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Opinion: American bike infrastructure on steroids

Posted by on November 22nd, 2013 at 12:36 pm

This is your bike infrastructure on drugs.
(Screenshot from Boston Globe)

The latest twist in America’s effort to retrofit our auto-oriented infrastructure so that it’s suitable for cycling comes from Boston. That city hs deployed what’s being called “super sharrows” or “sharrows on steroids.” Here’s a blurb about them from a story published in the Boston Globe on Wednesday:

I first noticed the markings last week while driving through Allston Village. Running down the right-hand lanes on both sides of Brighton Avenue are bike-priority icons, known as “sharrows” in cyclist parlance, hugged by two sets of dashed lines along either side that make the lane look more like an airport runway.

My first thought: Sharrows on steroids!

And Boston bike czar Nicole Freedman said that’s exactly what they are. (Well, except that the former Olympic cyclist wasn’t too happy about the doping analogy.) Officially, the markings have a more dignified name: Priority shared-lane markings.

That story in the Globe was sort of fascinating to me for a few reasons; mostly having to do with “Boston bike czar” Nicole Freedman (not sure why, but she’s often given that title). I couldn’t help but notice the irony of how a new and improved sharrow marking — a marking that has many detractors for its appeal to the “strong and fearless” while doing nothing for the “8-80″ crowd American cities must do a better job attracting — is being pioneered by someone with an Olympic cycling pedigree. That seems fitting in a country where we still haven’t been able to shed our performance-oriented mindset to urban cycling.

Another thing that stood out to me about this story is the rationale Freedman gave for her experimentation with this new type of sharrow marking:

“We could not remove a lane to put in a bike lane, and we could not remove parking — that’s a fact,” Freedman said. “We said, this is such an important part of the network — can we do better than standard sharrows?”

Maybe it’s just me; but I was disappointed to see this statement coming from the “bike czar” of a silver-rated bicycle-friendly city. It’s very telling about the state of cycling in America that a major city bike planner is unable to challenge the auto-dominated infrastructure status quo — even on a street that is “an important part of the network.”

According to the 2009 research by Peter Furth (PDF) that these new markings are partly based on, these sharrows can “help provide the ‘feel’ of a bike lane — even if there’s no room for one.”

Seems to me there’s plenty of room for a real cycle path, it’s just that no one is willing to use it.

Freedman’s acceptance of cycling infrastructure as an afterthought is something echoed here in Portland. When PBOT approaches street projects that include a major bicycle infrastructure component, it’s often made clear at the outset of the planning process that removing auto parking will be “a big lift” or a “significant trade-off for businesses” or worse yet, that it’s not even an option.

When I first learned about sharrows in 2005 (Portland was one of the first cities to use them), they seemed like a great way to create the perception of bike space on streets without bike lanes. But that was eight years ago! Isn’t it time we move beyond paint and perceptions and into creating streets where people on bicycles can expect the same level of comfort and access that we give to people’s cars? We get what we design for.

Sharrows are controversial because there’s a growing number of Americans who are no longer satisfied with the lack of respectful bike infrastructure in our cities. They want something more robust, connected, and protected. “Super sharrows” are not going to move the needle of cycling participation in America. Worse yet, they’ll be lauded by city engineers, planners and advocates as incremental improvements (a.k.a. “progress”) which will only serve to dial back the sense of urgency so badly needed to push for real solutions.

Just like steroids, when used incorrectly, sharrows are a dangerous shortcut en route to a healthy system.

Thankfully here in Portland, our bike planners aren’t looking to expand our use of sharrows. This is partly because PBOT decided to use sharrows on our “family-friendly, low stress” neighborhood greenways as wayfinding devices. If PBOT now places the same sharrow markings on a busy street in between a door zone and a lane of 35 mph (or more) auto traffic, they’re worried people will have similar expectations.

At this point, Boston is only doing an experiment with the FHWA on these markings to see if they work and if they should be more widely adopted. We’ll let you know how it turns out.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear what you think.

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Comments
  • Eric November 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Well, what I like is that it seems to say “you are supposed to ride in the middle of the lane”

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  • Dave November 22, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    This is even less robust/noticeable than our dedicated full-lane bike lanes in downtown, and you’ve seen and shared how (not) well those work. I can’t see these lane markings making any appreciable difference in peoples’ driving behavior, except maybe to make them more confused, and therefore erratic. It’s another ‘solution’ that I can’t imagine anyone who has thought about it for more than 30 seconds actually believing it will work out well for people on bicycles – it’s a blatant cop-out.

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    • BURR November 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm

      It’s not a cop out at all if the sharrows are properly located in the center of the lane and the right-hand dashed line is outside the door zone.

      Besides, the more curb extensions and stormwater swales the city builds in the parking lanes of intermediate level arterial streets like SE Division, SE 12, SE Hawthorne and others, the less and less likely simple parking removal will be an option for installing a fully separated bike path.

