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Many of my bike buddies have heard me go on and on about sharrows for a few years now. I’m sure our Facebook followers have heard me mention my concerns about sharrows from time to time, too.

For those of you who may have missed it, here are some of my thoughts on them: while I think they can be a useful tool in the arsenal of bike-friendly infrastructure, I am very concerned that many cyclists and motorists both don’t really understand what they represent. Neither group is particularly good about “sharing” the road (the operative part of “sharrow”) at times. I’ve seen cyclists treat road with sharrows as a full-width “bike lane”, despite cars backing up behind them. I’ve also seen motorists crowd riders against parked cars when sharrows are present. Further, I’m afraid that some cities use sharrows as a quick pacifier; slap some down on the pavement and then tell cyclists, “yeah, we’re building bike infrastructure…what more do you want?”

sharrow

It’s my belief that when a city chooses to add sharrows to a road surface, that MUST come with an advertising campaign or some other method to get the word out to road users — so that everyone knows what those mysterious chevrons represent and to remind folks that yes, we must all actually share the road. We all know that there is far more to bicycle infrastructure than simply putting up some signs, or spreading some paint onto the roadway…a lot of planning, logistics and study must come with it in order for all that effort to be of value to road users.

So, I was a bit surprised to read the following article, which appeared in the Edmonton Journal the other day:

A new study out of British Columbia suggests the use of shared bike-car lanes on major roads doesn’t actually increase safety for cyclists and may pose a greater risk if they add confusion to the streets…

…The shared bike-car lanes, called sharrows, are seen as a simple solution when the city, neighbourhood residents or local businesses don’t want to remove parking or a lane currently used for vehicle traffic. They consist of a painted bike with arrows on the pavement, and signs along the side of the road.

When researchers at the University of British Columbia looked at 690 cyclist collisions serious enough to land a cyclist in the hospital, they found the only bike infrastructure that significantly reduces risk is having a separate route for bikes.

Please read the rest of this enlightening article by visiting the Edmonton Journal page.

I’d love to hear our readers thoughts on sharrows: do you love them? Hate them? Are you indifferent to them? Do you find them effective and well-placed, or see them as an “easy out” for cities who don’t want to spend much on improved bicycle infrastructure? Please leave your comments below.