Sharrows make business districts safer and friendlier

SHARROWS  | Sharrows are chevrons combined with bicycle stencils placed in the center of  a travel lane.  They indicate that bicycles and motor vehicles share the lane.  These are often times accompanied by signs saying “bicyclists can use full lane.”

The purpose of sharrows is to communicate to motorists to safely share a narrower street with bicyclists, “sharrows” — chevrons and bicycle stencils on the roadway alert travelers to “be aware and share” the road with bicyclists.  And to communicate to the bicyclist where they should position themselves on the road to be most visible.

GREEN SHARROWS | Another type of sharrows is a 6-foot wide green striped lane that designates a shared lane for vehicles and bicycles in a high traffic area. The first Green Sharrow is located on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore, a seaside shopping district extending from Livingston Drive to Bay Shore Avenue.

How to ride on the sharrows: One of the biggest hazards for bicyclists riding on streets with a large number of parked cars is getting “doored” or having someone pull out in front of the bicyclist resulting in a broadside accident.  A major cause of these two types of accidents is the bicyclist riding in the door zone rather than further out into the lane.

For many bicyclists..riding in the door zone seems safer than riding further into the travel lane.  But this is not true.  When you are riding close to the cars two things can happen: (1) someone can open a car door in front of you…causing you to swerve into traffic or hit the door and possibly fall into traffic and (2) a driver pulling into traffic from a side street or from a parking stall pulls in front of the bicyclist resulting in a broadside accident. To see what happens if you get doored check out this great video.

Why you should avoid the door zone

The sharrows are designed to indicate where the bicyclist should ride on the street in order to avoid being doored and to help ensure they are visible to motorists entering into the flow of traffic.  If you ride “on the sharrow” you will be (1) out of the door zone and (2) in a position where drivers who are entering the street or pulling out of a parking stall can easily see you.

Another key reason for using sharrows is to get bicyclists off of the sidewalk and onto the street.   Prior to the program, many cyclists escaped the traffic by riding on the sidewalk, which is prohibited by law to protect pedestrians. After the Green Sharrow was introduced on 2nd Street, sidewalk bicycling declined significantly and bicycle volume nearly doubled. We are expecting to see similar results as we extend the use of sharrows to other part of the city.

Across Long Beach you will see Sharrows used widely.  You will see them on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore and on 4th Street through RetroRow.  They are used on our bike boulevards, including Vista Street. You will soon see them on Pacific Avenue in downtown Long Beach and on the three new bike boulevards we are building on 15th, 6th and Daisy/Linden/Myrtle.

Cars and other motor vehicles on the sharrows

As indicated above sharrows indicate the lane is shared between motor vehicles and bikes.  The sharrows don’t change the law…whether or not sharrows are present bicyclists always have the right to use the full travel lane when the is to narrow for them to safely ride to the side of the travel lane or it is dangerous for them to ride to the right for some other reason.  The sharrows just remind the driver that they are sharing the lane with bicyclists.

As a driver you treat the lane just as you would any other lane with a slower moving vehicle.  What would you do if you had a slower moving motorcycle in front of you?  Or an electric golf cart?  Give the slower moving vehicle (motorcycle, bike, electric vehicle) adequate space, move out and pass them when it is safe, and once passed move back into the travel lane.


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