      At that point, what other choice do you have but sharrows?

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    • Teri Solow November 22, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      I think anything that makes driving on streets with lots of people on bicycles less pleasant, thus diverting people in cars to use other roads, is a good thing!

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    • spare_wheel November 24, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      I’m not willing to wait another 10, 20, 30 years for a cycle track on Sandy. It should be noted that the incremental progress of bike lanes and bridge mup expansion helped facilitate the jump from ~3% to 6%. Maybe the calming, dieting, and super-sharrowing of arterials will help us make the jump to 12%.

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  • mh November 22, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    And “expect bikes here” is what I want sharrows to say on SE 11th and 12th. Several of us have requested them, and everything about those roads supports their use.

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    • spare_wheel November 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      These super sharrows look a lot like an advisory bike lane which is a facility that is used extensively in Europe. I guess “paint/stain on the road” is good enough for copenhagen but not good enough for Portlandia.

      There are literally thousands of cyclists clamoring for paint, signs, ANYTHING on upper SE Hawthorne, NE/SE 21st/20th, NE/SE 28th, Milwaukie/7th, NW 21st, NE Alberta, NE Mississippi, NE Ainsworth, N. Willamette etc. I think that instead of pining away for copenhagenize pipe dreams we should focus on improving routes currently used by *real* cyclists today. And, IMO, painting miles of these super sharrows on arterials seems like a damn good way to do this.

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      • Dave November 22, 2013 at 2:08 pm

        This goes back to the same point I was making in the other comment – in Europe in places that use a lane like this 1) there is a general consensus that people on bicycles are just people, on bicycles, in the road, like anyone else, not some weird group of extremists getting in everyone’s way 2) the law supports vulnerable road users in terms of financial liability, so people driving are much more likely to watch what they’re doing 3) there is a general notion of solidarity much more-so than in the U.S.

        This is why I say that we need to start at a more fundamental level, because if law, education, and cultural bent lean against people on bicycles, which they generally do in the U.S., paint will not be an effective safety tool.

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      • Dave November 22, 2013 at 2:44 pm

        If you look at Copenhagen and Amsterdam as opposed to Portland – In Copenhagen and Amstedam, well under 50% of households even own cars (and those numbers are even smaller in some smaller cities, especially in the NL), much less drive on a regular basis – in Portland, 85% of all trips are by car, and the vast majority of households own _at least_ one car.

        In the Netherlands and Denmark as a whole, people receive education on how to ride bicycles from an early age, and people learn the rules of how they are meant to interact in traffic, as all types of road users, from an early age. They are also impressed upon, from an early age, that there are consequences for failing to respect more vulnerable people in public space, regardless of your means of travel, and those consequences are followed through in practice regularly.

        The exact opposite of all those things is true of Portland.

        So, yes, paint may be a viable solution in Copenhagen or Amsterdam, in situations where it’s not in Portland, because of that fundamental underpinning that ACTUALLY gives people walking and on bicycles priority on roads more than just the paint.

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    • q`Tzal November 22, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      Or, more realistically, “expect bikes EVERYWHERE”.

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  • Dave November 22, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    It’s also stupid to call these priority lane markings, because it takes more than lines on the road to give bicycles priority. Our culture and our legal system gives cars priority, and has done for so long that everyone assumes that is that way things are. No amount of paint on the road is ever going to change that, because a person on a bicycle CANNOT assert their priority against a person in a car, if the person in the car does not want to give it to them. As is often repeated in comment sections on newspapers all over the U.S. – simple laws of physics dictate that the person in the car will ‘win’ every time.

    If you want to give bicycles priority, this is a meaningless way to do it.

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    • spare_wheel November 22, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      “No amount of paint on the road is ever going to change that, because a person on a bicycle CANNOT assert their priority against a person in a car, if the person in the car does not want to give it to them.”

      I assert my priority every ride without paying attention to the hypothetical “wants” of the person in the car.

      “As is often repeated in comment sections on newspapers all over the U.S. – simple laws of physics dictate that the person in the car will ‘win’ every time.”

      Those “simple laws of physics” comments are nothing more than veiled threats by internet trolls and it kind of sucks that you are repeating them.

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      • Bill Walters November 22, 2013 at 1:53 pm

        Amen. Let’s promote lawful society, not give in to “might makes right” warlord culture.

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      • Dave November 22, 2013 at 1:57 pm

        Those people you assert your priority upon are willing to give it to you, they just hesitate to do so unless you make the first move. If they weren’t willing to give it to you, you wouldn’t be alive right now, or you’d be in much worse shape than you are.

        I’m not threatening anyone, I’m just stating the simple truth.

        Most people driving do not want to see you come to harm, when it comes down to it, which is why they yield to you if you press the issue.

        But someone could just as easily not – and then what?

