Sharrows Mark Shared Lanes for Bicyclists

sharrow pavement marking for bike routesThey’re new and still experimental, but are expected to become formalized signage method by next year.

They’re called “sharrows” and they are pavement markings that help mark bike routes on roads. These are a complement to bike lane pavement markings. The difference is bike lanes are separated facilities (from motor vehicles) where shared lanes have both cars and bikes.

According to draft MUTCD language, the benefit of sharrow pavement markings are they:

  • Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in a shared lane with on-street parallel parking in order to reduce the chance of a bicyclist’s impacting the open door of a parked vehicle,
  • Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in lanes that are too narrow for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to travel side by side within the same traffic lane,
  • Alert road users of the lateral location bicyclists are likely to occupy within the traveled way,
  • Encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists, and
  • Reduce the incidence of wrong-way bicycling.

There are limits to their use.

  • They should not be on roads where the speed limits above 35 MPH.
  • They should not be on shoulders or in bike lanes

Sharrows may also produce cost and time savings.

Sometimes roadways are simply not wide enough for a bike lane.   Sometimes road diets (converting an exising lane of travel into bike lanes) are not practical or possible.  And even when a road diet might be the solution, some cities require traffic studies in advance.  These studies can cost $10K to $30K.  The value of a separated bike lane facility may not justify these costs when a shared lane would work equally well.  And sharrows provide a new and improved means for marking them.

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