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Posted by on Apr 22, 2010 in Uncategorized | 10 comments

Shark’s Teeth

A question from a reader: “Could you give us the story behind the new triangles painted on the pavement at some crosswalks? When I showed pictures to friends and co-workers, nobody knew what they meant.”

Such a series of triangles is called a yield line.  They’re informally referred to as “shark’s teeth.”  They are used at “uncontrolled” crosswalks — crosswalks in which the driver is not facing a signal or stop sign — and at roundabouts.  They are intended to tell the driver where he or she is required to stop if required to yield.

So in this photo the driver is required to yield if a pedestrian enters the crosswalk, whether the shark’s teeth are there or not.  The shark’s teeth tell the driver, “Don’t go past this point when yielding to pedestrians.”

What about bicyclists?

A bicyclist using a crosswalk has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian, so a driver approaching the crosswalk must yield to the bicyclist in the crosswalk.  A bicyclist on the roadway has the rights and duties of a driver, and must yield to any pedestrian or bicyclist using the crosswalk.

(And here’s a quirky aspect to the law: if the cyclist is crossing from the sidestreet roadway, he or she must yield to traffic on the main road. If the cyclist is riding from the sidewalk into the crosswalk from the same direction, the drivers on the main road must yield to the bicyclist.)

10 Comments

  1. How do the experts expect drivers to know these things?

    The last time I took a test was in 1976 and it was 10 questions long. One of the questions showed me the outline of an octagon and gave me 4 choices to guess what it meant.

  2. I commend the reader for identifying an ignorance to the traffic control device and seeking an explanation.

    “The last time I took a test was in 1976 “

    Thank you Eric! This is one of my pet peeves when it comes to motorists and “knowing” the road rules of the road. Your test most likely proved you possessed the minimum required knowledge to operate on our roads.

    IMOO, States feed motor vehicle operators just enough information to become a danger to ourselves and others.

    We discover the rest when we are pulled over or cited for violations.

    I recently heard of sharks teeth, but didn’t know their meaning. Thank you for this enlightenment. Ride On!

  3. I should have added that the “teeth” are often accompanied by a sign that communicates “Yield Here for Pedestrians.”

    New signs and markings are supposed to be tested on the general public to see how they are understood. Not sure how that went with this marking.

    • >are often accompanied by a sign<

      If you say so. I was driving western Seminole and Orange County on 436. Saw sharks teeth here and there, but no signs. Guess that it's another FDOT hit-or-miss thing.

      Drivers everywhere wish that they would get more consistent. After a project is "done" FDOT changes policies, but rarely goes back to correct the "done" projects, even if it is an "oops" problem that is easily corrected.

      Instead, we have to live with the oops for twenty or more years.

      It's not just signage. I remember when FDOT didn't bother using crushed rock or clay as a substrate. The asphalt (quite predictably if other state's experiences were to be believed) shrunk, causing a ripple effect, cracking, undermining and all sorts of problems which became a real safety hazard.

      Yet, even when the supposed previously unknown problem was "discovered" by FDOT, the road was not corrected until the scheduled time.

  4. “Here’s your sign”

    What if a person on a bike is on the roadway, approaching the crosswalk, and swerves ninety degrees into the crosswalk? That becomes a violation, in my opinion, but I can’t figure out what kind it is.

    • I think (and hope) officers would interpret it as the cyclist violating a vehicular statute. A driver turning left must yield to on-coming traffic before turning; rolling into a crosswalk shouldn’t change that. I don’t think an officer would buy the idea that the cyclist became the equivalent of a pedestrian by turning left into a crosswalk from the roadway.

      Even if the cyclist left the roadway and got onto the sidewalk before entering the crosswalk, pedestrians may not enter a crosswalk if a vehicle so close as to be unable to yield.

      If the road had a median it could be different. A cyclist could get into the left lane (if it’s multi-lane), turn left into the median cut for the crosswalk, then expect on-coming drivers to yield (given ample time and distance).

    • What if a cyclist is riding on the road approaching a stop sign, goes up the last curb cut before the intersection, proceeds straight through the intersection in the crosswalk without stopping, then goes back onto the road?

      The legal question is academic, of course, as it’s likely Darwin’s law will be enforced before statute.

  5. The way I look at it, a bicyclist’s judicious use of the “right to be a pedestrian” is an advantage of riding vs driving. Another payback for the calories expended. Note I said judicious and avoid the downside of Darwin’s law.

    • There are sensible reasons to choose pedestrian mode. One example — going one block on the sidewalk to avoid two left turns across a busy road (especially when there are no traffic signals to facilitate those turns). If you know what the hazards are and respect pedestrians as the rightful users of the sidewalk, you can do short sidewalk transition safely. IMO, even a savvy cyclist can become fatigued with the amount of vigilance required to ride on a sidewalk for a long stretch (where there are numerous intersections and driveways).