they will NOTICE, I am not doing it to piss them off or risk my life or take THEIR road.

    Maybe we should take the route of the drunk driving adverts on the side of the road. Start putting up banners with what happens when a car hits a bicycle. Raise awareness of what that giant hulk of steel and plastic can do to a cyclist.

  • Jan 28, 2011 at 7:07 am

    " I will ride predictably and follow the rules of the road."

    I would add: "Sometimes when I run a red light it is not because I don't want to follow the rules of the road but because the light is always red for me."

  • Jan 28, 2011 at 7:14 am

    Jamie, when you do that (illustrate what happens when cars hit cyclists), you say "Don't ride a bike! It's suicidal!" And you promote the notion that cyclists should not be on the road and that motorists shouldn't have to share said road (in fact, you say that it is safer for bicyclists to be off the road). That cycling is suicidal, along with the firm belief that there is someone around every bush to abduct your kid, is why the X-Box and the Ice-Box are winning the obesity war here.

    I believe that persuasion, driver eduction and great on-road negotiations with motorists need to be practiced here – along with a load of patience and predictable riding on our collective part.

  • Dennis
    Jan 28, 2011 at 7:35 am

    That list looks like a start, but we have a very long way to go. And I think we have even further because many of the drivers that I see on the road have those waves on their license plates.

    As for reporting the truck driver… CERTAINLY!

    Did you know that they do NOT have to hit you to be guilty of assault? Report the attempt. It will make it into the statistics so that the next time the bike-vs-auto thing comes up in a legal situation there are more accurate statistics.

    Will that driver be held accountable? No, I doubt it. It has happened to me four times in the past two years and the PPD has done nothing except take a police report for the last three. The first one they just chuckled and blew me off. How do I know they did nothing? I followed up and found that there was no detective assigned to the case, for one thing.

    Still, report it. Help build the stats.

  • Jan 28, 2011 at 7:39 am

    “Sometimes when I run a red light it is not because I don’t want to follow the rules of the road but because the light is always red for me.”

    I know what you are saying, but would rephrase it to be something like "Sometimes I need to treat red lights as stop signs, because I can't activate the light". I don't think we as cyclists should use the phrase "run a red light". However, I do support cyclists going through a red light, after they've waited and it's clear the light isn't going to change. Typically, state motor vehicle code will have a blurb somewhere about how to deal with non-operational traffic control devices, but I have yet to be able to find this in RI state law.

  • Jamie Re
    Jan 28, 2011 at 8:04 am


    I see what you mean here as far as the message to cyclists. BUT these kinds of images would be for drivers to show them what they can do to cyclists on the road. A cyclist should be aware of the fact that they can be seriously injured commuting as well to be honest, maybe this would curb some of the dumb dumb cycling that happens too. It is part of the education that you are calling for. Take the good with the bad.

    If these kind of images deter a rider from commuting because it is "suicidal" perhaps they shouldn't be commuting. I want more cyclists on the road too because that makes it safer for me but they need to be prepared for what they find out there. Prepared for the reality of our situation not for a Utopian dream where everyone respects each other on the road.

  • Jan 28, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Yeah Jamie,

    The point is that we want it to be – and it is safer for us all – as more and more people commute by bicycle. So, I don't think you can have it both ways here: you either work to get more who are thinking about bicycle commuting to participate or you send messages that say: "This is dangerous stuff. For experts, hard core and responsibility-free riders only."

    Parents determine whether their kids walk or bike to school. Images demonstrating the effects of Newtonian physics on cyclists will dissuade parents from letting their kids ride and from riding themselves. That is counter-productive to what we need to accomplish.

    Relative to drivers seeing these images, RI has a pretty consistent record of not prosecuting motorists who have hit cyclists. So what difference would those images make but to – again – strengthen the attitude that cyclists DON'T belong on the roadways?

