Posts Tagged ‘sharrows’

Building community in Detroit with bicycles

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

The Free Press special report Living with murder: Complete coverage contains some positive coverage of Detroit residents building community. One story highlights bicycling’s role in the community fabric.

The brothers have lived for 40 years in a run-down house on the corner of Bessemore and Georgia. They’re members of The East Side Riders, a custom-bicycle club that gathers for casual rides. They hold workshops for neighborhood kids to show them simple things such as how to change a flat tire, to more difficult tasks such as customizing — or tricking out — their bikes. What started as fun has become a crime-fighting tool.

When the bodies of women were being found scattered on the east side inside abandoned houses and lots in the summer of 2009, the brothers rode around, handing out flyers and warning women not to walk alone. On Angels’ Night, the eve before Halloween, they’ve patrolled the neighborhood. They even ride along with children as they walk to and from school.

“We just want to keep it safe where we live,” said David Jarrell, 47.

This article also shows the great value places like the Hub of Detroit bring to the community. It’s great that we can find millions to build walking and biking facilities, but it’s challenging to find those same kinds of dollars for this bicycling support network. Both need to be supported if we’re to be successful in getting more Detroiters choosing bicycles.

Sharrows on Gratiot and Fort Street

Recently the East Side Riders asked for bike lanes on Gratiot, a route they often ride to get Downtown and to the RiverWalk. That request was passed along to MDOT. Years ago MDOT had discussed adding bike lanes to Gratiot but that would have removed the on-street parking – a non-starter for the city.

Now MDOT is looking to simply add sharrows, shared lane markings that remind motorists to share the road while providing guidance to cyclists on where to position themselves on the road. MDOT hopes to have them installed next year from Conner Avenue/Conner Creek Greenway to the Dequindre Cut. These may be a forerunner to some eventual bike lanes.

We recently spoke with Tim Springer from Springer Consulting in Minneapolis. He visited Detroit to share his experience with their Midtown Greenway and look at opportunities in Detroit.

One of his thoughts was to add separated two-way cyclepaths to our major spoke roads such as Gratiot and Grand River. Yes, it would take away some vehicle travel lanes, but those roads have extra capacity. While surveys find many Detroit residents would feel comfortable riding in bike lanes on major roads, other cities are finding that many more would feel comfortable on physically-separated bike lanes. And as Springer noted, the spoke roads are often the fastest routes to get across the city so we should prioritize investing in them for better bicycling.

As for sharrows, MDOT is also looking to add them on Fort Street in Southwest Detroit, a route used by the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route.


Milford DDA recommends sharrows

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

The Spinal Column is reporting on the possible use of sharrows in the Village of Milford:

The Milford Village Council at its Tuesday, Sept. 7 meeting received a presentation from the Milford Downtown Development Authority (DDA) regarding possible “sharrow” lanes for bicycles in the village.

A “sharrow” is a specific on-pavement lane marking that identifies that bicycles and cars share the same lane. They are currently in place in sections of the state, including Ann Arbor, South Haven and Flint.

The DDA is recommending installing sharrows on the major connectors in the DDA district, including along General Motors Road, Milford Road, Main Street and Commerce.

Sharrows are a great, low-cost solution in many cases, especially where there is no parking and widening a road for bike lanes is too expensive. Bike lanes and/or sharrows are a much better, safer alternative to the side paths that had been proposed earlier this year in Milford.

At a recent MDOT meeting, some staff were unaware of sharrows, but were willing to look into their possible implementation on a state trunkline in Detroit. In this case the sharrows would provide bike lane continuity on short sections of road where there is inadequate road width for bike lanes.

“Would Sharrows work in Detroit?”

Monday, August 16th, 2010

That question was recently posted on the Detroit Bikes email list.

Perhaps it’s best to first answer the question, “What are sharrows?”

Sharrows are standard pavements markings as shown on the right. They are used on roads that are designated bike routes where there is not enough pavement to include a bike lane. The sharrows provide guidance to the cyclists on where to ride on the road. Cyclists should ride through the center of the marking.

Of course these pavement markings also let drivers know about the presence of cyclists.

All signs and pavement marking designs and uses are defined by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). We’ve listed the MUCTD information at the end.

Would Sharrows work in Detroit?

Yes, but only in limited instances, primarily when:

  • There is not enough road width for bike lanes (even after a Road Diet)
  • There is either no on-street parking or high-use on-street parking

Most city of Detroit roads do not meet the above checklist.

There is enough room for bike lanes on a majority of roads. For example, a recent non-motorized planning analysis found that over 90% of the roads in Detroit’s near east side would support bike lanes without any widening. The planner said 50% is considered excellent in other cities. He’s never seen a street network more readily available for bike lanes.

On Detroit roads without enough room for bike lanes, the parking is typically sporadic and not high-use. Why is this a big deal? On streets with parking, the sharrows would be located 11 feet from the curb. But, if there are rarely any parked cars on a road, does it make sense to ask cyclists to bike 11 feet from the curb irregardless? Probably not.

But there are some Detroit streets that could benefit from sharrows. For example, the curved entrance ramps from Jefferson and the Macarthur Bridge (to Belle Isle) could use sharrows to lead cyclists to and from the bike lanes.

Another good use of sharrows is to provide continuity to a bike lane when some sections of the road become too narrow. We’ve heard excuses that a road can’t have bike lanes because one short section is too narrow. Sharrows eliminate that excuse.

Of course the Detroit suburbs may also have more opportunity for sharrows since their roads are less overbuilt compared with Detroit’s.

Currently the cities of Flint and South Haven have sharrows with at least a couple others looking into them.


Flint is becoming a Bicycle Friendly Community

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

sharrow pavement marking for bike routesBikes Belong grant awards were recently announced.

Congratulations Flint!

This is a well-deserved nod for the regional bike efforts to make biking easier and safer in Flint. (And we’re jealous of you having sharrows — perhaps a first in Michigan.)

Five designated and aspiring Bicycle Friendly Communities will receive funds to help them make bicycling more safe, convenient and appealing places to ride.

These grants, designed to pinpoint specific needs outlined by each community in their Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) application, help pay for bike plans, technical assistance, pilot projects and innovative cycling initiatives.

Flint, Michigan
The Safe and Active Flint Coalition will receive $5,000 to improve bike safety and awareness through a Sharrow program. Flint received honorable mention in the last BFC round. They identified Sharrows—pavement markings encouraging cars and bicycles to share the road—as key to marking the first designated bike routes in the city.


Sharrows Mark Shared Lanes for Bicyclists

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

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.