Sharrows…they make a difference


A recent article published by the Transportation Research Board suggests that sharrows do not significantly improve streets for bicyclists.  In Long Beach I would suggest that they have improved our streets.  We can look at the examples from 2nd Street in Belmont Shore, 4th street in RetroRow and Pacific Avenue between Ocean Blvd and PCH.

In each of these areas the closely-spaced sharrows, along with the “Bikes may use full lane” signs, clearly indicate (1) to motorists that they should expect bicycles in this area and (2) to bicyclists that they should be riding more toward the center of the lane instead of in the door zone.

However, I would also argue that not all streets are created equal for sharrows.  Some streets work better than others.  Let’s look at some examples from Long Beach.

I think that most bicyclists who have ridden the sharrows in Long Beach would agree that the 2nd Street sharrows are very effective.  This is due in part to the nature of the street and in part the green paint. As my colleague Charlie Gandy has said, “one of the reason that they sharrows work so well on 2nd street is that much of the time the street acts much more like a parking lot than a thoroughfare. There are 13 stop lights in 14 blocks. For the most part traffic moves slowly, frequently below 15 mph, and stops frequently.  It is not uncommon for vehicles in the right lane to stop in order to back into a parking space.   The paint, coupled with the sharrows and “Bikes may use full lane” signs provides a very strong signal to motorists that bicyclists share this space…they belong. I’ve found that it is a space where most experienced bicyclists feel very safe. For me, there is no comparison in riding the street with the sharrows, versus before they were installed.  Before they were installed drivers frequently honked or tailgated.  Now they are much more respectful and in most cases, if they need to pass, simply move into the other lane to pass. Bottomline — the green sharrows on 2nd street work well.