        What I’m saying here, is that we have to work from a much more basic level to reinforce the priority of vulnerable road users – just putting paint on the road doesn’t do any good if the people using the road view each other as a nuisance, a threat, out of place, etc.

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    • wsbob November 24, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      “…Officially, the markings have a more dignified name: Priority shared-lane markings. …” from Boston Globe story excerpted in this bikeportland story.

      Some people commenting to this comment section seem to automatically assume the suggestion from a statement such as that above, is that use of bikes on a main lane with sharrow markings, is granted priority of use of the lane, over that of motor vehicles.

      If Boston’s Nicole Freedman, or any Boston official has said anything to support such a notion, let’s hear about that. The word ‘sharrow’ appears as though it may have came from words ‘share’+ ‘row’, or ‘road’. If so, the operative word, would be ‘share’…not ‘priority’. Sharrow designated lanes do nothing more than emphasize to road users that the lane so designated is welcome to use with motor vehicles and bikes as well. People riding bikes have priority of use of bike lanes; people driving motor vehicles, for the most part, aren’t even permitted to use bike lanes, let alone have priority in them.

      From you comment just below:

      “…Those people you assert your priority upon are willing to give it to you, they just hesitate to do so unless you make the first move. …”

      The first move, made in a responsible, considerate manner, I’d hope.

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      • 9watts November 24, 2013 at 6:07 pm

        http://www.waywordradio.org/sharrow/
        sharrow n. an arrow-like design painted on a roadway to mark a bicycling route. Etymological Note: Sha(r)ed-use + arrow (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)

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        • wsbob November 25, 2013 at 12:09 am

          9watts…nice work coming up with a definition of a word regularly passed around on bikeportland. I’ve wondered how well understood amongst bikeportland readers, is the definition and origin of the word ‘sharrow’. Wikipedia’s page on the word has more info:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_lane_marking

          Says about the word: “…The name sharrow was coined by Oliver Gajda, of the City and County of San Francisco Bicycle Program, and is a portmanteau of share and arrow. …” wikipedia/Shared lane marking

          In the history section of the page is an interesting claim about the evolutionary origin of the sharrow symbol, and why it came to be.

          For anyone here interested, the fancy sounding word, ‘portmanteau’, according to a definition provided by WordWeb, means: “…A new word formed by joining two others and combining their meanings. …”.

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  • AndyC of Linnton November 22, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    So my expectations with the sharrows on the St. John’s bridge is that the environment should be like a neighborhood greenway? Hm.
    I don’t really like sharrows too much. Maybe they do add a little visibility, but more often it just seems like an excuse to not put in real infrastructure.

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  • wsbob November 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Neither sharrows or super-sharrows impress me much. Exactly what that’s worthwhile they’re supposed to accomplish, and are capable of accomplishing that’s good, that people don’t already know, never seems to be clearly stated.

    Maybe they mean that if someone chooses to plod along in a main lane-sharrow at 5mph, creating an obstacle for surrounding traffic that’s traveling 15mph and faster…that’s o.k. . Installing them and maintaining them seems like a waste of people’s labor and money. Wider bike lanes instead would be better than sharrows…as would at least, to start with, a number of strategically located cycle tracks throughout cities.

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  • Charlie November 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    As a Boston-based transportation advocate, I completely agree with your assessment of this situation. It really comes down to a political decision to not sacrifice auto-space for dedicated bicycle space. Personally, I think a travel lane should have been sacrificed to make room for at minimum a standard bike lane. (Cycle tracks would have been even better.) In terms of on-street parking, this is a very busy area with many businesses that are busy throughout the day and night. Better curb-side management is needed (there used to be meters, but they were ripped out in the ’90s at the request of misguided business owners), but even with better parking management the need for on-street parking (and loading/drop-off) is very much needed here.

    Boston has come a long way but there is still a long way to go. Just a few years ago, we had essentially no bike lanes and every excuse in the book as to why we can’t have them. Now we have a growing bike lane and sharrow network. Sharrows are being used more often that many bicyclists and advocates would really like, mainly in the name of not screwing up traffic. At some point, those difficult decisions will have to be revisited. By that point, I think we’ll have a lot more bicyclists out there and a lot more people supporting the politically difficult decision to reduce traffic capacity in the name of bike safety where current traffic volumes are high. We’re not there yet, but I’m confident we’ll get there.

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  • Todd Hudson November 22, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    “I was disappointed to see this statement coming from the “bike czar” of a silver-rated bicycle-friendly city.”

    Having lived in Boston for several years, I know her statement reflects the realities of streets there. They are mostly very narrow (so narrow that it’s common that even two-way streets will only accommodate one direction at at time). Driveways are much less common. In neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain and Allston, car parking is already so hard-pressed, it’s common to have to park a few blocks from home. Last, streets are not layed out in grids, so you can’t create bike lanes and simply displace traffic.

