Boston Introduces “Super Sharrows”

Brighton Avenue in Allston is sporting some new "super sharrows." Image: ##
Brighton Avenue in Allston is sporting some new “super sharrows.” Image: ##

Behold, Boston’s new “super sharrows,” a spin on the often-derided shared-lane marking. Boston’s new twist is meant to give the feel of a bike lane, even when the space for one is lacking. The official term for this street treatment is “priority shared-lane markings,” and they were debuted in the last few weeks on Boston’s Brighton Avenue.

City Bike Czar Nicole Freedman told the Boston Globe that only a few cities in the country have tested this kind of bike marking, which was first proposed by civil engineering professor Peter Furth in a 2009 research paper.

What do you guys think? Would this make you feel safer or more confident?

27 thoughts on Boston Introduces “Super Sharrows”

  1. No. Although I do like them when I see them as opposed to traditional sharrows, I don’t think this does much. I also fear (although in the face of research, I would change my mind) that they may lead to drivers believing that cyclists can be only on streets with a sort of bike marking. I’ve been harassed by drivers that yell “bike lanes only!” when no bike lane is installed on the street.

  2. Chicago has had “super sharrows” on Kinzie among other places for a little while. Meh, I guess it raises awareness better than traditional sharrows, but in spots that it’s used on Kinzie, there’s no reason why a legitimate bike lane can’t be implemented.

  3. I’m partial to Bikesnob’s description of sharrows, and these don’t seem much different:

    “My understanding is that they’re to alert motorists to the presence of bicycles, but in practice they seem mainly to serve as the irony quotes around your “legitimacy” as a cyclist.”

  4. The bigger problem is Freedman’s comments to the Globe:

    “We could not remove a lane to put in a bike lane, and we could not remove parking — that’s a fact.”

    No, that’s the current political reality. And that’s a reality that bike advocates perpetuate with statements like this. There are probably ways to make this same point without explicitly setting the standard for installing bike infrastructure at a level where there’s no sacrifice from motorists whatsoever. While I get why Freedman probably felt she had to say this, her phrasing makes it harder for the next community that needs to remove car lanes and parking to make people, including pedestrians, safer.

  5. If we tried to implement those in my town, we would be told ‘they don’t conform to code’. That would be the end of the discussion.

    I don’t know what the traffic volume on that street is, but I would suggest it might be appropriate to move the parking further into the street and have a segregated lane between the sidewalk and parked cars, to minimize potential vehicle-bicycle conflicts and provide a more conducive riding environment.

  6. (I’ve said this before) – Relying on sharrows is like doing birth control by meditation. Yes, you get _very_ mindful. But for real protection, you need a physical barrier. Bikes belong on the other side of the parked cars.

    Actually, if you turned the parking spaces into a bike path, raised from the car lanes (and provided handicapped parking on side streets), you’d invite so many cyclists that you wouldn’t need the disappeared parking spaces. And the street would look nicer, and crossing it would be safer.

  7. We’ve got something better here in Pittsburgh: personalized sharrows. Somebody has been painting their very own sharrows, with ponytails.

  8. I happened upon them the other night – oddly enough on my way to a safe streets advocacy event – and found them pretty nice. I felt like they were far better than standard sharrows.

    That said, “far better than standard sharrows” is like getting a 10,000% raise on a base salary of $0.00.

    Parking would be far easier to remove if Boston was to charge a market rate – the morally and economically right thing to do on a commercial road.

  9. Although I understand the general criticisms of sharrows, I like that these make it clear cyclists don’t have to ride the fog line or right on the curb. Here in LAB-Silver community Arlington VA, cops have ticketed riders for taking the lane. These would seem to encourage cyclists to do that and send a clearer message to drivers/LEOs that FRAP doesn’t mean “off the road”.

  10. I welcome just about anything that reminds drivers that cyclists are welcome to use the whole lane. I tend to think of sharrows as a sort of “transitional” tool. Ideally they’ll eventually become redundant as people in cars adapt to sharing rights of way with people on bikes.

