Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What Are Those Bike Symbols in the Road?

Sharrow graphic from BikeArlington
Shared Lane Markings, usually called sharrows, are starting to appear on roads in Fairfax County. They consist of two chevrons pointing forward with a bicycle symbol below. Sharrows are used to indicate to cyclists where they should ride in the road. They are placed away from parked cars so cyclists will avoid the dreaded "door zone."

Sharrows also let motorists know to expect bicyclists in the road. Some motorists are not aware that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities to use the road as do motorists. Where there are no on-road bicycle facilities, bicyclists and motorists must share the road. If the road is too narrow to share, less than 14 feet, then cyclists should ride in such a way that motorists are not tempted to share the lane with them and pass dangerously close. In these cases, sharrows are placed closer to the middle of the lane.

Another bike-related sign is appearing in Fairfax. The Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign sends the same message as the sharrow, that bicyclists belong on the road and on narrow roads they have the right to full use of the lane. These signs were recently installed on Beulah Road on a route between the W&OD Trail to/from Tysons. They also appear on a short stretch of Idylwood Road on a route between the W&OD Trail and the Pimmit Hills area.

We can all share the road. Most cyclists avoid busy commuter routes but sometimes those are the only roads for reaching their destinations. While motorists may be slowed briefly behind a cyclist, the delay is usually minor in the whole scheme of things. Until there are safe, direct bike facilities for cyclists in the county, sharing the road is the only other option.

BikeArlington has developed an excellent graphic of safety and courtesy tips for all road users. It shows various road markings and what they mean. The above sharrow graphic was extracted from that publication.

This article was cross-posted on Reston Patch.

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