    Brighton Ave/N Beacon St is miles of dense apartments and businesses. And the traffic there is already ludicrous at any given time. There’s no way in hell you could ever have an exlusive cyclepath here.

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  • Pete November 22, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Easy to criticize when you live in a city where law dictates a given budget to bicycling infrastructure, and you have a high enough population defending (even asking for) the removal of auto parking and lanes. While I agree that sharrows do little for the ’8-80′ crowd, they are definitely useful for critical connectors where challenges to infrastructure change exist (the recent mention of the Murray/Farmington sidepath comes to mind). I suspect Nicole had to jump hoops to get something this ‘radical’ implemented.

    Why not have both? You will not get separated, dedicated, Copenhagen-level cycling infrastructure overnight; grants and budgets take time and force incremental improvement. Meanwhile, existing sharrows that are improperly placed (too far to the right) tend to be worn by cars and need replacement – and they don’t reinforce the notion that cyclists have a right to the full lane. I’d vote for this treatment. The paint costs over a non-centered undashed sharrow treatment are likely minimal (i.e. attainable within a budget cycle), and we’ve learned where I live that paint treatments are far more effective than signage (i.e. STR, BMUFL).

    Believe me, I’m sympathetic with the goal of increasing bicycle mode-share for all – been working on our BAC for years. Meanwhile, I do indeed fit in the ‘strong and fearless’ category (for now), and we’re not as big a minority of the ‘community’ as you think. A challenge I’ve had with our city and county planning is that budgets we get allocated for separated bike/ped paths tend to undermine safe infrastructure for the ‘strong’ commuter – the result is a combination of fast riders mixing with dog-walking/phone-talking pedestrians on narrow enclosed paths, and minimal budget to maintain safe shoulders and intersections on roadways very popular with both recreational and commuting cyclists.

    So which to do? Spend the bigger money on “build it and they will come” lane and thoroughfare conversions, or continue to make hokey incremental changes to existing treatments such as this? Ideally both, of course, but I wouldn’t bet on radical changes in government budgeting and process enabling much of either any time soon.

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  • Charley November 22, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    I think these are an improvement on sharrows. I think that the marking can increase the number of riders. Maybe it is true that the increase will be among strong and fearless riders, but, if there’s one important lesson we’ve learned, it’s that increasing the number of riders increases the number of riders. To put it in a non-tautological way: increasing ridership on these marginal roads makes cycling seem like a better option, even among those who will only ride on the roads with better facilities. I think we need all kinds of solutions for all kinds of roads and all kinds of riders. This solution does have a place.
    -
    Imagine the benefit of placing this kind of marking on Skyline! The road caters to strong and fearless types already. Sharrows of this type could make it clearer to passing motor vehicles that they should pull over to pass, rather than squeezing into the same lane. It would make Skyline safer, and would encourage more people to ride up there. In the absence of a large road-widening project (imagine the budget for that!), super sharrows could easily make that part of Portland’s road network somewhat safer and MUCH more inviting for riders. So why not?

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  • Carl November 22, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Here’s another layer of concern: who knows what all these stripes and symbols mean?

    I saw a picture the other day of a standard travel lane in another city which had a huge green stripe and sharrows down the middle of it. The difference between that and Portland’s Stark and Oak lanes? Because the symbols are “sharrows” they have chevrons above the bike symbol and the lane striping is dashed, not solid. One allows cars (sharrows) the other (Stark/Oak) is bike-only but the difference is WAY too subtle.

    I predict that if we start using these “enhanced sharrows,” driving in bike lanes will no longer be restricted to cars with Washington plates. EVERYONE will be confused.

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    • 9watts November 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm

      This is also my concern. Why is everyone seemingly inventing their own flavors of these markings? What is gained by so many variants, treatments, colors?

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      • Pete November 23, 2013 at 3:21 pm

        Experience = knowledge. Because of Portland we now have bike boxes in Santa Clara. Because of Boston our next round of sharrow replacements will likely look like this (I had already photographed them when I was there last month, ran it by our city engineer who really likes it, and it’ll come up for review in our next BAC meeting).

        The three of us agree, but my point is that these changes are really coming at the ‘grassroots’ level – i.e. city- and county-level BPACs working with City Engineers and Council members to push for what they can agree upon making sense and implementing. MUTCD standards (http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/kno-history.htm) are about the only thing staff has for guidance otherwise, and they are on the lagging edge of this curve; the benefactor of these efforts, not the driver.

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  • Humongous Ed November 22, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Hmm, i actually like this a lot. Seems way better than a skinny bike lane right in the door zone, which is the most likely alternative. Its a nice reminder that bikes in traffic need space, too.

