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Tag Archive: bike/ped

Friday Musings: Your thoughts on “sharrows”?

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.

Cities ranked for bicycling/walkability

The Alliance for Biking and Walking just published their 2012 Benchmarking Report. As reported in the Los Angeles Times:

[The report] provides a look at commuting by cycling and walking in the U.S., how safe those commutes are, and where transportation funding is going — or not going — to promote these alternative means of local travel.

The report ranked states and cities on bicycling and walking levels (how many people commute by bike or foot) as well as fatality rates. Boston had the highest level of such commutes, and Fort Worth, Texas, the lowest. Vermont and Boston had the fewest fatalities and Florida and Fort Worth the most.

Some more brief (and sobering) highlights:

From 2000 to 2009, bicycling commuters in the U.S. rose by 57%. But the largest 51 cities in the country saw an average 29% increase in bicycle fatalities since the group released its 2010 report. That number may change if the planned 20,908 miles of bike facilities and 7,079 miles of pedestrian facilities across the country are funded.

It can be dangerous out there for those who travel by bike or foot: 12% of trips in the U.S. are taken via cycling or walking, but 14% of those involved in fatal traffic accidents are bicyclists and pedestrians.

Read the LA Times article by clicking here, visit the Alliance website here, or download the full (242 pages, 24MB) report by clicking here.

From Velo News — The Explainer: Crowded streets can lead to dangerous sidewalks

I read a ton of bike-friendly news outlets, and I follow the pro cycling scene religiously. On my daily reading journey around the Interwebs, I saw the following essay on Velo News; it’s the latest in a recurring column there called “The Explainer”, written by noted bike journalist Charles Pelkey. Surprise, surprise…a well-written advocacy piece on a site that focuses primarily on the go-fast crowd…

The column describes some of the bike/auto and bike/ped conflicts as they pertain to a recent study that was reported by the New York Times.

To me, bike/auto accidents and bike/pedestrian accidents are both symptomatic of a lack of insight on the part of generally myopic — and often underfunded — traffic planners. Urban streets around the world are becoming meaner, largely because we see more and more people relying on cars to get from point A to point B … even when that trip involves relatively short distances.

The problem is exacerbated when those who would normally feel comfortable riding a bike find themselves worrying about their own safety and opt to get in a car. Ensconced in a motorized steel cage, that potential cyclist now adds to the crowding on streets instead of reducing it. That further adds to traffic and, in turn, may cause a slightly braver cyclist to reconsider his choice, which in turn adds to crowding and … as the Germans say, und so weiter, und so weiter.

Swing on over to Velo News to read the full article…lots of food for thought there.