Sharrows is a new buzz word I notice popping up in bicycle related news stories.
The word is short for “Shared Lane Arrows.”
The picture (Left.) shows them already in use in Austin, Texas.
They are cheaper to install than a bike lane. When you designate space for a bike lane, it sometimes means car parking is lost, much to the chagrin of local businesses.
It also means all the other traffic lanes have to be moved over; in other words the whole road has to be restriped.
A Sharrow can be simply placed in an existing lane at appropriate intervals. It lets motorists know that cyclists have a right to share that lane, and as illustrated in the picture above, where there are parked cars cyclists can move to the center of the lane to avoid the real danger of opening car doors.
On the downside, when these arrows start appearing without adequate signage or public notification, it just confuses the hell out of car drivers, because they don’t know if they can use that lane or not. I heard this happened in Long Beach, California; drivers got confused, frustrated and angry.
Education is really the whole crux of the matter. Experienced cyclists already know they have a right to use the lane, and ride down the middle if for example, there are parked cars present; they don’t need a painted arrow to tell them. Sharrows are more to let motorists know that cyclists may be present.
Personally, I like the idea of a shared lane, rather than a bike lane. Bike lanes get parked in, all the debris, broken glass and crap, gets swept into a bike lane by passing traffic. You are in more danger of getting “Right Hooked” in a bike lane, or hit by a car pulling onto the road.
However, I wonder if the money spent on painting Sharrows, would be better spent on education. Local newspaper and TV ads, a few strategically placed billboards, throughout a city, like the one above.
What is your view on sharrows?