    On a personal note, I have commuted by bicycle and ridden in and around this city-state, seven days a week, for the last five years. I have been threatened once (by a van that squeezed me over on N Main St), honked at once, right hooked once (inadvertently) and flipped off once (by another cyclist doing something suicidal through a 4-way stop). Perhaps I am too thickly skinned but, frankly, I don't think it is all that bad out there.

  • Jamie Re
    Jan 28, 2011 at 8:55 am


    Yea I have been riding in this city as long and almost as frequently as you have and have had a similar experience as far as harassment goes. I have heard other stories from other though as I am sure you have. The Parents, yea i can see how these sorts of images could be discouraging to them relative to their children's welfare, but seriously any person that drives in this state regularly knows the issues drivers have here and would be terrified to let their kids ride to school ( if i had kids I would feel the same ). Relative to the drivers, I feel I would be calling to their humanity/guilt reflex more than to the penalties. People feel bad when they hurt others and they don't want to feel bad… I dunno.

    I feel like the education of drivers and riders needs to more overt action. Some kind of public display on roadways where cyclists and drivers coexist regularly that can serve to educate both parties… like the Ghost Bike thing but I don't think people understand what that is most of the time. The image idea I was talking about was a off the cuff kind of thing but something like that would be effective I think. There will be pros and cons to any kind of public exposition for sure but I feel that there is value potential there if used in combination with softer means.

  • MattyCiii
    Jan 28, 2011 at 11:38 am

    I have a couple to add:

    As a cyclist…

    I will mark half the distance RI law allows me with a flag extending 3 feet to the left of my bicycle. Cars may go around or slow down.

    When there are two travel lanes in each direction, I will completely take one. This is because RI drivers routinely fail to give adequate space when passing.

    If you jam your car in front of me, I will overtake you at the next red. I will take more of the lane, and make it harder if not possible for you to get around me.

    As a motorist…

    Whenever I see a cyclist on a four lane road, I will take position about 15' behind them and drive the same speed. Other autos will be forced to slow down or change lanes, and they will blame me, not the cyclist… Everybody wins!

    Whenever I pass a pedestrian or cyclist, I will signal and pass by a very wide margin, showing respect to the ped/biker and demonstrating to other drivers how easy it is to pass safely.

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  • Jan 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    USOC: in regards to #4, I am pretty sure cycling for transportation isn't a new thing in the US. In the 1890s cycling was a huge thing and there weren't really any cars. And I've been riding a bike 30 years: three decades. That's plenty of time for people to get used to an idea.

    And what is there really to get used to? You're in a car, you see another road user, whether that be a pedestrian, equestrian, cyclist, wheelbarrow operator or clown car driver and you REFRAIN from running them over out of common decency and respect for human life and the law. Simple as that.

  • Victor Martelle
    Jan 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    To the everyday person I ride "aggressively" by:

    1) Not riding near the curb, instead taking the lane because I usually go the speed limit (and people still get mad at me).

    2) Run every red I can because we MUST QUESTION: "Is it SAFE for a bicycle to take off with motor traffic?" I don't feel comfortable with cars around me, simple as that.

    3) Stop signs; I don't look both ways sometimes because I use my hearing and outer vision. I never stop

    4) Sometimes I ride without a light, sometimes I ride with one. A car has lights and is usually able to spot me.

    5) If a car pass's me too close, I give chase and pretty much tell them off nicely depending on the situation.

    6) If a car beeps at me from behind, I slow down and flip them off.

    7) If a car does something extremely dangerous or gives fighting words, their in for it.

    Bicycles cant take the shit that motorists give them. We are fighting for inches, and bare skin.

  • MattyCiii
    Jan 28, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Be careful out there Victor:

    1) Agreed – though I'm a lot slower than you.

    2) I run a few lights… My inertia = mass * velocity squared is hundreds of times smaller than that of a car at any given speed, so running a light is always a danger to me, rarely a danger to anyone else, and sometimes I do gamble with my precious life. But many times I manage the situation as follows: Ride to the head of the line of cars. Pull your bike out enough to be seen by the first car in the line – even if you have to get right in front of the driver (the crosswalk is usually available). Accelerate when the light changes, and when ready, ease rightward to your lane position. My point… Cars are much safer when they are stuck behind you, accelerating only as fast as you can, than when they build up a head of steam before they pass you. I feel safest when pulling away from a light.