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  • Todd Boulanger November 22, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Actually Berkeley was the originator of ‘super [sized] sharrows’. If this community and others find themselves in a similar situation…

    I have long suggested that there needs to be a hybrid sharrow solution on similar 2 lane [in one direction] arterials as an interim measure: to add frequently speed cushions in the outside lane to reduce the speed differential between bikes and motorized vehicles so that it can function safer as a shared lane. Additionally the speed cushions would for the most part reduce traffic volumes in the outside lane under low volume higher speed scenarios, just the operating environment where cyclists struggle to use sharrows on most arterials.

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    • Pete November 24, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      By “outside” do you mean the right-most travel lane? Just making sure I’m envisioning your proposal correctly.

      Here are new ones in Oakland: https://www.ebbc.org/supersharrows

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  • BURR November 22, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Jonathan, I fail to see why you are so opposed to sharrows; they may not fully meet the needs of the ’8 to 80′ crowd but they certainly meet the needs of a vast number of the ’18 to 68′ cyclists. Not offering them up, at least as an interim solution is, IMO, an act of negligence on the part of PBOT, and one which unfortunately probably won’t change until Rob Burchfield – the City’s Chief Traffic Engineer – either retires or leaves the city.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 22, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      Thanks for the question BURR,

      I do see that sharrows have their place, but I’m increasingly skeptical about their use…. especially as the case for cycling continues to get stronger. And I think the whole idea of “interim solution” is a cop-out because I’ve never seen — at least in Portland — something done as an “interim solution” that was then updated/improved on as promised. If there is an example of this, please let me know.

      Instead, I worry that sharrows will be sold as “interim solutions” that will result in PBOT/advocates resting a bit when I believe there should be greater urgency for real solutions that significantly move the needle.

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      • BURR November 22, 2013 at 3:25 pm

        Well, sharrows are certainly an upgrade from nothing, with few of the drawbacks of door zone bike lanes or bike lanes to the right side of right-turning motorists; lately we’ve actually seen the city/county degrade rather than upgrade several facilities, e.g. the east bound Hawthorne viaduct.

        And do you have an answer as to where you would expect the separated bike paths to go on streets with narrow rights of way like E 28th or SE Division once the parking lanes are also utilized for bike corrals, curb extensions and stormwater facilities?

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      • Pete November 23, 2013 at 3:10 pm

        Make sense, but it seems to me like you’re asking for revolution in a situation where evolution is difficult enough. As I mentioned, we need to push for both, and Murray at Farmington sidepath in the Beav is an example where this treatment would do well. The city and county can do nothing to widen to road there (unless St. Mary’s deeds them the land, which they won’t), so cyclists riding on the sidepath are subject to ORS 814.410, and cyclists choosing to take the lane there (like I used to) are subject to very hazardous conditions created by the traffic density, narrow width, and general misconception by drivers that they’re supposed to be on the sidewalk instead.

        Here’s another place I ride daily (and am honked at frequently, despite the signage) where I’ll now work to have this treatment done – the same ‘land deed’ situation exists here: http://goo.gl/maps/uN0nU

        (BTW another mile down this road is where Apple’s huge new campus is going in, and the traffic density as a result here in Silicon Valley will continue to fuel the ~30% annual increase in bike commuting we’ve seen since I moved here in 2008).

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  • Teri Solow November 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    I really like this idea. It lets those people in cars who don’t think bikes belong in the street know that they do, and it lets people who are inexperienced or unskilled on bicycles know the proper cycling position more than traditional sharrows.

    I’ve seen many people on bikes riding on roads with sharrows weaving in and out between parked cars in an effort to keep as far to the right as possible- super sharrows would make it more clear that this is not the preferred practice.

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    • wsbob November 22, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      “…I’ve seen many people on bikes riding on roads with sharrows weaving in and out between parked cars in an effort to keep as far to the right as possible…” Teri Solow

      The ride line of travel you’re describing here isn’t exactly clear, but actually, where long stretches of the curb parking area aren’t occupied by parked cars, riding close to left side of it, can be safe, and works well temporarily, to allow faster traffic to more easily and safely pass.

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  • John Liu November 22, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    In the long run, for every square foot of Portland to be readily and safely accessible by bicycle for the “8 to 80″ population, it cannot all be done with infrastructure. There isn’t the money or space to build elevated separated green- painted cycletrackrouteways on every street in the city and environs.

    We will need driver behavior to change.

    Drivers need to be trained to slow down and make room for a bicycle in the lanes, just as they would for another car that is moving at 15 mph.

    This will be a long education process. A generation. It will need changes in drivers’ ed, marketing campaigns, sheer numbers of bikes on the road, enforcement and penalties, and lots of clear signage and road markings.

    I think there is certainly a role for super sharrows in that effort.

    Not as a cheap easy replacement for a dedicated bike lane or, in some cases, a cycletrack. But as a clear “this is how to behave” message for other streets.

