Home > Engineering Design, Tools & Ingenuity > Are you sharrow crazy like me?

Are you sharrow crazy like me?

* More images from MyWHaT’s tour of Montreal’s bicycle network at our Flickr page *

Love for the sharrow

At the beginning of July I explored the use of the sharrow. Since then, I have experienced the wide use of them in Montreal and New York.  Love may be too strong, but there is certainly a new found fondness and understanding of how they could be used in Traverse City.

Sharrow use across an intersection in Montreal.

Montreal is using them liberally as a design solution to difficult situations, like connecting two disconnected bike paths or shifting traffic coming out of a bike lane. This pavement marking’s use is growing in north America’s most bicycle friendly cities. It’s technically called a “shared lane marking” or is otherwise broken down as “share+arrow=sharrow”.

The appreciation for the sharrow inspired a map of Suggested Sharrow use for Traverse City (below). It’s robust and will stretch the minds of certain city staff (not to mention public), yet the suggested placements are all achievable and would go a long way in communicating that Traverse City is serious about improving it’s image as a bicycle friendly place. My goal is to encourage more trips by bicycle and design solutions like sharrows will help.

Bikes Belong

In the previous post, I went through the uses of the sharrow. Mainly, they are used to position bikes away from opening car-doors, however, the basic advantage I see is that they communicate that bicycles and cars have an equal right to the lane; that bikes belong. They aren’t meant to replace bike lanes or the need for separate bike paths. They are one tool in the tool-box for encouraging bicycling by delineating bike routes, communicating that bikes belong and guiding the direction and positioning of traffic. As I saw in Montreal, they are also a great design asset effective at connecting a bike network that is truncated or broken by a narrow street, intersection or broken street, like one-way streets.

The Sharrow Map

Each sharrow has an explanation to its placement. Icons: Red boarder = could be implemented ASAP; Black boarder = possible future location; Yellow boarder = pushing the limits of what’s possible, but not unreasonable.

What do you think? Have you ridden in a city that used sharrows?


EXTRA: The southeast Michigan bicycle BLOG M-Bike posted a piece yesterday asking, “Would Sharrows work in Detroit?” What’s interesting in Detroit is that they have streets overbuilt for current use. The result is plenty of public right of way for bike lanes and segregated bike paths, which are preferred over sharrow use. Traverse City has a limited street network and our main areas where safety is the issue arguably have little room for bike lanes. MyWHaT ran a post about biking in Detroit earlier this year.

  1. tschmidt
    August 17, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Fun map, Gary. well done. as you have it, I would really love them on Washington west of Boardman onto the alley and then on 6th west of union on the cobbles. That’s our main route to the commons area and I think they would certainly make life easier.

    We road some sharrows while in Tucson this past march. They were on just a short section near the university but I thought they worked great. Cheers.

  2. kriosconsulting
    August 17, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    On our trip to Montreal, I was amazed at just how liberal they were with the paint. In the U.S. we seem to be so careful and prescribed about such things. Montreal just tossed down the Sharrows like they were candy at a Mardi Gras parade. AND IT WORKS!

    Not only did they use them as directional indicators for bicyclists using the bike lanes and on-street bikeways, but the liberal use of them at intersections made it very clear to vehicles about to cross the area that bicycles belong there. It caused a palpable sense of caution for drivers even in the busiest parts of the city.

    This is one of those “what do we have to lose?” items. Let’s just try it. If it doesn’t work, what have we lost? But if it DOES work, think of the potential gain!

  3. August 18, 2010 at 7:51 am

    I like the support. Can we ask TART, CCCC and others (the Hagerty cycling teams) to seriously consider advocating for them? What I’d hate to see is that the city throw down a token sharrow on some odd street and then forget about it.

    One thing I really liked from Ian Lockwood’s presentation was his slide showing a cobbled/brick street with a 4-5 foot section paved to allow a smoother ride for bike riders. This city has a long-way to go before they can claim they are bike friendly. Bike friendly should mean doing things like that. I’ll see if I can locate the slide.

  4. Nate
    August 22, 2010 at 8:41 am

    I have not seen the use of sharrows and I think I would rather see the bike lane become dashed as it moves through intersections…..instead of the collage of sharrows.

  5. Nate
    August 22, 2010 at 8:48 am

    ….I do think sharrows have there place on streets where bike lanes are not allowed due to limited cross-section….

    ….I like the discussion around figuring out how to transition bicyclists thru intersections and turning corners….currently, tc streets do not provide anything like this….

  6. August 22, 2010 at 9:49 am

    We currently have 3 miles of bike lanes on over 70 miles of streets. Sharrows can be strategically used to complete the network of bike lanes to come and may help us not have to widen intersections to carry bike lanes through them. In the future we need a bike lane map, including where segregated bike lanes might be used (actually, there will be one in the master plan).

    For example, while biking along Garfield Ave last week, the sun got in my eyes just right and I saw a complete redo that included segregated bike lanes from Peninsula Dr. to Hammond–not a mutli-use trail or sidewalk, where we’d have to stop every driveway, but rather 6 foot wide bicycle highway.

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