Is it time to let go of “Share the Road” and move towards “Take the Lane?”



Is it time to let go of “Share the Road” and move towards “Take the Lane?”

Here is a thought-provoking, real-life article that – I think – points to the necessity of cyclists being “courteously assertive” when it comes to claiming our space on the roads.  Never – think I – should a cyclist be flattened because they were doing their best to share the road.  Simply put, if the lane isn’t wide enough for you and a car – and you get there first – TAKE THE LANE!  (Click the road sign for the article…)


  • Bari
    Feb 22, 2011 at 5:36 am

    hmmm… this sign (and the endorsement behind it) supports bicyclists in both bike lanes and sharrows. It would solve a lot of problems on Newport's narrow streets where cars can only be safe at slow speeds. First stop Spring Street and Thames … It's the only safe thing to do, we do it anyway, but signage would adjust the expectation. And I'm liking the language … "reciprocal courtesy" and "courteous assertiveness" 🙂

  • Ted Lewandowski
    Feb 22, 2011 at 5:57 am

    I like the sign – but I am afraid a lot of driver's would feel that they are giving up their space and their perceived "rights" on the road.

  • Feb 22, 2011 at 6:37 am

    "Sharing" does indeed mean giving up some space. How does a sign indicating that a motorist might actually have to do that change the current rights and responsibilities of either party – perceived or otherwise? I really don't care how a driver feels – or a cyclist , for that matter. I care that if a cyclist needs to take a lane for 1,000 feet until there is room for both, that the motorist does – indeed – share and the cyclist is given the room and consideration to which they are entitled. This sign says that a motorist might actually HAVE to share – not squeeze.

  • Bari
    Feb 22, 2011 at 6:45 am

    Exactly. Perception, expectation, tradition, culture, assumption … they are all off-kilter from a safe "share." Signage is an immediate message and a necessary reminder of the rule of the land.

  • Feb 22, 2011 at 7:27 am

    A good friend – and frequent life-performance coach – has reminded me that these are messages for two different audiences. "Share the road," is intended for motorists while "Take the lane" is for cyclists. Does that "bicycle may use full lane" sign empower more timid cyclists to do so while it advises motorists to be wary?

  • Labann
    Feb 22, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Can't think of many places to deploy this sign locally. Have to be heavily traveled single lane road with no shoulder that bicyclists frequent, but they generally avoid such inimical facilities. Apponaug and Hoxie come to mind, but they have multiple lanes (take which lane?) and ought to have dedicated bike facilities.

    Disputable RI Law also expects cyclists to occupy no more than 3' on the right edge of rightmost travel lane, unless passing, turning left, or wending around obstacles (grates, potholes, sand, snow), which can be at any time. So who benefits from this band aid? Probably traffic planners, who routinely neglect needs of cyclists, walkers and wheelchair users. Maintain adequate shoulders!

    As said on other threads, signs can constitute a form of pollution, although they beat paint in a lane, which can't be read under all conditions and gets effaced in no time.

  • Feb 22, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Yes, Labann. But cyclists of today must deal with the world extant! What better way than this sign AND paint?

  • Feb 22, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    I saw some of these signs up in Cambridge, MA and immediately thought, "Right on! You're damn right we may!" I can think of a few places in Providence where these signs would apply – mostly in multi-lane situations. For example, Canal Street alongside the Roger Williams National Memorial. Here there are three lanes, the right most of which is adjacent to a parking lane. In order to avoid getting doored, It is best to take the right lane, thus forcing motorists to change lanes in order to pass you. There's three lanes there, so they have plenty to choose from. I'm on this road almost every day, and I haven't gotten any flack from motorists in a long time (until the other day at a stop light. I guess it's time to write another "honk report.")

    This reminds me, the commuteorlando group (great bike blog, btw), printed up a few Bikes May Use Full Lane T-shirts a while ago:
    They added the necessary postscript, "Change Lanes To Pass."

  • Labann
    Feb 22, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Traffic planners need priorities. They should be addressed in this order (all requiring paint, some additional construction):

    1. Continuous shoulders, preferably ones that don't allow parking.

    2. Bike-ped bridges or pass throughs for bodies of water, highways, and railroads.

    3. Alternate ways to get around trafficky intersections (combination of construction and signage).

    4. A bike lane, preferably 2-way, separated from traffic on one side of street.

    5. Parking/racks.

    6. Signage (not akin to motoring, but subways, which direct between place stops).

    7. Quieted boulevards (enforcement, some construction).

    8. Sharrows or other on-street paint.

    9. Dedicated bikeways (lovely but expensive).

    10. Additional accommodations (grate/pothole repairs, services and stores that establish within bike corridors).

    If they got through #4 in my lifetime, I'd be satisfied. Not holding my breath.

