News Spotlight: March 5th – March 18th, 2016

This Week’s News Spotlight | 

The Sharrow: What is it Good For?

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+“The Relative (In)Effectiveness of Bicycle Sharrows on Ridership and Safety Outcomes”, Transportation Research Board, Jan. 2016

The ubiquitous sharrow (or “shared lane marking”) has become the center of a debate in bicycle planning in the last few months. A recent paper at the Transportation Research Board Annual Conference in January 2016, “The Relative (In)Effectiveness of Bicycle Sharrows on Ridership and Safety Outcomes,” provided research that questioned the effectiveness sharrows in both improving safety and ridership numbers. Several publications covered the study (here are three: StreetsBlog, CityLab, Treehugger).

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+ “The Brief History of the American Sharrow”The Bicycle Story, March 9th, 2016

Original sharrow. Source: StreetsBlog USA
Original sharrow. Source: StreetsBlog USA

And now, just last week, The Bicycle Story, a podcast from Josh Cohen, a journalist based out of Seattle, talked with the inventor of the sharrow, James McKay, P.E., a former planner in Denver. He invented the sharrow in the 1990s, he said, “to define lane position and to confirm that […] bicyclists would be using the road there” at a time when Denver, like many places, were reluctant to provide accommodations for bicyclists.

“I was hoping it overall would provide a step in the right direction towards legitimizing the presence of bicycling and reinforcing bicycle usage.” ~James McKay

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+ READ MORE: Today, sharrows are an accepted piece of infrastructure, standardized in 2005 in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). They also appear in the NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide. Both guides state that sharrows are most appropriate on low-speed roadways, when the street cannot accommodate a bicycle lane. The New Jersey Department of Transportation also provides guidance on shared lanes.

The sharrow’s design has come a long way from that original “bike-in-a-house.” Here are some variations on the sharrow:

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Sharrow designating a bicycle boulevard in Ocean City, NJ. Source: Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center
Sharrow designating a bicycle boulevard in Ocean City, NJ. Source: Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center

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Turning sharrow in Portland. Source: NACTO via Flickr (CC non-commercial license)
Turning sharrow in Portland. Source: NACTO via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Green lane sharrows in Long Beach, CA. Source: San Fransisco Bicycle Coalition via Flickr (CC non-commercial-no derivatives license)
Green lane sharrows in Long Beach, CA. Source: San Fransisco Bicycle Coalition via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Broken sharrow in Portland. Source: NACTO via Flickr (CC non-commercial license)
Broken sharrow in Portland. Source: NACTO via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Super sharrow in Boston. Source: StreetsBlog USA
Super sharrow in Boston. Source: StreetsBlog USA

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This new section selects provides thoughtful insights from today’s top journalists and writers about pressing topics that impact bicycle and pedestrian planning and policy. Learn the issues, get the facts, and invest in planning for New Jersey’s tomorrow.

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