Apologies for all the Long Beach Sharrow posts, but this really is cutting edge stuff and I’m sure more than a few people are curious to see how it will all play out. Firstly, there was a lot of speculation on how cars/bikes would react to the green stripe. Would cars somehow mistake them for a bike lane and not drive in them? Would traffic come to a grinding halt because the street would be flooded by hundreds of beach cruisers?
It’s still a bit too early to tell, but so far, it is not the Armageddon that many (myself included) would think would result. It’s plenty obvious that cars are still driving in the right lane. For me, it seems that motorists have gotten over any trepidation about riding in what could be mistaken as a bike lane.
Have the hundreds of closet bicyclists taken over the streets of Belmont Shore? Not quite. Casually observing, ridership seems to be about the same. Good riding practices (not riding in the door zone) seem to be just perceptibly better, though there are many people that STILL ride too far to the right. I was riding someone today and told him gently that it might be safer to be in the actual green stripe. When we were at a light, he said, “You ride in the green stripe Poindexter and get yourself killed.” As I rode away I could see him in my mirror hugging the parked cars and ducking in and out of open parking spaces.
A lot of criticism about the markings have been from the conjecture that traffic is just too great to have bikes and cars in the same road. I shot some video of Laura and I riding to the supermarket and we rode through Belmont Shore where the sharrows are. It is a .6 mile stretch. It took us 7 minutes to ride through it. That means we were averaging 5mph! As you can see from the video, there may be a lot of traffic, but it’s certainly moving at a speed that a cyclist can keep up with! If we’re going to die of anything in the video, it’s BOREDOM from having to stop every 20 feet.
Furthermore, because it is a shopping district, it behooves cyclists to be in the middle of the lane to avoid parking cars and swinging doors.
Lastly, I’d like to show this video that a fellow Long Beach bike advocate made. Some of the footage is on 2nd Street pre-sharrow. I ride the same way and believe in vehicular cycling principles. That is to say, that I believe cyclist fares best when he/she rides like other vehicles. I feel that for those that haven’t been exposed to vehicular cycling classes, the sharrow/green stripe treatment is a good visualization for good lane positioning. I am hoping that people that use the sharrow/stripe treatment will at some point have an “Aha!” moment and realize that they can ride like that on every street and be safe.
It’s too soon to tell what will happen. The paint is barely dry. People can be slow to adapt to change. I think the sharrow/stripe treatment has some flaws. Visual confusion is among them. The city could have done more extensive PR on the project with mailers, more community education, etc., However, despite all that, I am still very excited and very hopeful about the design.