    3) BE VERY CAREFUL. Using just your ears you can hit other bikers or pedestrians, both silent and not necessarily moving in ways you expect.

    4) Get a light bro, and use it. I ride when I can, drive when I have to. I like to think I'm a careful driver, and I know exactly how bikers ride. But recently I almost pulled out of a side street right in front of a cyclist. He had a white blinky light too, but riding to the right of the travel lane, small cross-section, background lights… He was almost invisible. I almost pulled out and mad him T-bone me.

  • Jan 29, 2011 at 4:57 am


    I certainly agree with your argument about not running down vulnerable roadway users as common decency. But "common decency" is part of the context of current culture…

    Most people that I know began their relationship with the bicycle in their youth. In the 1970's some 40+% of kids walked or rode their bikes to school. By 2005, that was down to about 12%. Kids get in a bus or an SUV or they sit in the family SUV waiting for the bus to come. No bicycles or sensitivity to bicycles in those scenarios.

    So consider that the most recent crops (last 20 years) of new drivers are "bicycle-insensitive." Then, consider that, as bicycles along the road disappeared, in-car driver distractions exploded (in the form of mobile telephony, iPoddage, mobile messaging and GPS units). So, you have a "never-been-a-cyclist" who is "driving" (iPodding, talking, texting) down the road and not paying attention to much other than kind of staying between the white and yellow lines. Worrying about a vulnerable roadway user – like a cyclist – may not even be in their frame of consideration.

    Prove it to yourself! Try this experiment: Next time you stop at a light in a moderately congested area: Look at the faces in the cars. How many of them are focused on driving and how many on something else? So, it is a different driving environment than it was and one that is certainly about things other than what's along the side of the road. I would submit: that is why more cyclists on the road bring fewer motor vehicle/cyclist accidents – when cyclists are more prevalent, drivers become more sensitive to us.


    3 Rules,

    1. You and your bike weight 175 pounds (wet)

    2. Average car in the USA probably weighs 3,000 pounds

    3. (Isaac) Newton ALWAYS wins

    Don't worry so much about being right. Ride smart, ride defensively! You make more of a contribution if you are a living cyclist, not a dead one!

  • Victor Martelle
    Jan 29, 2011 at 6:31 am

    I agree US open cycling but the fact is, I do it all to prove that I have every single right to ride in the road.

    I read a lot of bike books, and I remember reading about how a car was honking at a bike messenger, so the messenger decided to slow down and not let the car pass. Well he died because the car ran him over.

    I know the risks and I'm not stupid. But I do ride aggressively only because I have too and to prove a point.

  • Jan 29, 2011 at 6:56 am

    To whom are you proving the point? To an uneducated or insensitive driver you're being a jerk and propagating the sentiment that ALL cyclists are so. To a driver who understands what it is like to ride among cars, what you are doing is completely unnecessary.

    I suggest that you can ride assertively – sharing the road and making sure that cars respect you – without pissing off drivers and helping to create bad will between cyclists and motorists. Bad will which makes it tougher to get those folks thinking about cycling to work (on public roads) to actually do it.

    We have developed a course called "Share the road: cyclists take charge" that is all about how to successfully, and gracefully, tell cars where to go and leave a smile on (most) driver's faces. Perhaps we could bring this course to your school, Victor.

  • Jan 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    So consider that the most recent crops (last 20 years) of new drivers are “bicycle-insensitive.” Then, consider that, as bicycles along the road disappeared, in-car driver distractions exploded (in the form of mobile telephony, iPoddage, mobile messaging and GPS units). So, you have a “never-been-a-cyclist” who is “driving” (iPodding, talking, texting) down the road and not paying attention to much other than kind of staying between the white and yellow lines. Worrying about a vulnerable roadway user – like a cyclist – may not even be in their frame of consideration.

