Why It Should Be Raining Sharrows

Every day I browse dozens of online newspapers looking for articles about urban cycling and bicycle infrastructure to post on my Twitter account. Generally about once a week I come across one complaining that motorists–and often cyclists–are “confused” by sharrows. Generally this involves proposed or brand-new installations.

A couple of weeks back, at a dreary meeting in Beverly Hills, I again heard Parking and Transportation committee members worry at great length that their constituents–and they themselves–might also be “confused” by sharrows. In fact, their expressions resembled that of a horse that smells a mountain lion somewhere nearby–eyes wide, nostrils flaring, limbs a-tremble. How can the City of Beverly Hills possibly contend with this?

Yet often, before or after pedaling through the car-crammed avenues of that nervous little village, I go to the City of Santa Monica, where it has been raining sharrows for two years now.

Oddly enough, no one seems to have a problem figuring them out! The streets are lively with cyclists of all sorts, most of them everyday riders heading to Downtown SaMo or the city’s Main Street to shop or dine–which they do in great numbers, filling SaMo’s cash registers with the money that Beverly Hills moans is simply not coming into the Golden Triangle or the South Beverly shopping street, no matter how many money-losing supersubsidized parking structures they put up. (A few more are in the works.)

Sharrow in Culver City
Even Culver City has sharrows….

Nearer home, I ride on the 4th Street or Fountain Avenue sharrows several times a week. Not only do those streets feel more comfortable than they did pre-sharrowing, they actually are–LADOT, who gets so much wrong, got the procedure on those pilot programs right, and did before and after tests that showed drivers giving cyclists more room when passing them on sharrowed streets.

And golly gee, motorists still drive there too. No one has pried their cold dead fingers from the steering wheel.

In other words, Beverly Hills is surrounded by cities where sharrows have been installed and are working as advertised. Cities where BH residents drive all the time.

The only problem with sharrows is that there aren’t enough of them. And there is no reason that the stencils and paint shouldn’t be deployed to every street in every city. No need for outreach or an EIR, either. Because sharrows don’t change anything–except awareness. Sharrows simply reiterate laws regarding the right of cyclists to occupy the right-hand lane of any street, boulevard, avenue, or road, and most highways. Laws that have been in effect for over eighty years. Laws which motorists either ignore or wilfully flout by crowding and harassing cyclists on the road.

Maybe Beverly Hills wants to maintain itself as a preserve for scofflaw drivers, and tell its Range Rover pilots that it’s okay to be arrogant and hog the roads they haven’t even paid for.

Well, you can lead a horse, or any portion thereof, to water, but….

So let Beverly Hills be the secure homeland of intractable traffic jams if it insists, for now. But let it rain sharrows everywhere else! Especially in LA.

We shouldn’t need them, but we shouldn’t need cops or courts or door locks either. People are self-centered, and sharrows remind them…well…to share. As they should out of common decency–and as the law requires.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted May 23, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    We have sharrows on one section of Reseda. On a recent ride, I was riding exactly on top of the sharrows and got pulled over for “not being far enough to the right.” I didn’t get a ticket (boy I would have fought that!!!) and totally complained about the whole thing, but when I was talking to the West Valley Sergeant, he stopped me when I said sharrows and asked, “What’s a sharrow?” I explained that they are the bike symbol with the chevrons on top. Apparently, west valley cops have since got training on this, but I wonder how many other cyclists have been pulled over for riding on the sharrows?

  2. grrlyrida
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m not impressed with sharrows and don’t find the streets safer with them. My prime example is Fountain. Drivers don’t respect the sharrows and many drivers appear not to know what they mean. The street is the same high speed dangerous route with or with out them. I get aggressive honks everyday that I try to follow the chevrons.

    I don’t think sharrows will make Charleville or any street in Beverly Hills any safer or comfortable.

  3. El Barto
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    All sharrowed roads should be accompanied by the “bikes allowed full use of lane” signs.

  4. John
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the addition of “bikes allowed full use of lane” signage, there should be more of them and they really should replace every “Share the Road” sign with those. As far as sharrows they are great but really they should prioritize streets where they are actually needed, not streets like Charleyville that already have calmed traffic due to the many stop signs. I’m thinking of Burton, Olympic, Beverly Blvd., Beverly Drive: actually useful streets where a cyclist must take a lane.

  5. Jim Cooper
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    How did we become a nation of “confused” constituents? And, why do we care so much about perpetually confused people anyway? Are the constituents really confused, or are the people they put into power confused? What happened to figuring things out when you are confused about something? Are sharrows so baffiling that they are beyond human comprehension?

    So many questions – so few answers.

    Anyway, have fun, Coop

2 Trackbacks

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  2. […] it’s as safe for a cyclist as adding a bike lane. There’s been some debate on whether sharrows are beneficial or just a quick fix for a more complex problem. I’m pretty sure that white car had no idea […]

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