Many people wonder what those little bike symbols mean and why they are there. Shared lane pavement markings, or “sharrows”, are bicycle symbols carefully placed to guide bicyclists to the best place to ride on the road, avoid car doors and remind drivers to share the road with cyclists. Unlike bicycle lanes, sharrows do not designate a particular part of the roadway for the exclusive use of bicyclists. They are simply a marking to help motorists expect to see and share the lane with bicyclists.
As we move forward with implementing our bike master plan; our first choice is always to put a bike lane on both sides of the street. Sometimes the street isn’t quite wide enough. So second choice is a bike lane on the uphill climb; and sharrow on the downhill roll. If we can’t fit in a bike lane, we still want to make it clear bikes share the road, and make connections between trails for cyclists. Sometimes we put in sharrows because the road is just not wide enough for bike lanes. Other times it is because we know it will take a while to get the lane in place. On some streets there is a lot of controversy as stakeholders debate over having (for example) a bike lane vs. parking vs. a road diet vs. a bus priority lane. If we know it might take a long time to come to consensus on how to stripe the street; we might put sharrows on the street while we work through the issues. More than 30 miles of sharrows have been installed over the past two years.
We hope they are making Seattle feel more safe and comfortable for cycling in by sending the message to share the road! How do you think we could help both drivers and cyclists know what the sharrows mean?