The Elegant Sharrow

Sharrows are roadway markings used to:

  • Reduce conflict by clarifying roadway behavior
  • Improve the position of bicyclists and motorists on roads without bike lanes
  • Reduce aggressive motorist behavior
  • Encourage safe bicycling behavior
  • Increase the comfort and safety of people who bicycle on city streets
  • Increase the number of people who bicycle for everyday transportation by addressing people’s number one concern:  safety

Roadway infrastructure and markings matter, they make a difference to everyone using the roadway and also to the businesses and homes nearby affected by the flow of traffic.

Reduce Conflict

Sharrows help reduce conflict between people on city streets by keeping everyone informed and aware of conditions on the road.  Sharrows are used on streets that are expected to have a high volume of bicycle use, such as designated bicycle routes and connector roads, in downtown shopping districts, or on streets near schools.

This helps drivers know they can expect to travel on the street with people on bicycles and allows drivers to be aware and pass safely, or choose an alternate route, or move into another lane, if they prefer. 

Bikes Belong

Sharrows indicate bicycles belong on this street and give people on bicycles the reassurance that drivers will be expecting them and it is a safe place to ride.   Sharrows are placed in areas where traveling bicycles and occasional passing cars have little or no impact on traffic flow.

The markings can reduce aggressive behavior from the minority of drivers who are inclined to intimidate people on bicycles because they don’t understand where bikes belong.  And they can help people riding bicycles to stay off sidewalks and prevent them from riding against traffic.

Out of the Gutter, Away from Car Doors

Sharrows indicate the best place on a street for people on a bicycle.  On roads without a bicycle lane, the sharrows help keep people riding where they are safest, out into the lane away from risks.

A bicyclist riding further left in the lane is in a position away from the risks that cause injury and death to so many people.  These dangerous risks to people on bikes come from:  opening car doors, debris in the gutter, being unseen at the side of the road or squeezed between parked cars and moving vehicles, and being unseen and hit by cars making right turns.

Low Cost Improvement for a Livable City

Sharrows are a low cost treatment used to help make our streets more livable by supporting people who want to bicycle in our community, and they help make our community a safer place for everyone by clarifying road conditions.  Here is a video showing how easy it is to add sharrows to our streets.   View video here

Seen Around the World

Sharrows are used by communities around the world.  Images of sharrows here – sharrows

Resources

  • Jefferson Public Radio – Audio recording, interview with Anne Wallach Thomas and Charlie Gandy, October 31, about sharrows and active transportation in our region.
  • Infrastructure Matters.  “71 percent spike in cycling from 2006-2011 – The increase in San Francisco cyclists since 2008 came after … 23 miles of new bicycle lanes stretching from the bay to the Pacific Ocean.”   Safety on the roadway drives this increase, gas prices and other things provide additional incentives.   Article here
  • Back to the Future, when streets belonged to everyone.  “Where once we railed against the car’s invasion of our public space, we now rebuff nearly all attempts to re-allocate even a modicum of roadway to truly public use. …we have legislated other modes of transportation into a thin sliver of grudgingly reserved leftover space: pedestrians may cross the street at the occasional crosswalk; bicyclists, while technically allowed to operate in the same space and under the same restrictions and protections as cars, are mostly just in the way (and liable to be harassed) if they don’t yield space…”  Article here
  • Look! For Cyclists.  The best protection a cyclist has is our attention.  Video here
  • Active Transportation beyond Urban Centers.  “People assume biking and walking are strictly for big cities.  But a new analysis of the latest federal data tells a much different story.   Report available here