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    • wsbob November 22, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      “…We will need driver behavior to change. …” John Liu

      Lots of people out there biking too, whose behavior needs to change, or knowledge of biking needs to be improved. If more people biking, better understood the range that their rights and responsibilities to use of the road covered, given the characteristics of their mode of transport compared to motor vehicles, these redundant sharrow contrivances likely wouldn’t be needed.

      Behavior changed and knowledge of biking improved, people would likely use better discretion in deciding when it was, or wasn’t safe to ride in the door zone. They’d be better equipped to evaluate whether their personal ability to handle road and traffic conditions at hand, allowed the road the road they were on to be suitable for their travel, or whether they should choose an alternative route if one was available…ASAP.

      I appreciated reading about what “Boston bike czar” Nicole Freedman said she thought about that prompted her to install the super-sharrows in her city. Thinking about it more, and some of the comments posted here, I suppose I understand that sharrows and super-sharrows can serve as a kind of useful educational thing to road users. Nothing really wrong with that if road use education can be one of the accomplishments of sharrows. If though, use of sharrow markings were somehow to become obligatory to convey the message that bikes have a right to use of the street, that to me would seem counterproductive.

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      • 9watts November 22, 2013 at 5:30 pm

        “Lots of people out there biking too, whose behavior needs to change, or knowledge of biking needs to be improved.”

        Does Bob Huckaby live on the west side?

        Bike infrastructure is an attempt to carve out and identify spaces where people biking can feel marginally less threatened by people in cars. I am not seeing how your concern about knowledge and behavior by those biking pertains to this.

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        • wsbob November 22, 2013 at 9:07 pm

          “…”Lots of people out there biking too, whose behavior needs to change, or knowledge of biking needs to be improved.” wsbob

          “…Bike infrastructure is an attempt to carve out and identify spaces where people biking can feel marginally less threatened by people in cars. I am not seeing how your concern about knowledge and behavior by those biking pertains to this. …” 9watts

          Instead of trying to be a smart-Alec, but winding up simply rude, you could put your effort instead into reading again, what I’ve written. What I’ve written is clear enough to understand. If you don’t agree with the idea expressed…that’s fine.

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          • 9watts November 23, 2013 at 8:48 am

            “If more people biking, better understood the range that their rights and responsibilities to use of the road covered, given the characteristics of their mode of transport compared to motor vehicles, these redundant sharrow contrivances likely wouldn’t be needed.”

            You appear to think of these sharrows as communicating chiefly to people on bikes, whereas a bunch of commenters instead suggest these sharrows are (also) communicating something important to those driving around in cars: people on bikes belong here, should be expected here, have as much right as you to be here.

            To the extent that this latter message is part of the sharrow-painting rationale, then the knowledge and behavior of those biking seems less material to the conversation.
            I didn’t mean to be rude; I was just trying to hold you to a standard to which you hold others here.

            Recommended Thumb up 3

            • wsbob November 23, 2013 at 3:12 pm

              “…You appear to think of these sharrows as communicating chiefly to people on bikes, …”9watt

              Sorry you’ve come to that impression. Perhaps it’s due to your not having attentively read what I’ve written. If you read this comment: http://bikeportland.org/2013/11/22/opinion-american-bike-infrastructure-on-steroids-97555#comment-4479812

              …you will find I wrote the following:

              “…Thinking about it more, and some of the comments posted here, I suppose I understand that sharrows and super-sharrows can serve as a kind of useful educational thing to road users. …”.

              Key word: ‘road users’, which I think, includes people using bikes to travel the road, and people driving motor vehicles as well.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Terry D November 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Sharrows on neighborhood greenways I see as an interem step in order to get the population used to bicycle prioirtized residnetial streets. Long term,this should be done will full traffic calming and signs. Probably directional sharrows at intersections.

    In bottle necks or priority routes with multiple lanes this aggressive sharrow may have some merit. For those who ride into downtown via Sandy/Couch to the Burnside bridge, do you think having these in the outer travel lane be a major safety improvement or would it make a dangerous street worse?

    If yes, Sandy may be the place to try them as part of the High Crash corridor safety project.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • spare_wheel November 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      most definitely. in fact we need this kind of facility, on many of the arterials that are slated for a cycletrack in 10-50 years. it’s time to realize that roger geller’s wait and wait and wait and wait until we have the will/money for “world class” is holding us back. even letting motorists know that cyclists have a right to use the full lane on direct routes is huge progress. and while it won’t help the 8/80 vision convincing more cyclists to commute to work will.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • dwainedibbly November 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    These would be great if the dashed lines also had bollards on them.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • gutterbunnybikes November 22, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Personally I like them, and honestly I agree with both sides, They aren’t for the 8-80 (yet), they are for the dedicated riders which most of us are that don’t mind taking a lane. And I’m more than happy with that. My only complaint with them is that they don’t technically take up the entire inside lane. This way we could use our legal right to ride side by side as well, (granted I might be nit picking on this point it does take up most the lane.)