    I never actually sat down and worked through this logic, but you are right. We are dealing with a generation of drivers that are just not in tune with cyclists or pedestrian travel. I actually wonder whether your "staying between the white and yellow lines" is accurate… I think it can be more accurately described as focusing on not crossing the yellow lines. It's very common these days to see cars straying over the white line and into the breakdown lane. We haven't even mentioned the fact that it's LEGAL to cross into the breakdown lane to pass a car waiting to turn left. In my mind, this is just asking for trouble, especially since people don't even seem to slow their rate of travel when performing this little maneuver.

  • MattyCiii
    Jan 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    RE: Distractions:

    Yes, talk, text and big macs all dull the skills of the drivers. Also note how over the last 20 years, driving has gotten much easier and safer than ever: air bags, seat-belt laws, anti-lock brakes, traction control, side-curtain airbags… Auto advertising, and public service ads (click it or ticket) have indoctrinated drivers that – in their steel cage – they are invulnerable. This gives people license to do reckless things like text, talk and chow. They'll be safe, right?

    High tech stereos, sound isolation, climate control all further insulate the driver from us outsiders.

  • Victor Martelle
    Jan 29, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Open cycling, maybe I'm saying this all wrong. I don't intentionally go in the middle lane if I am unable to go the speed limit, and I don't purposely block someone unless there being dangerous or rude. Most of the time when I'm riding I can keep up with cars, so its not a big deal. Weekly, I am approached by at least one driver who threatens to run me over. What do I do? I try to nicely talk to some, but there so pissed off they get even madder.

    My opinion is that some reasonable people may see "oh that guy riding his bike is going the speed limit and able to take the lane" and thats what I try to get out of people.

    Of course my methods are different from yours, theres so many ways of showing people the right way and to get your point across. Kind of like critical mass, ya know?

  • Victor Martelle
    Jan 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I'd also like to add that I *think* many drivers get annoyed 50% of the time because they don't know where I am going.

    The routes I travel to school, shopping, etc, all require much lane changing, right to left lane, and drivers are like "what the hell are you doing?" I try to look back right in there faces to let them know, but most of the time they keep driving. I can't seem to balance pointing my arm out to signal a turn so…

  • MattyCiii
    Jan 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    @Victor, #23:

    I can't ride 35MPH on Warwick Ave, but I take the lane. It's safer than cowering against the curb. Cars can use the leftmost car lane and go around. Most do, some !@#$%^&*{bags/holes} don't. Taking the whole lane minimizes the number, and closeness, of the passes. I'm about 50-60% into the lane, like in line with the heads of the drivers.

    "Weekly, I am approached by at least one driver who threatens to run me over." This happened to me in Charlestown, MA, in December. I got it all on video. I took it to the Boston PD. Their reaction? Threaten ME with a felony for what amounts to illegal wiretap – taping a persons voice without their permission. I'm sorry, but when the police blame the victim, all I have left is a handful of roofing nails and a bigass brick…

  • Anj
    Jan 30, 2011 at 7:40 am

    I find the urban drivers way more accomodating to me as a commuter than the suburban and country drivers down here in the West Kingston / Exeter area. With the exception of one Exeter/West Greenwich short bus that takes jollies riding on the white line of the breakdown lane nearly sweeping my elbow, the drivers down here seem to not see me at all (despite the blinding yellow jacket and lights everywhere) and some times that is good (they leave me alone) and sometimes, not so good (they cut me off at route 3 and 102 – always in a BFH to get somewhere and use the breakdown lane at full speed to take the right turn – ERG!) On the other hand, riding down Cranston St. into town, I have whole communications with drivers using arms, hands, and eye contact. And it is for the most part pleasant – I always mouth THANK YOU and give a smile because let's face it, if I am going to be aggressive, it pays to be nice about it. Even scary looking groups of young drivers usually give me a wave if I need to take a lane. I think in Providence, especially the south side and West end – drivers are more used to seeing pedestrians and cyclists. And the potholes slow down the drivers some, as does the traffic. They seem more aware. Maybe it's just me, but it's my favorite part of the commute, because it feels like we are all connected and collectively getting to where we need to go – RIPTA buses, Central high school walkers, cars, taxis, and bicyclists – even those riding the wrong way.

