A simple change in the wording of a traffic sign - such as from "Share the Road" to "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" - could help reduce friction between the motorists and bicyclists, says a new study.
"Replacing a personal motor vehicle with a bicycle is the single most environmentally beneficial and personally profitable action most people can ever take," said study co-author Nils Peterson from North Carolina State University.
But bicyclists regularly complain that motorists consider them to be in the way, while some motorists accuse bicyclists of hogging the road.
"'Share the Road' signs are common but what that means in terms of how drivers and bicycle riders should interact can be ambiguous," said co-author George Hess from North Carolina State University.
Misunderstandings on the road can be deadly, researchers warned.
"Personal safety probably ranks as the most important factor deterring people from commuting by bicycle, so anything we can do to improve safety, and perceptions of safety, is incredibly important," said co-author Nils Peterson.
The researchers administered a web-based survey, using Twitter to recruit 1,800 survey takers.
They found that survey takers who saw a "Bicycle May Use Full Lane" sign were more likely to respond in ways that recognised bicyclists' right to use the road than those who saw no sign.
In contrast, those who saw a traditional "Share the Road" sign with a bicycle image showed no significant difference in response from those who saw no sign at all.
The study was published in the journal PLOS One.