Avid bicyclist George Hess had a clear opinion on Knightdale’s choice to use “Share the Road” signs on First Avenue at last week’s town council meeting: He doesn’t think it’s going to work.
Hess said at the April 17 meeting that without a more clear sign bicyclists will continue to be driven (sometimes literally) off the road. He suggested signs that make it clear bicycles can use the full lane.
Hess, who also serves on the town’s Land Use Review Board, told the council he bikes about 4,000 miles a year and has run-ins with drivers fairly frequently.
He recounted a time about nine years ago when he was hit by a car while trying to legally pass them. He said he frequently gets yelled at by drivers when he rides his bike in the road.
The town approved using signs that say “Share the Road” along First Avenue but Hess said the wording is unclear and doesn’t specify how the road is to be shared or that it is state law to make room for bicyclists on the road.
“People seem to think bikes should get out of the way (but that’s) not North Carolina law,” Hess told the council.
“(The phrase) ‘Share the Road’ is ambiguous and doesn’t lay out the rules for drivers,” he said.
State law establishes that bicycles are also vehicles, which means all the rules and rights that are applicable to cars also apply to bicycles.
Councilor Mark Swan, who served on the LURB with Hess before he was elected to council, is also a regular bicyclist and said after Hess’ suggestion, he does like making sure drivers know allowing bicycles is state law.
“(We thought) the ‘Share the Road’ signs were more recognizable,” he said of the town’s initial signage decision. “I like the signs Hess suggested because it references the state law.”
“Whether it turns out to be better we just don’t know, but I think it’s worth a shot,” Swan said.
Swan said in the town, he doesn’t normally run into problems bicycling. There have been a few times when drivers have sped around him despite going about the same speed as the posted speed limit, but he’s never had a serious accident like Hess because of a car.
Councilor Dustin Tripp, who is part of the town’s Planning and Engineering Committee with Swan, said although he’s not a serious bicyclist like Swan or Hess, he does see the value in using signs like the ones Hess suggested.
“(The sign Hess suggested) is not a sign that is widely used around the area and we thought with using the other sign, people would recognize it a little better,” Tripp said. “I see (Hess’s) point, though, maybe that’s the problem, people aren’t paying attention (to the signs).”
Right now the signs in question will only go up along First Avenue. Although not the focus of Hess’s comment to the town, he did mention that it might also be in the town’s interest to get signs for bicyclists within all parts of the town, not just the historic downtown area.
At the very least, he suggested, the reminder should be posted on streets that are particularly difficult for bicyclists to navigate.
“If you’d like a list of curvy, hilly, narrow roads, I can give you one,” he told council.
Mayor Russell Killen referred the matter back to the Planning and Engineering committee, which will meet again on May 12.