‘Sharrows’ are new wrinkle in bike lane identification

The in basket: Kitsap Way between Callow Avenue and Highway 3 in Bremerton has a variety of pavement markings for where bicyclists should ride, I noticed as I headed west on it.

There are short stretches of painted bike lanes, separated by stencil markings painted in the outside vehicle lane showing a bicycle with two chevrons over the cyclist’s head.

I’d seen them on Fauntleroy Avenue in Seattle after I got off the Southworth ferry the past couple of years. I wondered what the chevrons were meant to add to what clearly was a designation for where bicyclists should ride.

The out basket: The chevrons are evidently just an arbitrary design feature of what are called “sharrows,” an authorized marking under the 2009 federal Uniform Manual for Uniform Traffic Devices. It’s a play on words, I guess, melding arrows and share.

As a whole, the sharrows emphasize the need for cars and bikes to share that lane, as well as suggesting bicyclists use enough of the lane that they don’t get picked off by the driver’s side doors of parked cars whose drivers are getting out.

That’s an issue in Seattle, but there aren’t many places in Kitsap with bike lanes next to on-street parking.

“We striped areas where there was sufficient space for a bike lane,” said Gunnar Fridricksson of the Bremerton street engineers. “As you noticed, where there was not space, the sharrows were installed along with signage.”

They don’t alter the law regarding the relationship between motor vehicles and bikes (they must obey the same laws, generally). They just emphasize the Share the Road philosophy.

It occurred to me, though, that I didn’t know whether bike lanes alter that relationship – whether cars can drive in a bike lane. So I asked Trooper Russ Winger of the State Patrol here.

Russ said the term “sharrows’ was new to him, but he drove around looking at bike lanes and had this to say.

“Kitsap Way has several marked and signed bike lanes along it. The signs are black and white regulatory signs. They are also marked on the asphalt with white bike symbols.

“The roadway is of sufficient width to have a full travel lane and a bike lane. In these areas there is no reason for a vehicle to be in the bike lane. Most of the signs I observed said only ‘bike lane’ and depicted the bike symbol.

“At intersections with road ways and openings to businesses, the bike lane turned to skip lines, allowing a vehicle to cross. I would say that a vehicle traveling otherwise in the bike lane in this type of situation would be illegal, disobeying a restrictive sign to start. Infraction $124.

“This is a good example of local jurisdictions using their power to add restrictive signs and lanes to further restrict vehicle travel governed by RCW,” he said.

He also encouraged drivers to “pay more attention to the small road signs and lane markings. I learned a lot just by paying more close attention to them after you posed the question to me and I have driven and worked these roads for 24-plus years,” he said.


One thought on “‘Sharrows’ are new wrinkle in bike lane identification

  1. Thanks for your column Travis
    My question is what can be done about the auto/bicycle “pinch point” as traffic departs the Bainbridge ferry heading uphill on Highway 305 a 1/4 mile before High School road?
    Bicycles have a decent shoulder going uphill which abruptly ends. It seems a recipe for disaster.
    The BI ferry has a large number of bike commuters using this route at high
    traffic times.
    Would be so grateful for you to take a look!

    Cap Lane

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Before you post, please complete the prompt below.

Is water a solid or a liquid at room temperature?