As city replaces ‘sharrow’ markings, it weighs paint against plastic

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
Sharrows on N. Concord-1

New sharrows on N. Concord in 2010.
(Photos by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Four years ago next month, a $1 million slice of the federal economic stimulus package started leaving its mark on Portland: 2,100 durable thermoplastic sharrow decals, intended to greatly increase the visibility of the city’s new neighborhood greenway network.

Now, as the city’s fog seal street maintenance efforts have been covering up sharrows, the city faces its first big decision about this bit of bike infrastructure: how to maintain them?

The good news is that the city is “committed to maintaining sharrows in good working order,” spokeswoman Diane Dulken said this week. “They could be thermoplastic, they could be paint, or they could be modified paint with extra beads for reflectivity.”

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City’s top idea for 28th Ave: Shared lane in one direction, buffer in the other

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

One shared lane and one buffered bike lane is probably the most bike-friendly option the city will accept between I-84 and Stark, Project Manager Rich Newlands said Tuesday.

An “optimal” facility with buffered bike lanes in both directions, but no auto parking on 28th Avenue through its busiest commercial district, probably isn’t in the cards for the 20s Bikeway, a city project manager said this week.

The most comfortable biking plan “achievable,” city project manager Rich Newlands said in a presentation Tuesday to Portland’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, is a design that hasn’t been seen before in Portland or almost anywhere else: a shared lane in one direction, marked by green-backed sharrow stencils, with a buffered bike lane in the other direction.

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Opinion: American bike infrastructure on steroids

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

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.

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In Vancouver, bike lovers celebrate restriping of an overbuilt arterial

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, center, joined
the crowd trying out a newly right-sized
MacArthur Boulevard Saturday.
(Photos: Dan Packard)

“Like it a lot.” “Love it!” “Feels a lot safer!” “Freakin’ FANTASTIC!”

These were some of the comments from people on a bike ride Saturday along the newly restriped, right-sized MacArthur Boulevard in Vancouver, Wash. After months of advocacy and activism, people who use bikes finally have a model transportation corridor along a portion of the major east/west bicycle route across the southern part of Vancouver.

Mayor Tim Leavitt was one of the approximately 35 people who joined the ride of the new buffered bike lanes. Speaking afterward, he said, “I’m very pleased with the outcome of all the public involvement and advocacy. This new configuration really improves connectivity and safety for everyone who uses the road. And this is just the beginning for this community and will be an example of a smart, safe transportation corridor.”

As part of a restriping project along MacArthur, the city had initially proposed sharrows as a way to appease both people concerned about a sub-standard shoulder for bikes and people who wanted to keep two lanes of auto traffic in each direction, even though the road is very lightly traveled.

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‘Fog seal’ treatment has covered up about 100 sharrows; but they’ll return

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

A “ghost sharrow” near SE 41st and Stark.
(Photo © M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Good news: Portland’s bike-friendly neighborhood greenways are getting high priority from Mayor Hales’s pledge for the city to invest more in preventative street maintenance.

Bad news: The new, relatively low-cost ‘fog seal’ treatment, a thin coating meant to stop pavement disintegration, also coats right over the sharrow markings that distinguish greenways.

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When should streets use sharrows, painted lanes and separation? (graphics)

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Where, exactly, do sharrows belong?
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Update: See below for a few other examples of graphics that try to answer this question.

There’s an interesting, useful bit of transportation wonkery in The Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s “Blueprint for World-Class Cycling” that came out this week: a visual guide to which sort of streets should get which sort of bike infrastructure.

This is obviously a complicated question, and it’s not something that’s ever going to be summarized by a single chart. But the question arises constantly. Last week, in a moment of heat, two Swan Island transportation advocates said the city would be better off without bike lanes near a crash-prone intersection of Interstate Avenue. Up in Vancouver, Wash., there’s a lively debate right now about whether sharrows are appropriate on a 35 mph four-lane street.

Here’s what the BTA’s new document has to say about the issue:

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Photos, first impressions of new sharrows on St Johns Bridge

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
sharrows on St Johns Bridge-9

ODOT installed 16 sharrows on the
St Johns Bridge Saturday.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

On Saturday night, the Oregon Department of Transportation installed sharrows and new signs on the St. Johns Bridge. Their “St. Johns Bridge Safety Awareness Project” was done in order to, “encourage motorists to be aware that the bridge and roadway is a shared facility and that bicyclists may opt to travel on the roadway.”

They have placed eight sharrows in each direction, as well as adding two new “Bicycles on Roadway” signs mid-span. They also moved an existing sign at the westbound entry to a more visible location because it was partially blocked by a speed sign.

I rolled out to see everything myself this morning. My impression is that, while it’s nice to see ODOT acknowledge the bike access problems on this bridge, these sharrows and signs do not make this a more pleasant place to ride. Then again, that was not ODOT’s mission. As the name of the project implies, the new markings and signs will only increase awareness that people have the legal right to ride bicycles on the bridge. That’s helpful, but it’s a far cry from what should be the ultimate goal — to make the bridge a more viable (and less stressful) option for people on bicycles.

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Sharrows and a biking mayor in coastal town of Newport

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

City crews installed sharrows on
6th Street in Newport this morning.
(Photo: Daniella Crowder)

The small coastal town of Newport, Oregon continues to show exciting signs of life for bicycling.

Reader Daniella Crowder (she’s also co-owner of the Bike Newport bike shop) tells us the City of Newport is installing sharrows this morning on 6th Street. Crowder says she thinks Newport is the first coastal community in Oregon to use sharrows.

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