What are “Sharrows”?
“Sharrows” are a shorthand term for “Shared Lane Marking“. Shared Lane Markings are also referred to be the acronym “SLM”. Update: LADOT has submitted the results of their year-long Sharrows study to SCAG and the Mayor’s Office. Read it here.
Sharrows were added to the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (CA MUTCD) in 2005 after a successful pilot project conducted in the City of San Francisco in 2004. Sharrows were also successfully added to the Federal Highway Administration Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (FHWA MUTCD) in 2009.
According the CA MUTCD, SLM are meant to:
- Reduce the chance of bicyclists impacting open doors of parked vehicles on a shared roadway with on-street parallel parking.
- Alert road users within a narrow traveled way of the lateral location where bicyclists ride.
- Encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists
- Reduce the incidence of wrong-way bicycling
The guidelines for placement in California are:
- Sharrows shall not be used on shoulders or in designated bicycle lanes.
- Sharrows must be placed at least 11 feet (3.3 meters) from the curb. This is only a minimum, and Sharrows may be placed farther out into the street
- Sharrows may only be placed on a street with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. (The exception being, where there is bicycle travel and there is no marked bicycle lane or shared-use path and the right-hand traffic lane is too narrow to allow automobiles to safely pass bicyclists).
- Sharrows must be placed immediately after an intersection.
- Sharrows may be placed at intervals of, at most, 250 feet.
- Sharrows installed on a street without on-street parking that has an outside travel lane that is less than 14 feet wide, must place the center of the Sharrow 4 feet from the face of the curb or from the edge of the pavement where there is no curb.
LA’s Test Sharrows
The LADOT Bike Program Test Sharrows study is researching how drivers respond to bicyclists traveling outside of the doorzone with and without Sharrows. 6 pilot sites were chosen due to their unique street configurations.
The results are in, and Sharrows are good. Sharrows are recommended for two-lane streets with low posted speed limits all over LA. This, and many other recommendations, are contained within the report. This report is also the most in-depth study of the effect of Sharrows in the nation. Read it for yourself.
Not all Sharrows are Created Equal
Some Sharrows are different than others. The Sharrows in Long Beach, for instance, are centered in the traffic lane and have a painted green travel lane which surrounds the Sharrow. These Sharrows are being tested outside of the the guidelines established by the CA MUTCD and are not standard in California. In order to install them, Long Beach first gained approval for a Federal Highway Administration Pilot Project through the National Committee for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD). Under the pilot project, the federal government assumes some legal liability for the Sharrows, freeing the city to test beyond the guidelines of the CA MUTCD.
Sharrows in draft 2010 LA Bike Plan
The type of pilot projects that brought green lane Sharrows to Long Beach are part of the expanded toolbox given to LADOT Bikeways in City Planning’s draft of the 2010 LA Bike Plan. In addition to the standard Sharrows that are already approved in the CA MUTCD, the Bike Plan also calls for pilot projects that are first approved through the NCUTCD and the California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC).