Everywhere a Sign

Today on the Streetsblog Network, we ever-so-gingerly broach the issue of etiquette when pedestrians and cyclists share the same space. Washington, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty has proclaimed pedestrian safety a top priority, and is backing up his words with millions in federal stimulus funds and a pedestrian master plan. Adam Voiland at DC Bicycle Transportation Examiner has also noticed a proliferation of signs instructing cyclists to dismount in pedestrianized areas.

signman.jpgRiding prohibited signs abound in Georgetown.

Do such signs work? Rarely have I actually seen a cyclist
abide by a dismount sign, though that’s not to say they don’t guilt
riders into somewhat safer cycling habits. I certainly feel
compelled to at least slow down when passing such signs. However, there
are also plenty of riders chafing at the new signs.

A colleague of
mine, a competitive mountain rider, shared her exasperation about the
signs after a pedestrian chewed her out for not dismounting — as a sign
instructed — near a bridge on the Mount Vernon bike trail. "The signs
probably caused — or at least exacerbated — the problem," she said.

"We’ve become overly concerned about safety, and we’ve forgotten that
what we really need on the bike paths [is] for people to exercise good

Voiland goes on to cite the late Hans Monderman, who believed that traffic signs often do more harm than good. Are common bike-ped spaces appropriate laboratories for further testing this theory?

Also today: Tuscon Bike Lawyer describes how local police add insult, and then some, to cyclist injury; Grist admonishes the media for soft-pedaling on climate change; a guest blogger on the N Judah Chronicles extols the communal virtues of San Francisco’s MUNI; and BLDG Blog argues that transit product placement is a steal.

  • johnson

    As a cyclist I am bothered by comments like this:

    “We’ve become overly concerned about safety, and we’ve forgotten that what we really need on the bike paths [is] for people to exercise good judgment.”

    After being told to dismount. There is a reason and that is the rider should get off their bike and walk it not go with “caution”. Why do fellow cyclist’s not like to abide by rules such a stop signs or dismounting then get mad a autos that don’t either? They want things both ways?

    Pedestrians get the worst of it all from cars and bikes.

  • Geck

    I am in favor of “shared path” signs and marking. I have found that they generally work well. Dismount signs are usually overkill.

  • Anon

    can someone please explain the logic to me here? i’m a biker and have been ticketed several time for riding my bike in a ped only zone. if bikes are so dangerous why do peds and joggers regularly place themselves the bike lane (often traveling opposite traffic and ignoring others) and then aggressively defend this act? if i have to stay off the sidewalk then the reverse should be true, stay out of the bikelane. the sidewalk is holy ground, the bike lane is not

  • a bicycler

    i don’t think shared spaces work that well. peds/joggers do not yield to bikes much even when they are in the wrong. they can easily stand their ground and claim ignorance. by their thinking it woudl seem weird to yield to a bike after all the bike can just go around

  • The mountain biker said it best. In that situation you could have three things:
    1) no signs. The cyclist pedals carefully, the ped continues on their way, everything is fine
    2) sign. Cyclist ignores it, pedals safely, and now there’s aggression because of the sign and the breaking of rules
    3) sign. cyclist gets off and is inconvenienced.

    In the situation above, everyone was fine until the ped got angry.

    The more we encourage good common sense thinking and quelling feelings of entitlement, the sooner everyone will get along and be fine. Yeah, they’ll still be jerks int he world, but that doesn’t mean we all need to be legislated to death until we’re all unhappy all the time, and the jerks are still jerks.

  • Ace

    Sometimes as a pedestrian I just want to stroll. Strolling is impossible when one is aware of and forced to devote a portion of one’s thoughts to fast moving vehicles passing within a few feet of one’s self. The fault is in designing to the concept of peds and cyclists sharing a space. The Brooklyn Bridge walkway is a prime example of shared space that doesn’t work. The Hudson River Greenway is another.

  • johnson

    “no signs. The cyclist pedals carefully, the ped continues on their way, everything is fine”

    this works? like not having road signs for cars and all will be fine. Cyclists are not in general any better the car drivers when it comes to being careful when not told to.

    As an example on the Brooklyn Bridge, cyclists do not obey the yield to pedestrian signs that are posted at he Washington street crossing. If told they actually get angry. These bikers do not like when a fellow cyclist agrees with the walking folk either.

    How about some brakes on those bikes too!

  • a guest blogger on the N Judah Chronicles extols the communal virtues of San Francisco’s MUNI

    The 11 months I lived in SF were also characterized by an unending assortment of rude, obnoxious, and repellent “characters” on the bus. Probably more than during the 12 years I’ve lived in NYC. There’s just something about that place that brings out the crazies.

  • JSD

    You guys devote a lot of time on this site taking drivers to task for not obeying the law. You regularly ridicule drivers for blaming others for their own transgressions. You campaign for things like red light cameras, stricter parking regulations, greater enforcement of existing idling laws, and more thorough attention to speeding in cities and towns around the country. A photo of a double parked car in a bike lane, or a driver blocking the box generates outrage and indignation.

    What you are describing here is more than a little hypocritical. The law, you say, is silly. Therefore, many cyclists don’t pay attention to it. When a police officer or a pedestrian points this out, issuing a ticket or citing traffic law, many cyclists scoff at transgressions on the part of the pedestrian. They say the existing law is pointless, behind the times, and gives too much ground in protecting people that should be paying more attention to their surroundings. Drivers that hit a jaywalking pedestrian says the same thing.

    I regularly see cyclists riding on the sidewalks, through a crowd of pedestrians, or through a crowded intersection at higher than normal speeds. This makes people hate bicycles and the people that ride them.

    This holier than thou attitude towards the law is extremely distressing. If we expect drivers to follow it to the letter, then we have to be willing to do the same.

  • Gwin

    Everyone ignores the “shared path” signs on the UWS section of the Hudson Bike Path. I rode down it last weekend and all these spandex-wearing douchebags were tearing around the pedestrians like it was the Tour de France. No wonder pedestrians hate cyclists!

    That being said, the pedestrians were the ones ignoring the signs (by walking on the bike path instead of on the separate pedestrian path) on the West Village portion…

  • Ian Turner


    The reason that this forum doesn’t hold cyclists to task is simple: Cyclists don’t kill people. Drivers do. The driver of an automobile is in control of a heavy machine whose improper use has deadly consequences. That people like Mr. Gonzalez are entitled to continue to drive after demonstrating that they cannot do so responsibly is not only unfortunate, it is an outrage.

    I hate getting buzzed by bicycles as much as the next guy, but I recognize that such behavior, while antisocial and unpleasant, has none of the deadly consequences of out of control automobiles.


  • The original author went to some trouble to describe a problematic situation and the observed effects of signage; it’s not very clever to reduce that to “the law is silly”. (For one thing, signs on shared paths are not necessarily law.) The argument is these rules seem to make things worse, so, maybe we should reconsider them. This is different from calling for disobedience, and it’s also different from making excuses for bad behavior. Some people would rather conflate these things than debate rules on their merits.

    I’m still waiting for SUV enthusiasts to make open arguments against the laws that forbid them from driving down city bicycle lanes, running red lights, opening doors into people, and leaving the scene of a crash. That would be a good time.

  • johnson

    Actually riders may not kill but they sometimes hurt people. I myself have been hit by one who was not obeying the laws of the road. I can tell you it hurt. I was witness to an old lady on the sidewalk hit by a cyclist. She would argue that laws need to be followed. She went to the hospital thanks to a cyclist.

    Thus cyclist need to follow the rules. It can be hard for some of you but worse for those you hurt.


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