What's a sharrow and why should you care?
Even if you don't ride a bike, you may appreciate this safety feature that's coming soon to Coast Highway through Corona del Mar.
On Monday the Newport Beach Bike Safety Committee, of which I am a member, voted to recommend the use of sharrows in CdM. It's big news to bicyclists, because of the safety features sharrows bring.
According to NACTO's Urban Bikeway Design Guide, "Shared Lane Markings, or “sharrows,” are road markings used to indicate a shared lane environment for bicycles and automobiles. Among other benefits shared lane markings reinforce the legitimacy of bicycle traffic on the street and recommend proper bicyclist positioning."
Or more simply put, sharrows are a safety device. They alert motorists that cyclists may be present and they encourage bicyclists to ride in the middle of the traffic lane, away from the dangers of opening car doors.
Sharrows are cheap, too; they're just paint on the road surface, so many cities, like Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco have inexpensively applied them to qualifying roadways. Locally it was Long Beach that led the way; their 'experiment' with sharrows through Belmont Shore, with the added feature of painting the lane green, brought improved safety, slower speeds and eventually, fewer bicyclists on the sidewalks – all with just paint.
Sharrows are just an education device. They don't convey any new privileges to bicyclists; we already have the right to ride in the middle of the lane when the road is too narrow for a bike and a car to share the lane.
Will sharrows slow motorists on their way to work? That hasn't been a problem in other cities. Rush hour traffic tends to be slower, more like bicycle speeds anyway. At other times of day motorists will simply move into the left lane to pass the cyclist.
Today conditions for cyclists on Coast Highway can be daunting. Many motorists and cyclists, too, don't know the bicycle rider can "take the lane" so at worst motorists blow their horns in aggravation or more likely, cyclists ride dangerously close to the parked cars.
What's so dangerous about parked cars?
When a car door opens suddenly causing a crash, the cyclist's momentum will throw them into the path of oncoming traffic. Bad things can happen in an instant – the "door zone" can be deadly for bicyclists.
The next issue for me: bikes on sidewalks. Once the roadway becomes safer for bicyclists there's no excuse for bikes on the sidewalk. Sharrows can help here, too.
What are your thoughts about the sharrows? Tell us in the comments.