You know I love the Sharrows. Rather, I love the Sharrow Concept. In practice, the whole Sharrow thing has not always worked out as nicely as it could, because the assorted public agencies in charge of Sharrow implementation have failed to produce satisfactory guidelines about Sharrow dimensions and placement, and then too often have failed to execute properly even within those inadequate guidelines. The situation is unfortunate, because Sharrows could really help matters if they were done right.

Sharrows have finally made the Big Time, enshrined as legitimate traffic control markings in the latest MANUAL OF UNIFORM TRAFFIC CONTROL DEVICES. That's a good thing, but the guidelines leave something to be desired. First of all, we are still told not to use Sharrows on streets with speed limits higher than 35 mph. I think they could possibly be used effectively on higher speed streets, and would be a major benefit to bicyclists riding such streets, if the markings were well placed, and larger. It's my belief that the markings are about half the size they should be to produce the results which are purported to be desired in the MUTCD. The fact is that the effects of larger sharrows have never been studied, on arterial streets or anywhere else. I can imagine that larger Sharrows would be more effective than the current markings; I have a difficult time imagining any downsides to making them bigger, other than cost.

More importantly, placement is off the mark. The guidelines still call for centering the marking a minimum of eleven feet from the curb on streets with side parking. That's not terrible, but it's not good. This placement puts the Sharrow in a sort of no man's land at the edge of the door zone, arguably in the door zone. With a placement just one foot -- one foot! -- further into the lane the Sharrow becomes much more useful and effective. At twelve feet from the curb the Sharrow is a brilliant beacon of advanced civilization. At ten feet it seems pretty much worthless, one could easily argue they do more harm than good at that distance. Eleven feet is a decidedly unsatisfying placement, not the happy compromise one might imagine. I know this because of my -- get this -- experience riding on Sharrowed streets. One Foot! That's all we need here.

This world could use a little imagination, and a minimum of huevos, when it comes to Sharrow implementation. As far as I can see the only evolution these standards have undergone in several years is the replacement of drop handlebars with upright bars in the graphic. That's not going to get us to the Sharrow promised land.

 


RELATED: GOOD SHARROWS GONE BAD , BIGGER THAN BIKE LANES , POWERING DOWN , CYCLE TRAPS