  • MattyCiii
    Feb 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    When there are two lanes in my direction, I take the whole lane (whether I need to or not).

    True story: Recently (i.e. while the roadway shoulder was a pile of snow) I rode northbound in the rightmost of two lanes of Elmwood Ave (Near Roger Williams Park). I was centered in the right lane (with a 3', lighted pole extended left from the center of my bike) while a red minivan was in the left lane. Some impatient person (AKA a douchebag) split the difference between me and the minivan in a white Audi. Flustered (angry, scared, lucky to be alive) I pulled over to report the car on my favorite iPhone app (EVERY cyclist should have this app,…. After filing the report I continued riding towards Providence. Soon, that red minivan pulled up to next me, window down, seeking my attention. The driver proceeded to chastise me for almost making the [white Audi] hit him.


    This is the mentality of our peer roadway users. The red minivan driver had to make not one but two U turns to come back around to yell at me. The red minivan driver, if he had a brain, could deduce that between the bicycle and the minivan threatened by the lane-splitting Audi, only the minivan had the horsepower to chase the Audi and {yell at/report/ram} him. Yet, this person took time out of his busy day to loop back and yell at the cyclist.

    I take the lane. Better seen and hit than I didn't see him and hit. People like the Audi driver (aggressive, reckless) and the minivan diver (petty) will be there whether we take the lane or not.

  • barry
    Feb 22, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    I wind up kind of confused after these discussions about just what to wish for in the way of bike accomodation on the roads. Just about every suggestion has some bike advocate not liking it, be it sharrows, share-the-road, keep 3 ft apart, bike route, etc etc I can't say I can see much propsect of widening roads for shoulders in light of abutters, environmental concerns, or the cost of doing so. Doing nothing is not popular either. Maybe just put up reflective signs with a logo of a bike and no text??

  • Feb 22, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Matt: that's a horrible story and trumps just about anything I've dealt with yet.

    Barry: bicycle advocates – we like to form our firing lines in a circle.

  • Feb 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    In an ideal world, I think that "share the road" is actually the correct message. It's appropriate for both cyclists and motorists. Trouble is, we don't live in a perfect world and "share the road" for many motorists mean that bicycles can be in the breakdown lane or gutter as long as it doesn't impact their driving. It's a sad reality that mutual respect has degraded to this point, but I fear it has. @MattCiii's story is a perfect example. If we didn't know better, this could be a story portrayed in a comedy routine… trouble is most of us are well aware that our time will come and something similar will happen to us, if we are lucky and don't get killed in the process. What's up with our society? How is this behavior tolerable? I just don't get it.

  • Rider_X
    Feb 23, 2011 at 5:26 am



    You ride with a 3' lighted pole? And you take the entire lane?

    That's like a "kick-me" sign on the back of your bike!
    Heck, I'd take a push on that as I pedaled by! Where do you ride? Do you ever slide up the shoulder to get ahead at lights – or do you line up with the cars?

    I really believe in the aforementioned approach of assertive courtesy and making sure that you take and hold your space when that's what your being safe dictates – then – GIVE IT BACK when there is room to share. If you can believe what you read, most of these people are listening to (being brainwashed by) conservative radio whilst driving…so they are already pretty cranked up already. I think that taunting them with a pole may not be the brightest thing you could do relative to self-preservation – regardless the wattage…especially drivers of German makes (including Bentley but mostly Volkswagen).

    The interwebs are replete with stories of drivers who have hit cyclists and not been charged. We named a law here in RI (Frank's Law) for the victim of just such an incident.

    So, good luck with that pole thing. Just remember that motorists who hit you (conservative or otherwise) are rarely cited.

    It's great to be right – it may be better to be alive and un-maimed.

  • Labann
    Feb 24, 2011 at 8:11 am

    "…can’t say I can see much propsect of widening roads for shoulders in light of abutters, environmental concerns, or the cost of doing so."

    Exactly the kind of backward thinking that make it impossible to advocate for bicycling. Why bother? No, not a circular firing line… it's motoring interest against bicycling, period.

    YOU DON'T TO NEED TO WIDEN ROADS to recover shoulders stolen by illegally adding extra/narrow/turning lanes, which, statistically, are where most accidents occur. Complete streets comply with ADA first, ensure bike lanes and sidewalks next, and provide for motoring LAST. The only cost is paint.

    By simply changing striping, you can remove 1 lane in either direction and add a a 6 to 12' wide two-way bikepath right on the roadway. There are numerous examples of Shared Routes with wide shoulders, e.g., West Shore Rd., that successfully support cycling, speedy motor traffic, walking, and wheelchair use alike.

