Better Road Signs Could Save Bicycle Riders




This is Scientific American 60-Second Science. I'm Karen Hopkin. This'll just take a minute.
Streets can be a dangerous place for bicycles.
In 2013, nearly 750 cyclists were killed in the U.S.from being hit by a car.
And of the 48,000 cycling injuries that were reported that year, nearly a third involved a motor vehicle.
Now, a new study suggests that signs sporting just five words could help show drivers and biker-riders how to share the road.
By not saying "share the road."
In all 50 states, traffic regulations state that bikes should be treated as vehicles.
Which means that they have the same rights as cars when it comes to using the roads.
But those rules are not always clear.
Signs that urge motorists to "Share the road" are ambiguous.
Cyclists may assume they mean that cars should make room for bikes.
But some drivers may think they're saying that bikes should get out of the way of traffic.
To see how such signs influence how people think about bike-riders' rights, researchers recruited 1,800 volunteers to take a quick survey.
Subjects were shown one of four images.
Some saw a street with a traditional "share the road" sign;
some saw an image of a bicycle painted on the pavement in a shared lane;
some saw signs that read "bicycles may use full lane";
and some saw a street with no instructions at all.
They then answered some questions about road etiquette.
Turns out that folks who saw the sign explicitly noting that bikes can use the full lane were the most likely to recognize cyclists' rights to be on the road.
And the ambiguous "share the road" suggestion?
It had about the same influence on the study subjects as no sign at all.
The findings appear in the journal PLoS One.
So remember, bicycles may indeed use the full lane.
And everyone on the road should use their full brain.
Thanks for the minute, for Scientific American 60-Second Science. I'm Karen Hopkin.