Sharrows are one of the coolest pavement markings I know. (Yes, I am weird that I get excited about pavement markings). Officially known as “Shares Lane Markings “, they are placed in travel lanes to show bicyclists may be on the roadway.
They were originally developed to help cyclist with proper lane positioning. The hope is cyclists will unconsciously drive over the symbols. Either by giving enough “shy distance” from car doors or by moving to the far right in wide travel lanes.
I do not know how effective they are at this though. A study in Gainesville Florida showed a five percent uptick in cyclists using the lane but the sample size was less than half. It may help if there were also Sharrows for the car drivers too so they give enough passing distance but that idea has not arrived.
What I like about the sharrows is they are hard to ignore but are not a big maintenance problem. Signs are expense. They get in the way. They have a bad habit of getting knocked over. These Shared Lane Markings are safely down on the ground and usually out of the tire path so are not subject to wear.
I also like that they are big but have a simple message. If you cannot figure out that the message is bicycles are supposed to be there, then you probably should not be driving. For me, they are the perfect “Shared Space” marking.
I would be hesitant to use them on any road with a speed above 25 mph (MUTCD says above 35 mph). The trick would be to make the environment to tame the traffic to keep it slow and steady. This is not hard to do, but it takes some forethought.
Hopefully these sharrows will be coming to a Shared Space near you so that you can get excited about them too!