Within the past few years the city of Denver has applied a strategic scattering of 'Sharrows' to the streets, and the effect was positive. These sharrows were quite civilized indeed -- graphically sharp and, for the most part, thoughtfully placed to benefit bicyclists. Where they were placed on a street that I had ridden literally tens of thousands of times I felt a distinct lightening of the air, a change in the relationship of driver to bicyclist that was most welcome. I liked them so much that I gushed about them in my book Cyclist's Manifesto. But, I cautioned, the important but intangible positive effects of the markings could probably be canceled by placing them too close to parked cars. Unfortunately there have been plenty of opportunities to test this theory.

A few weeks ago I noticed that new sharrows had been placed on Sherman Street between 16th and 18th. Not only are these markings far less pretty than the earlier applications -- being the product of rather crude stenciling -- they were placed much too far to the right, near the door zone of the parked vehicles. These new sharrows are nothing to gush about. In fact, I wonder if they might be so misapplied as to do more harm than good. And they are so crude-looking that they made me think for a moment they might be the product of misguided late-night guerrilla advocacy. In any case, these stunted sharrows represent a big step backward. For a Denver-based sharrow cheerleader, this was a particularly concerning development.

I grabbed a tape measure and wrote some numbers down literally on the back of an envelope. The bad sharrows were centered 10 feet from the curb (or, 100 inches from the curb to the right edge of the marking, which itself is about 40 inches wide). In contrast, the sharrows which I liked so much were centered 12 feet from the curb. The latest revisions to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices recommended that sharrows should be centered at least 11 feet (3.4 meters) from the curb on streets with side parking. These new markings were placed in error or the city ignored the recommended standards.

 

 

good

 

bad

 

The sharrow on the left, the Good Sharrow, is still solidly biased to the right side of the lane, not in the center as it appears in the photo. In my experience these sharrows are positioned well. There is no burning need for them to be any further left, and no good reason whatsoever to put them further right. Twelve feet: Good. (Notice the rider on the left there, riding in the door zone, an illustration of the limitations of pavement markings as pedagogical tools for beginners in any case.) The Bad Sharrow, just two feet closer to the curb, has canceled any positive effect with its bad placement, I suspect.

Contrary to several of my character traits I have contacted the city about this, and will let my six loyal readers know what happens with that. I think they might be persuaded to fix these as they are nonstandard and a potential liability. Good sharrows gone bad -- watch for it in your city.

[You may also enjoy, or not, depending on your point of view, and who am I to push you one way or the other, these: BIGGER THAN BIKE LANES .]