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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