Lane Sharing is Caring

Shared Lane Marking - Sharrow

For those of us who ride a bicycle through town either for pleasure, exercise or just getting around we know what an adventure cycling can be. A small segment of the automobile-driving population seems to not know what to do about cyclists. Some motorists either give us a huge berth or near to none at all and many seem either puzzled or strangely frightened by bike riders. An even smaller, but frightening, minority of car drivers are actually hostile to cyclists. Which begs the question, how can automobile and bike drivers learn to get along?

Many cities are experimenting with Bike Lanes and Lane Sharing signage to encourage better bike and car coexistance. Most of us have seen the "SHARE THE ROAD" signs that picture a single-occupant car driving alongside a cyclist. These signs have been around for years and for many folks they have faded into the background. More recently 'Sharrows' or Shared Lane Markings have been introduced as a new way to increase awareness of bicyclists.

A study of Sharrows and their effect on cyclist safety was made in San Francisco, CA in 2004. The study concluded that Shared Lane Markings caused motorists to give extra room to cyclists and at the same time reduced improper cycling (wrong way and sidewalk riding). This both increases safety for cyclists and for car drivers. Santa Fe, NM is experimenting with Sharrows and after speaking with concerned citizen cyclists the City Council has agreed to add 270 more to city streets. The cyclists believe that motorists tend to give them more room when they bike on roads with Shared Lane Markings.

Given that crude oil prices have recently set all-time highs above $80/barrel cycling will continue to become a more appealing mode of transportation. Do you think that Sharrows are a good way to raise motorist awareness of cyclists, or are there better methods? Do you prefer bike lanes, either striped on roadways or as separate paths? What can cities do to encourage cycling on their streets?

More Reading:

Sharrow / Shared Lane Marking

San Francisco Shared Lane Marking Safety Report

NCUTCD Information on Shared Lane Marking

Santa Fe New Mexican: Bicyclists persuade panel to spread sharrows