First, when I re-shared the image yesterday, an otherwise very intelligent, politically active, and pretty hip (he'd hate that part of the descriptor) non-cycling friend responded: "'Sharrow' haha is that the official word?" It's not, of course, it's a Shared Lane Marking, but that's beside the point. What is important to note is that not everyone knows what these things are, and how they ought to be interpreted to guide behavior for cyclists and motorists alike. In the case with the worst sharrow ever, it's actually "speaking" two things at once: Bicyclists need to "Share the Road" by moving over AND they need to ride as far to the right as possible regardless of the danger involved. It doesn't meet AASHTO's specifications for where it should be, for one. But on this particular stretch, the sharrow is placed exactly where the cyclist should NOT be. Those are two lanes traveling in the same direction, downhill. And it's a fast downhill. Where the rider should be, and a "Take Full Lane" sign would clearly indicate so, is smack dab right in the middle of that right lane.
Just last night, when I was chatting online with a local bicycle advocate about examples of safety campaign posters, he offered the Jacksonville campaign on sharrows as an example. I've linked the image to the Jacksonville Bicycle Coalition's aptly named, "What is a sharrow?" page if you'd like to have a look. Of course, I have my own issues with some of the language on this poster. No, the Shared-Lane Marking does not indicate where "a cyclist has the right to ride," thank you very much. We can chat about the rights of cyclists in a future post, and parse out just what "practicable" means, but for now, let's stick to the reality that an educational campaign was, and still is, needed to explain just what these things indicate. I'm not a sharrow hater, mind you, and there are haters out there, but my friend's response along with this poster, illustrates how misunderstood that poor sharrow is.
Angie Schmidt, writing about a recent sharrow study out of the University of Colorado, called sharrows "the dregs of bicycle infrastructure." To be fair, the study she writes about did find that sharrows have negligible effect on inducing new riders to hit the streets as well offering little in the way of improving safety. Her article made the Reddit circle last week and the user comment up-voted the most called them: "A bastardized compromise foisted by politicians." That said, It's not all doom and gloom, lonely sharrow. The authors did suggest, along with some Reddit commenters, that sharrows have their place along low-speed corridors. Some folks still love you. Let's not forget, Robert Hurst, in The Cyclist's Manifesto, called your epoch "The Sharrow Revolution." It's just that slapping some paint on an otherwise dangerous stretch of road isn't the same as providing a bike lane or separated infrastructure. Used right, like the street scene below that I personally find aesthetically pleasing, you still can be lovely.
Three days ago a video of a bicycle and car altercation was captured on video and made some noise in the bicycling community as well as some local news outlets. The thing is scary and instantly brought to mind the infamous "Teach them a lesson" event also in Southern California some years ago. On July 4th of 2008, Dr. Christopher Thompson intentionally used his motor vehicle to harass two cyclists, eventually causing a horrific sounding crash that left both riders with substantial injuries. The case received national attention as Dr. Thompson was charged with, and convicted of, assault with a deadly weapon. He received a five year prison term. Part of the incriminating testimony against him included an LAPD officer recounting that at the scene Dr. Thompson had explained he acted to “teach them a lesson.”
One difference here, aside from no actual crash and subsequent injuries, is that there's that darn sharrow. It's right there. You can see it in the screenshot below. (Youtube video linked in image). Now there is some disagreement as to what occurred, and who instigated the altercation, but what isn't up for debate is that the driver was honking his horn as he approached and, according to the police report, was doing so because the cyclists "were blocking traffic." But... there's that sharrow. Oh, sharrow. Why are thou so misunderstood?
2.Nick Ferenchak and Wesley Marshall, "Relative (In)Effectiveness of Bicycle Sharrows on Ridership and Safety Outcomes" (August 1, 2015). Available at http://amonline.trb.org/trb60693-2016-1.2807374/t022-1.2817530/538-1.2817718/16-5232-1.2817739/16-5232-1.2817740?qr=1
3. Robert Hurst, The Cyclist's Manifesto: The Case for Riding on Two Wheels Instead of Four (Guilford, CT:Falcon Guides, 2009).
4. Gadi Shwartz, "Cyclist vs. Driver in Viral Video That Shows Near-Hit," NBCLosAngeles (January 25, 2016). Available at: http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/close-call-cyclist-car-near-crash-glendale-driver-viral-video-366517711.html
5. Jack Leonard, “Cyclist Testifies in Car-Versus-Bike Case,” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2009, A6; Jack Leonard, “Physician Convicted in Bicycle Crash Case,” Los Angeles Times November 3, 2009, A3.
6. Alta Planning and Design, “San Francisco’s Shared Lane Pavement Markings: Improving Bicycle Safety” (February 2004). Available at http://nacto.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/San-Franciscos-Shared-Lane-Pavement-Markings-Improving-Bicycle-Safety.pdf