Monday, January 22, 2007

Federal committee approval of sharrows

bikecommutetips points out that sharrows have gained Federal acceptance:

At its just completed winter meeting held January 17-19 in Arlington, Virginia, the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices voted 35-0-3 to endorse the shared lane marking ("sharrow")...

We know that you've probably been on the edge of your seat, biting your nails over this vote as you check in, with great anticipation, on the meeting notes of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD). But don't roll out the barrels just yet. Approval was granted by the Bicycle Technical Committee (BCT), but it still needs to be reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) before being included in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). A list of acronyms like that suggests that we're still in for quite a bureaucratic ride.

WTF is a sharrow?

Why should you care? Well, Ann Arbor is one of the few cities to use these shared-use arrows. You can find them on State, Liberty and other downtown streets already. And while the freshly approved non-motorized plan focuses more on bike lanes, it does call for the expansion of sharrows to more streets that are too narrow for exclusive bike lanes.

Getting the sharrows in place was difficult because they aren't included in AASHTO standards. If the sharrow gets the thunbs up from the FHA, the officially approved status will make them easier to implement. In Ann Arbor, that means we won't get the run-around from engineers who are sticklers for AASHTO guidelines. It also means that sharrows might be used in other communities, increasing visitors' awareness of what the symbol means when they visit our fair city.

We like sharrows because they are generally cheap and easy to implement with a proven impact on road position and behavior for cyclists and motorists. Others don't take to the new symbol because they feel it is cheap way out of providing bike lanes or just another road symbol to confuse road users, or both. We can see the argument, but prefer policies and designs that encourage cars and bikes to work together on the road. Encouraging the "seperate but equal" bike lanes tends to support motorists' perceived right to bully cyclists who are not riding, in the motorists mind, appropriately.

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