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Do sharrows keep bicyclists safe or increase their injury risk?

On Behalf of | Aug 27, 2021 | Pedestrian Accidents |

If you’re an avid bicyclist, you likely know what a “sharrow” is. It’s a road marking that looks like two arrowheads (called chevrons) above a drawing of a bicyclist. They appear in regular-size lanes because they identify lanes that both vehicles and cyclists can use.

That can be a recipe for trouble for a number of reasons. They’re mentioned briefly in the California Driver’s Handbook, which notes that they “[a]lert traffic that bicyclists can occupy the lane.” However, drivers who haven’t reviewed the handbook recently or seen a sharrow before may be confused by them. Further, when cyclists and drivers share a lane, cyclists are the ones most in danger. Many drivers barely have patience with cyclists in a bike lane next to them – let alone riding in the same lane.

Where are sharrows used?

Sharrows can’t be placed just anywhere. They’re typically in residential areas that have a lot of bike traffic. Generally, they can’t be on stretches of road where the speed limit is over 35 miles per hour.

Planners often choose to make one lane of traffic a sharrow lane if there’s no room for an additional bike lane, but the road is a popular bike route. However, they still have to be placed where they’re outside the “door zone” where a person opening the door of a parked car could hit them. 

Why we’re seeing fewer sharrows

Designated sharrow lanes have become less popular with city planners over the past couple of decades. Many would rather use dedicated bike lanes. A study as far back as 2016 called sharrows “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.”

A driver may have no choice but to drive for a time in a lane with sharrows. If they do, they have an obligation to respect the rights of cyclists to be there as well and to allow them plenty of space. Unfortunately, too many don’t do that. 

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a crash caused by a driver, it’s important to seek the full amount of compensation you need for medical bills, lost wages, long-term effects of the injuries and more. With legal guidance, you have a better chance of maximizing your claim.



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