The City of Morgantown has a message for bicyclists: Take the whole lane.
With PRT down all summer (again) for upgrades, and the loss of the downtown shuttle stop, you may find it most efficient to pedal your way around the city until the fall semester begins.
In an effort to make Morgantown streets safer for bicyclists, the city has installed new "sharrow" symbols and "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signs along Willowdale Rd. The city was previously pushing an awareness campaign called "Share the Road", but Drew Gatlin of the Morgantown Bicycle Board says that unfortunately, the message of that campaign was not always clear. "Most folks interpreted it to mean that cars and bicycles could be side-by-side in the road, and they should just be courteous to each other," Mr. Gatlin said.
Until recently, state law mandated that cyclists ride as far to the right of the road as possible. This gave bicycles very little space between faster-moving cars on the left, and the curbs, sidewalks, pedestrians and other obstacles on the right. Blind corners and narrow streets were especially dangerous. That law has now been repealed, and most organizations that study bicycle transportation say that riding in the center of the lane is much safer. "Hopefully," Mr. Gatlin said, "this will both encourage cyclists to take up the full lane and remind drivers that this is appropriate." The project was funded with city dollars, and was a joint project of the city's Public Works and Engineering departments along with the Morgantown Bicycle Board.
Morgantown is not the first city to use this tactic. A study of "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signs in Austin, TX showed that they influenced cyclists to ride further away from the curb, and encouraged cars to move further away while passing. The result: the percentage of motorists who passed within 3 feet of cyclists dropped from 44% to almost 0%.