The North Carolina Department of Transportation installed the first "Share the Road" sign nearly 25 years ago. Its goal was to increase bicycle traffic safety by alerting drivers of cyclists' presence on the road and of their right to be there. Today, driven by rising gas prices, fitness goals and environmental concerns, people are riding bicycles in record numbers in North Carolina and across the country.
With so many cyclists on the road, bike safety is more important now than ever before. The "Share the Road" initiative has continued to do its part in this regard by studying road use patterns and placing signs where they are strategically calculated to do the most good.
The signs typically appear along roadways that are heavily used by cyclists but which are relatively hazardous for bike use. The signs hopefully remind drivers that they need to watch for cyclists and give them adequate space so bicycle accidents can be avoided.
Under North Carolina law, bicycles are considered legal vehicles, which means that cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motorized vehicles. The law requires cyclists to:
- Ride on the right-hand side of the road in the same direction as traffic
- Use hand signals to communicate movements to other drivers
- Obey all traffic signs and signals
- Use headlights and rear reflectors when bicycling at night
- Wear a helmet, if under age 16 and using a public path or roadway
- Secure children under 40 inches or 40 pounds in a child seat or bike trailer
Helmets are a very effective means of preventing death and serious injury while bicycling. Studies show that helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent and reduce head injury deaths by 60 percent.
If cyclists take appropriate safety measures and motorists make efforts to watch for them on roadways, hopefully bicycle accidents will be avoided and the streets will be as safe as possible.