The North Carolina Department of Transportation Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation (DBPT) first installed "Share the Road" signs along designated bicycle routes in 1987. Funding was provided as part of the first annual allocation of Bicycle Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) funds received by the Bicycle Program, as DBPT was known at the time.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) specifies what types of signs can be installed along Federal Aid Highways. In 1987, no authorized sign with the "Share the Road" message had been approved. DBPT recognized the need for such a sign and worked within the MUTCD guidelines to develop a state "supplementary" sign. The design chosen utilized an approved yellow and black diamond-shaped bicycle warning sign (W11-1) with a supplementary "Share the Road" plaque. In 2000, the Secretary of Transportation decided to use a reflectorized bright yellow/green version of the sign to increase visibility. This design was adopted as a national standard in an update to the MUTCD in the 1990s.

Cyclist sharing the road

The sign serves to make motorists aware that bicyclists might be on the road, and that they have a legal right to use the roadway. It is typically placed along roadways with high levels of bicycle usage but relatively hazardous conditions for bicyclists. The "Share the Road" sign is especially useful in cities and towns where a significant number of bicyclists utilize a roadway that by its nature is not suitable to be designated as a bicycle route, but which is an important connection for bicycle transportation. The sign should not be used to designate a preferred bicycle route, but may be used along short sections of designated routes where traffic volumes are higher than desirable.

How the Sign is Used

The North Carolina "Share the Road" sign is used along cross-state, regional and local designated bicycle routes on sections of roadway where traffic volumes are higher than desirable. These sections of roadway are typically less than a mile in length and serve to connect the more lightly traveled roads that comprise the majority of a given route. The signs are placed on the roadway in each direction, just before the bicycle route joins that particular road, so that motorists will be made aware that cyclists may be on the roadway. If a particular high-volume road must be used for a distance greater than two miles, additional signs are installed. These signs are placed where the greatest number of motorists will see them, based on turning movements off intersecting roads.

To elaborate, if there is a choice between placing a sign just before a secondary road with traffic volumes of 1500 cars versus placing it a short distance further along the route before a more major road with a traffic count of 5,000, choose the latter. Fieldwork and engineering judgment are necessary to fine-tune the placement of signs.

"Share the Road" signs have also been placed along roads that are not part of a designated bicycle route, both in towns and cities, as well as on rural roadways. Roads and bridges heavily used by cyclists, particularly where on-road improvements cannot be made, are prime locations for such signage. Some examples include a major road near a college or university where many students commute by bike; coastal or mountain roads in tourist areas where no alternate routes exist; or, on a bridge approach where no other convenient crossings provide an efficient transportation link.

Installation of "Share the Road" signs is an ongoing process. Each new route system that is developed is assessed for "Share the Road" signing needs. Periodic field inspections of existing routes are conducted not only to check the condition of existing signs, but to also identify areas where changing traffic conditions may warrant additional "Share the Road" signs.

Costs and Funding

Fabrication and installation of "Share the Road" signs ranges from $200 to $225 each. The reflectorized bright yellow/green sign costs about twice as much to fabricate as the yellow and black version.

Conclusions and Recommendations

"Share the Road" signing projects are a low-cost way to increase the awareness of motorists and enhance the safety of cyclists. The reflectorized bright yellow/green W11-1 signs are visible from a great distance.

Contact–Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation at (919) 707-2600 or Contact Us.