Do sharrows keep bicyclists safer? 

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2020 | Bicycle Accidents |

Many bicyclists, as well as drivers in and around Los Angeles, have mixed feelings about sharrows. These road markings, which consist of two arrowhead-shaped lines (chevrons) with a cyclist underneath, denote lanes that can be used by both cyclists and those in vehicles.

Where are sharrows used?

Sharrows are most commonly seen in residential areas with speed limits of 35 miles per hour (mph) or less. Los Angeles has sharrows in some areas with a 40 mph speed limit

They’re used on popular bike routes where there’s no room for (or it’s not practical to have) a dedicated bike lane. They’re required to be 13 feet away from the curb so that they’re outside the “door zone” where cyclists too often suffer serious injuries. Sharrows are also intended to alert drivers that bicyclists may be sharing the road with them.

Why they’re becoming less popular

Sharrows may be easier to plan for than bike lanes. However, many city planners (and no doubt most cyclists) agree that sharrows are no substitute for bike lanes — certainly not when it comes to protecting the safety of cyclists. They’ve become less popular among planners than they have been over the past couple of decades, with dedicated bike lanes seeing a return.

The authors of one 2016 study concluded, “It is time that sharrows are exposed for what they really are, a cheap alternative that not only fails to solve a pressing safety issue but actually makes the issue worse through a sense of false security.”

When used properly, on quiet, lightly traveled roads with low speed limits, sharrows can be helpful in keeping bicyclists headed in the right direction (and away from the edges of the lane) until they reach the next bike lane. However, drivers have to recognize that cyclists are allowed in these lanes and allow extra space if one is in front of them.

When you’re in a bicycle wreck due to a driver’s negligence

Unfortunately, many drivers aren’t sure what to do when they see sharrows. Others believe that they have more rights on the road, even in a shared lane, than cyclists do. If you were involved in a crash caused by a negligent or reckless driver, you could be looking at serious injuries and long-term impacts. It’s essential to seek the compensation you need now and in the future. An experienced attorney who understands bicycling can help.