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Riding Side By Side

explaining the "sharrow"

Recently, I read about a strange, new phenomenon Rye is hoping to bring to our streets pretty soon. No, it's not traffic lights on Purchase that actually work and prevent car accidents. Those aren't imminent. Which is why we now have more 'T-Bones' than Ruby Tuesday's.

No, it's something called a "sharrow." Now this isn't a new hybrid car, like the Prius. Whose zero-to-sixty capabilities can only be timed with a calendar.

Nor is it some strange new breed of canine you get from crossing, say a Jack Russell with a Police Dog. Who misbehaves, but is so law abiding that he then turns himself in.

Nope, a "sharrow," is a lane that is shared by both cars and bicylists. It should help our traffic problems. But what will happen when the bike riders continually pass the Priuses? Will that result in more tension and unhappiness? Let's study the problem.

The "sharrow," is clearly marked for all concerned. You'll know when you've seen one, because it has a stenciled image of a bicyclist, as well as a corporal's insignia, virtually on top of one another. This indicates both parties are welcome here. It's also an illustration on page 50 of the Kama Sutra. So, if your kids are in the car, cover their eyes.

This "sharrow" also indicates to a motorist that a bicycle may be near, and to keep your eyes peeled. This will be helpful to any driver who cares about his fellow man. However, should you see a car with a bumper sticker that reads, "Don't Honk, Driver Asleep," you might want to keep your expectations low.

How can you tell the difference between a 'shared lane' and a 'bicycle lane?' Aside from the fact that the first sounds vaguely socialist?

Well, 'bike lanes' have a "solid white line and a different symbol." If you, a motorist, stray into this lane, you may notice an entirely different symbol. This will be the bike rider making a 'T' for "Time Out." But be patient. If he is underneath your car, it may take him a while to show you this sign.

There are other, less urgent, but still important symbols bike riders will make. The 'stop' sign, the 'peace' sign' and the 'Heavy Metal Horns,' remain the same. If, however, a driver only finds the detached hand doing this symbol, again you're in the wrong lane. And you better go looking for the body.

But please don't back up, it might be right behind you. And haven't you done enough damage for one day?

Studies have shown that "sharrows" are reducing the incidences of "dooring." This occurs when a driver exiting his car opens the door and hits a bicyclist. Of course, studies have also proven that in Rye Brook, many of these incidents are intentional. So those numbers should remain pretty consistent.

Such lanes also "reduce the distance" between bikers and motorists, in a completely natural way. I think they mean physical distance. But if it gets drivers to identify with cyclists and 'dig where their heads are at?' Bonus!

Experts also claim having a "sharrow" will reduce the number of cyclists riding the wrong way on the road. Of course, as far as 'direction,' you will always have those non-conformist bike riders. Who will tell you there is no such thing as the 'wrong way.' 

Still, we'll take those kinds of folks as they come. And if takes a little 'dooring' to set them straight? Well, so be it!

David Huntsman September 22, 2011 at 09:33 PM
Peter, this article is very humorous and your tongue-in-cheek description of absent-minded motorists running over hapless cyclists - while stomach-churning for us cyclists who contemplate that possibility on a daily basis - is taken in jest. One comment though: a sharrow is not a lane (in the way a bike lane is), a sharrow is the chevron/bicycle marking itself. The sharrow doesn't indicate that the lane is to be shared (as it always should have been), rather it reminds drivers that cyclists are likely to be present, and alerts cyclists to proper lane positioning. What I'm getting at is that it is important that the presence of sharrows on one road should not suggest to motorists and cyclists should that they do not have to share "sharrow-less" roads as well. A sharrow on a road is akin to a 'MERGE' sign where two roads join. It simply alerts road users to the possibility of other traffic on the road. And consequently, a motorist should not feel he/she can't use a lane with sharrows, in the way driving a car in a bike lane is illegal.

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