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Disregarding Sharrows

There continues to be academic research about the effectiveness of sharrows. One thing all researchers can agree on is that sharrows are not effective if cyclists don’t use them correctly. A quick google image search will reveal plenty of photos of cyclists incorrectly using sharrows.

For example:

Riding with Sharrows

Riding with Sharrows by The Prudent Cyclist, on Flickr

The idea of sharrows is that they’re placed on the road in a specific location to direct cyclists how to best position themselves within the shared lane.  Cyclists should ride right down the center of the sharrows. In the photo above, the cyclists is clearly riding about 3 feet to the right of where she should be, which is squarely within the door zone.

It’s not clear to me yet why cyclists often don’t use the sharrows the way they are intended. It’s probably one of the following:

  • Cyclists don’t know what sharrows mean, so they don’t realize they’re using them incorrectly.
  • Cyclists know what the sharrows are for, but they disregard the markings because they don’t agree with their placement (i.e., regardless of where the sharrows are placed, they’re more comfortable riding somewhere else).

Or both. If it’s the first, more education is needed. If it’s the second, it raises serious doubts about the effective use of sharrows as a traffic control device.

1 comment to Disregarding Sharrows

  • Jon

    For me it’s the first. I didn’t know what those were or what they were called. But, there is a feeling that safer (even if it’s wrong) riding as far to the right as possible and keeping a keen eye out for doors.

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