    The shoulder is there for a reason. It's where you pull over a disabled vehicle. It's where bicyclists graciously allow busses and dump trucks to occupy all of the lane momentarily. They don't have to, you know. There are places where I've had a bus creeping behind me as I climb a hill. It's not incumbent upon bicyclists to leave the road because traffic planners are criminals.

  • MattyCiii
    Feb 24, 2011 at 11:15 am


    Yes, seriously.

    And rather than endanger my safety, it enhances my safety. I know this because on the few occasions I do not use it, cars pass MUCH closer to me (cars always pass me at high speed – the only thing I have been able to influence is the distance.

    Any safety tool, implemented poorly, can have dangerous side effects. Bright, blinky lights can enhance illumination & therefore improve safety. Taken too fat, it can dazzle a driver and possibly lead to collision (with another car, or the cyclist themselves).

    I don't always take the entire lane – but I often do when there are >1 travel lanes each way, and especially when there is no adequate shoulder (example of no adequate shoulder: the sand/junk pit os a bicycle lane along Allens Ave). I submit that there is no safer way to ride. This conclusion is based on hundreds of rides along the same road, with and without {pole/flag/lights/etc.} and in different road positions.

    I read stories of a man using a foam "noodle" pool toy similar to my rig – it's nothing new. I recommend you try it and see for yourself. Frank's Law requires cars to pass most of us (average height adults on average size bikes) at no less than six feet. My pole measures half that distance so those distracted drivers don't have to think too hard.

  • MattyCiii
    Feb 24, 2011 at 11:19 am


    I couldn't agree more. I grew up just off of West Shore Rd, and remember when it was two lanes East and West near Buttonwoods. It was re-striped to one lane each way with a shoulder. I don't know what the numbers look like, but it's safe to say there are more cars on those roads than 30 years ago and yet somehow cars move safely, without congestion.

  • Labann
    Feb 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    And, yeah, it's ironic I'd mention any road in Warwick as a good example, since most are like East Main and Post Rds, shoulderless monstrosities. West Shore would be fine if not for that stretch from East Ave to Oakland Beach Ave, and intersections at Apponaug and Hoxie. Complete Streets compliance is really that simple, minor accommodations at "pinch points".

    While I wouldn't wear a wide-bottomed outfit just to annoy impatient motorists, bicyclists ARE entitled to use as much of the pavement as they see fit. If motorists stew over it, that's their problem.

  • jack
    Feb 27, 2011 at 10:37 am

    @Barry. Agreed. I think it is the result of individual perceptions and experiences of what is "reasonably safe". Every cyclist has a different expectation of comfort based on their level of experience, their fitness, their previous brushes with disaster, the routes they choose or are forced to take. The one thing that is clear is that blanket solutions are not the answer – ie every road should have a shoulder with no parking lane.

    We cannot expect the roads to feel safe for every cyclist every time. People ultimately make their own decisions and do what feels safe. As for what cyclists should expect from the infrastructure, we all may claim to have the answer, but there are so many factors involved in any public works project we should ultimately be able to trust design professionals to determine what best applies in each case. Unfortunately, the state and local agencies do not contract such design considerations to professionals so we are left to speculate.

    Imagine if we left safe highway construction up to individual opinion, second guessing and speculation. It would be a similar brand of chaos.

  • Critical Mass RI - V
    Feb 27, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I really like this sign, in my own opinion, it should be on every road – but thats just me.

    I have seen matt's flag and it is really cool and it works. But for me, I wouldn't use it. My riding style is fast, usually taking sometimes right shoulder or left shoulder and even the lane. The flag would probably just get in my way. But I could probably use it on some days.

  • Labann
    Mar 2, 2011 at 5:59 am

    Individual perception? Philadelphia has begun installing 1600+ miles of bike infrastructure after listening to thousands of advocates who agree that sharing lanes with idiotic motorists is unbearable.

    Still maintain that huge public expenditure is unnecessary.

    1. Enforce existing laws, but not just for raising revenue. (Has anyone yet been ticketed for Colin's or Frank's Laws? Don't think traffic patrols even know about them.)

    2. Revoke/suspend more licenses for repeat offenders.

    3. Mandatory jail time for operating without a license. (Get the few who don't know how to drive off the road.)

    4. Better driver education and harder testing (has improved slightly).

    5. More advantages to motorists who "requalify" (those over 50 can get a premium reduction through AAA).

    6. Statewide zoning that prohibits stealing shoulders, and restore shoulders where stolen upon next repavement or restriping interval. (Too long going in the opposite direction.)

    7. Overall state plan to establish corridors that permit unrestricted bicycling, walking and wheelchair use in all directions from border to border (easier to accomplish than sounds, because it's only interrupted at key points in roadnet).

    Is anyone monitoring progress at Sakonnet River Bridge? Doesn't look like any bike infrastructure is going in.