    As to lights and signs, I'm a user of the road, I stop. I take the lane and get in front. I wave and smile a lot. I make sure I'm seen. I may get passed (and often do) by hip cyclists wearing black who weave in and out of traffic. Ah well. I'm not hip. I'm a big high-vis yellow helmeted chick on a blinking lighted bike.

  • jack
    Jan 30, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Obviously, all of us involved in this discussion know what is at stake when we ride our bikes in traffic. Not all of us had the same amount of experience, but we all know what its like to be harrassed and feel vulnerable. However, my feeling is that most drivers – that is all but the 1 out of a hundred or thousand that pass us will overtly make us feel that way. Some people are simply rude or mentally unstable. This is what stands out of course and we tell our stories.

    As for the rest of these drivers – and most of us are also drivers at some point (I know, you never drive a car) – I feel that it is important to give them the benefit of the doubt. Signal. Take the lane when you have to but when you have the opportunity, wave a polite driver by. These 99% reasonable non-cycling drivers are wondering what you are thinking. Be clear and predictable. Be visible. Having a light at night is a must.

    I'm on a bicycle everyday and I gaurantee if you have a story about being harrassed, I've got one that beats it. I used to flip off the occasional rude driver and chase down drivers to prove a point, but at the end of the day, does it make any difference? You are merely putting yourself and other cyclists at unnecessary risk. The frustrating thing is that if you know you are in the right in a particular situation, you never get the chance to try to tell the other person why they were wrong and you were right. And if you do catch them at the next light, do you have an intelligent conversation? or at best does it end in name calling? Again what's the point?

    If you don't feel comfortable taking your hands off the bar to signal, wait for those cars right over your shoulder to pass. With experience or a different handlebar setup you will learn to be more comfortable signalling. We get angry when someone driving a car doesn't signal. Right? This is each one of our responsibilities to meet each other (whether we are driving a car or riding a bike or pushing a wheelbarrow) on the road halfway. Know your limitations and be willing to give up something. When you make it all about you, you lose me.

  • Victor Martelle
    Jan 30, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Wait, you get can charged for video taping someone threatening you? WTF?

  • Joseph
    Jan 30, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    You guys live in an awful country! Makes me happy to live in Quebec.

  • Joseph
    Jan 30, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Over here, for the most part, motorists know how to share the road. It's the bikes that cause the problems, but people generally understand. While we have quite a ways to go to get biking popular in the suburbs and country for purposes other than recreation and sport, our cities are full of bikes especially Montreal.

    The stories I've read in these comments give me the chills. I somehow doubt that even in the US, you could get charged for videotaping someone threatening you. In my hometown, there was a constant problem with several construction workers' cars parked on a bike path. I called the police and never saw any cars on that path again.

    I think the key difference in attitude that makes Quebec much better for sharing the road than the US is the fact that Quebecois parents don't drive their kids to soccer practice or their friends'. Teenagers, both boys and girls, have to take public transit or bike to travel. Because of that, people are supportive, because at some point in their lives, they've biked.

  • Labann
    Jan 31, 2011 at 6:12 am

    I've blogged on the dangers of biking in Quebec after that entire women's team was killed. All onus for safety on the roads belongs to motorists. That's why it is a licensed, regulated activity. Not so bicycling.

    Agree with you bicycle attitudes, but for motorists you ought to add (both of which are already law):

    – I will stop BEFORE an intersection if it is UNCLEAR whether I can cross it without having to stop in it.

    – I will signal my intention well in advance, whether changing lanes, pulling into a lane from park, or turning off.

    Cars collide with cyclists about 50/50 at intersections or overtaking. Motorists lack of signaling and poorly handling crossings are often to blame for the former; distractions, excessive speed, and substance abuse the latter.