    Because the point that is being missed, is that with our current sharrow system, even those of us that are confiedent in the lanes often opt for sharrows, because often it is a push on time. I prefer stop signs over traffic lights, and even bad sharrows are safer than a many of the streets I don’t mind taking a lane in. And in a few cases I take them because streets like Powell, 82nd, or SE Foster east of 80th are just asking for it (though usually I just hit the side walks on them).

    Having experienced and confident riders off the main streets where the general population doesn’t see them doesn’t help the imiage of cycling as a viable means of transportation. Those on the fence might take a look at a map and decide not to since they’d have to ride an extra 1/2 – 1 mile to get to thier destination by bike rather than car. However with the majority of better urban cyclists on the streets it would provide insperation for those that are teetering on the decision.

    Given enough riders even with little improvements they could very well become a path for the 8-80, it only takes one or two bikes per couple blocks to slow traffic to bike speed in that lane with this arangement.

    Putting more bikes (reguadless of the silly titles of thier ride style) on the main streets in stead of the side roads will expose more people to cycling and as a result will increase ridership, and likely more respect from motorists as they see that there alot more of us than they thought their were.

    After all nothing makes cycling safer than numbers, and more exposure on the main streets will bring more cyclists – not packing us away 5 blocks off the main drags where no one but joggers and dog walkers watch us pass by.

    Personally, I like this alot for the 20′s highway through the commercial districts as well (i-84 crossing to Stark, and Clinton), businesses get to keep the parking, no multi block detours. it’s about the perfect solution, a little paint and a lower speed limit is all that is needed.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Ted Buehler November 23, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Marsha and I led an “MUTCD compliant sharrow ride at Pedalpalooza. We cruised all the busy streets in Portland with sharrows, where the sharrows were useful in instructing cars and bikes that bikes can take the lane.

    We found 100% compliance with cars giving us the whole lane, no muss, no fuss.

    Streets included:
    * NW 18th and NW 19th, near Davis
    * St Johns Bridge
    * SW Stark between 1st and Naito
    * SE Clay between Water and 12th
    * NE Multnomah between 2nd and 9th (rt turn lanes)
    * NE Holliday between Rose Quarter and Lloyd Dist
    * NE 12th on the I-84 overpass.

    My opinion is that PBOT’s use of sharrows as neighborhood greenway way finding devices has not precluded their use as “take the lane” markers on bust streets.

    This is because drivers don’t differentiate between sharrows on quiet streets and sharrows on busy streets. They gracefully let bikes take the lane in either case.

    In fact, the use of sharrows throughout the city on quiet streets has even enhanced the effectiveness of such use on busy streets. Sharrows are commonplace, drivers universally recognize them, and drivers correctly interpret their meaning.

    Ted Buehler

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • Ted Buehler November 23, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      We also put in a request to safe@portlandoregon.gov for sharrows in the right lanes of SE 11th and 12th from Ankeny to Division.

      If you agree with this, you can increase the likelihood of it happening by sending in a duplicate request to safe@portlandoregon.gov. Something like “could you put in sharrows in the right lanes of SE 11th and 12th from Ankeny to Division?” With additional supporting text if you’d like.

      Ted Buehler.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • peter michaelson November 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    “”significant trade-off for businesses”

    I’ve noticed that the word ‘businesses’ is often used in place of ‘retailers’ or ‘retail businesses’.

    Retail is just a segment of business in our City. Because retail commerce is more dependent on customers coming and going (parking), it tends to be an outsized voice in transportation discussion. But please, it’s just the retailers – other businesses have different needs and are more willing to surrender on-street parking to bikes.

    Let’s not give retailers more than their fair share of attention just because they yell louder.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • JJJJ November 23, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    A few notes:

    Brookline, which is a mile away, installed them in 2009. Only in America is a “pilot” needed for something that has existing across a municipal line for 4 years.

    You can find them here: http://goo.gl/maps/aOZal

    The idea in Boston is to paint them green, so theyre more like the Long Beach sharrow lane.

    Yes, it’ s highly disappointing that she said removing parking is impossible.

    A little bit of history: That road, Brighton Ave, used to be home to the “A line” a streetcar that broke off from the B line.

    It was “temporarily closed” due to a shortage of vehicles, and then permanently abandoned because business interests claims it got in the way (of their cars).

    Note: The avenue has/had many car dealerships.

    So if these business people managed to shut down a popular streetcar lines, yeah, theyd shut down a bike lane. Today that road carries the 5th most popular bus line in the city.

