Spotlight on Sharrows

It is time to meet the Sharrow Miami. The what? The sharrow, a relatively new bicycle awareness/safety/wayfinding/bicycle lane-esque design tool quickly making its way across the country.

In short, sharrows are an on-pavement marking comprised of a directional arrow or “chevron,” and a bicycle symbol identical to those seen in bicycle lanes. Sharrows demonstrate that bicyclists should “take the lane” by directing them into safe, shared lane positioning. The sharrow is designed to reduce bicyclist/motorist conflict along medium-speed thoroughfares and help bicyclists safely avoid the door-zone. Sharrows are appropriate wherever unmarked travel lanes are too dangerous to share safely (think Biscayne Boulevard or Calle Ocho) and when bicycle lanes are not feasible due to available street width. Sharrows are also a great tool for mixed-use pedestrian-oriented districts as the continuation of an existing bicycle lane (I happen to think this will be the best solution for the Design District portion of the planned Northeast Second Avenue bicycle lane, as such a marking will not take away any precious retail parking spaces. Ditto for Alton Road.)

Born in Denver, and applied earnestly in San Francisco, several cities are now part of a Federal experiment to apply sharrows, including Miami Beach (apparently on Washington Avenue, but not yet implemented. We here at Transit Miami will keep our eyes on this one)

Studies in San Francisco, which began implementing sharrows in 2004, demonstrate improved lane positioning for cyclists and an improved amount of passing distance by motorists overtaking bicyclists. By virtue of their clear pavement marking sharrows also cut down on the number of sidewalk cyclists and riders traveling illegally against traffic. The official 2009 Manual on Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), a guiding federal policy document for municipalities, will apparently include sharrows as an approved traffic control device. Thus, expect sharrows to become widespread in the not to distant future.

Presenting at the International Making Cities Livable Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico this week, I was able to observe the sharrow in action. Santa Fe is one of America’s oldest urban settlements, dating back to the 11th century. This means the city existed for eight centuries before the rise of the automobile and the chaos that wrought on most American cities and towns. Fortunately, the powers that be have respected this history by not bastardizing the city’s excellent thoroughfare network. Thus, streets remain narrow and very pedestrian-friendly. But because the streets are proportioned correctly, most do not have the right-of-way space available for bicycle lanes.

Enter the sharrow. Most of the principle streets in Santa Fe use the sharrow to increase safety and awareness, as well as direct cyclists to the best routes through the city. They work beautifully. Cars, never able to move quickly due to the narrow lanes, not only expect to share the lane with bicyclists, they also yield to them.

Sharrows have not made their way to the City of Miami yet. However, it seems we will soon have a model in Miami Beach. Regardless, I can guarantee that they will be a recommended, and essential part of the Miami Bicycle Master Plan.

2 Responses to “Spotlight on Sharrows”

  1. 1 Martin Rheaume

    Sharrows may not fit into my ideal of a biking utopia, but I think they have a real upside. One of course is that they should be relatively easy to implement, and with a low cost. More importantly is the awareness factor. I think a lot of the hostility towards bikers in Miami is rooted in pure ignorance. People here genuinely think that bikes do not belong on the roads. Some of them even think it is illegal. Not only will sharrows help drivers become aware, but cyclists as well. I like to ride on the road as often as possible, and I feel guilty and/or embarrassed when I feel the need to ride on the sidewalks, but sometimes I feel that it is the only place that makes sense to ride. Sharrows will be a cue advising me that this is the appropriate place for you to ride, get off the sidewalk, and for the love of god. Do not ride against traffic!

  2. 2 Sean Bossinger

    These would definitely be a welcome addition on some streets in Coral Gables. Alhambra Circle west of US 1, Ponce de Leon blvd., and Anastasia would all be candidates that I could readily identify.

    Perhaps I should get busy trying to figure out how to get this in front of the City in some official capacity.

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