paths. Why don’t we use these
on other transportation facilities
that are narrow and have users
that need to use caution around
(Photos © J. Maus)
The other day I was riding out to Southeast Portland along the I-205 multi-use path and I came across a sign I’d seen many times before.
“Bicyclists” it read, in large, all-caps font across the top, “This is a multi-use path. Reduce speed. Watch for pedestrians.” (The exact same sign is also on the Eastbank Esplanade just south of the Hawthorne Bridge overpass.)
I’ve shared thoughts about sharing paths with people on foot several times on this site in the past; but recent discussions about the safety and lack of space for bicycles and cars on rural roads put this sign into a new light.
near the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland.
(File photos © J. Maus)
It occurred to me how differently cities and counties sign multi-use paths compared to rural roads. Aren’t rural roads — like NW West Union where a man was hit and killed while bicycling earlier this month — essentially multi-use roads? In some ways, they’re similar to multi-use paths, just with different types of vehicles operating on them.
Similar to the I-205 path, a road like West Union, has narrow spaces where people need to move themselves around each other carefully while operating travel modes with high differentials of speed and levels of relative vulnerability. If users of the road or path make even a small error, a collision could result. If they don’t operate with courtesy for others, nerves can be frayed and road rage is likely.
Yet, out on those high-speed, narrow rural roads, if there’s any signage at all about the presence of anything besides other motor vehicles it tends to be the classic “Share The Road” sign. “Share the Road” (often accompanied by the bicycle symbol) feels like a kind and gentle way to remind people in multi-ton steel vehicles of their responsibility to operate safely around bicycles. In fact, you could interpret the sign as being directed at people on bikes to make sure they ride single file and as far to the right “as practicable” (to quote Oregon law).
On roads like West Union, “sharing” the road shouldn’t be seen as a special courtesy, it should be seen as a moral, social and legal imperative that is required and expected of all users.
That being the case, why not use the same, more direct and forceful (in my opinion) signs from multi-use paths on rural roads? To illustrate my point, see my doctored version of the sign below (please excuse my Photoshop skills)…
Of course, as many of you know, I would prefer to not use the labels “Motorists” and “Bicyclists” but I keep them in the mock-up sign just to make a clearer comparison to the existing signage. If it were up to me, the sign might read, “Road Users: This is a multi-use road. Reduce speed and watch for slower moving users.”
The words used on signs, press releases, or other communications, says a lot about how cities and other jurisdictions think about traffic — which in turn influences how they plan for traffic and ultimately how the public thinks about traffic.
As someone who is a part of traffic, what do you think?