    The abandoned streetcar tracks can be seen here. The green bike lane on the right terminates where the new sharrows begin
    http://goo.gl/maps/uaITg

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Puddlecyle...get involved! November 23, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Ted Buehler
    We also put in a request to safe@portlandoregon.gov for sharrows in the right lanes of SE 11th and 12th from Ankeny to Division.
    If you agree with this, you can increase the likelihood of it happening by sending in a duplicate request to safe@portlandoregon.gov. Something like “could you put in sharrows in the right lanes of SE 11th and 12th from Ankeny to Division?” With additional supporting text if you’d like.
    Ted Buehler.
    Recommended 0

    Done! I like this idea – currently you have to really book it on these streets and watch your tail. Would be sweet if these two avenues were friendlier options. I only use them if traffic’s dead – otherwise I stick to 16th.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • JJJJ November 23, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Id also like to add that I support sharrows, because too many idiots behind the wheel still subscribe to “you should bike on the sidewalk!”

    Sharrows are an obvious way to say “youre wrong”.

    Obviously, a written exam for a license renewal every 4 years would be better….

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Puddlecyle...get involved! November 23, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    gutterbunnybikes
    Personally I like them, and honestly I agree with both sides, They aren’t for the 8-80 (yet), they are for the dedicated riders which most of us are that don’t mind taking a lane. And I’m more than happy with that. My only complaint with them is that they don’t technically take up the entire inside lane. This way we could use our legal right to ride side by side as well, (granted I might be nit picking on this point it does take up most the lane.)
    Because the point that is being missed, is that with our current sharrow system, even those of us that are confiedent in the lanes often opt for sharrows, because often it is a push on time. I prefer stop signs over traffic lights, and even bad sharrows are safer than a many of the streets I don’t mind taking a lane in. And in a few cases I take them because streets like Powell, 82nd, or SE Foster east of 80th are just asking for it (though usually I just hit the side walks on them).
    Having experienced and confident riders off the main streets where the general population doesn’t see them doesn’t help the imiage of cycling as a viable means of transportation. Those on the fence might take a look at a map and decide not to since they’d have to ride an extra 1/2 – 1 mile to get to thier destination by bike rather than car. However with the majority of better urban cyclists on the streets it would provide insperation for those that are teetering on the decision.
    Given enough riders even with little improvements they could very well become a path for the 8-80, it only takes one or two bikes per couple blocks to slow traffic to bike speed in that lane with this arangement.
    Putting more bikes (reguadless of the silly titles of thier ride style) on the main streets in stead of the side roads will expose more people to cycling and as a result will increase ridership, and likely more respect from motorists as they see that there alot more of us than they thought their were.
    After all nothing makes cycling safer than numbers, and more exposure on the main streets will bring more cyclists – not packing us away 5 blocks off the main drags where no one but joggers and dog walkers watch us pass by.
    Personally, I like this alot for the 20′s highway through the commercial districts as well (i-84 crossing to Stark, and Clinton), businesses get to keep the parking, no multi block detours. it’s about the perfect solution, a little paint and a lower speed limit is all that is needed.
    Recommended 2

    Not a critical mass, but a Cordial Moss: “Every Friday at 5pm, at 30-second intervals, each pair of riders sets out. Start at Los Gorditos, ride 12th to Ankeny, loop back down 11th, eat lots of burritos.”

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Opus the Poet November 26, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      Eat lots of burritos before or after the ride? I can see arguments for either one…

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • GlowBoy November 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I don’t think sharrows are a substitute for bike lanes, cyclepaths and other more-friendly infrastructure, but they do make sense in places where better facilities aren’t really viable (such as Sandy, Hawthorne, SE 11th/12th, St. Johns Bridge, as mentioned above).

    Especially on busy 4-lane arterials like the ones I just mentioned, they communicate that Bikes Belong and drivers just need to deal with it. It’s sad that we have to remind drivers that bikes are legal everywhere, but my experience is that sharrows really do cause drivers to be less impatient around cyclists. I’m REALLY anxious to see these on 11th and 12th, which now see a fair number of cyclists but are definitely less friendly than they’d be with sharrows.

    And I really like this, as sharrows go. The virtual bike lane striping encourages cyclists to Take The Lane, and communicates clearly to drivers that it’s legal and expected.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • mikeybikey November 25, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I don’t agree with this repeated sentiment that sharrows are an OK substitute or reasonable incremental step when there just isn’t room for other facilities. Its not missing paint that prevents injury and death and its not a bigger sharrow that prevents people from riding a bike. No room for a bike lane or separate path? Fine. Calm the street, lower the speed limit and make it shared space. The apologetics for a transportation legacy that has brought us an annual death toll of over 35,000 and has enshrined the murder of children is inexcusable.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • BURR November 25, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      In other words no bike facility at all on which you would have to interact with motorists at any point is really safe, whether it be bike lanes, sharrows or separated paths, and motorist re-education is really the biggest issue to ensure any level of safe coexistence between cyclists and motorists.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • Opus the Poet November 26, 2013 at 4:06 pm

        can we has motorist re-education camps? hit a pedestrian or cyclist and spend 6 months in a tent without a car while you learn to live without a car and how to interact with the non-motored when you “get out”.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

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