  11. I think these are great. They really make it clear that bikes have a right to the full lane, and almost even give the impression that they’re only for bikes. People will obviously learn otherwise, but I think anything that encourages drivers to defer to bicyclists is good for both safety and comfort.

  12. Well, it does make it clear to cars that bikes have a right to bike down the middle of the lane. Where there is a lot of bike traffic but not enough room for a separate bike lane, I do prefer this super sharrow over a normal, often unseen sharrow.

  13. We have these on LaSalle in Minneapolis, but they are spaced out much further than what’s pictured above and called “enhanced shared lanes”. I ride on all kinds of bike infrastructure all the time (it’s Minneapolis after all, not Indianapolis) or none at all (like when I commuted to the burbs with 50 MPH traffic). The spacing for it to make it feel bike lane-ish *must* be as close together as possible, which is my complaint with the placing on LaSalle. For less experienced cyclists than myself I’m sure the next one can’t come up fast enough because after you’ve ridden over one it goes right back to feeling like a regular non-sharrowed road and defeats the purpose of having them in the first place. The good news is that all they have to do is fit some more in. As you can see for yourself you can’t even see the next super sharrow because it’s spaced too far away.

  14. The dashed lines on either side of the bike stencil seems to clutter the lane. The green super sharrows used in Long Beach and Oakland seem to be clearer. When I’m riding on these drivers change lanes and give me more space when passing, at least that’s something.

  15. The sharrow as shown reinforces the concept of lane control. For those who want to ride in the road, or for situations where a city is NOT going to go the full 100 yards to build a safe separate facility (with intersection and curbcut controls, good sight lines, ability to move laterally in the road to make left turns, etc), its a good way to reinforce to cyclists, cops, and motorists that we should not be riding in the door zone or gutter pan (including “coffin corner” bike lanes) and that lane control is safer than huddling in the shadows.

    Of course the problem here is that lane control applies whether or not there are sharrows painted on the road, and for the same reasons, having to do with destination positioning and not getting squeezed in “lanes too narrow to share”. So my ambivalence is selective application of a universal principle.

    For those folks like CelloMom, sharrows are an empty gesture. Without getting into yet another segregation vs. integration firefight regarding that point of view, all I can say is that if you are going to ride in traffic, do it right and as the League says clearly in our Traffic Skills classes (I am a LAB member and LCI, but speaking for myself here), you thereby seriously cut your liabilities. The picture above demonstrates a good concept.

  16. Isn’t it funny that those who demand we cease giving government handouts don’t include in that list the free public storage local governments provide to auto owners?

  17. These green-striped sharrows should be present on all major streets (assuming buffered bike lanes are not already present). I think they do the best job of showing drivers that bikes have the right to use the entire lane. As a fairly timid cyclist, I’d feel more comfortable taking an entire lane if I was riding on a green sharrow stripe.

  18. Does the league teach use of daytime running lights? If not, why not? That seems to make a big difference in my usual riding.

  19. I’m not convinced daytime running lights would make a gutter bunny that much more visible. Also, lights are not mandatory for daytime use of a bicycle, so it would require equipment not normally found on a bike not used at night.

    LAB teaches conspicuity and lane positioning. In that context, I would say smoke ’em if you got em.

  20. Like I said, they seem to work for me — and I’ve tried them for some time now. Is your experience different? (Or have you not tried them yet?)

    And if you commute to work in Boston and ride home at 5pm, then (today) you could easily have ridden “at night”, because sunset was at 4:12 pm. Headlights are supposed to come on no later than 4:42.

  21. I have a 650 lumen headlight on my faster commuter bike and a 500 lumen on my slower commuter. Also have a 550-700 lumen light on my commuter helmet that I use as a moveable spot. I use them anytime towards dusk and obviously at night, or in fog. I’ve not used them in daytime, but I do ride with a pretty bright vest and with yellow retroreflective stuff all over my helmet and bike.

    The weekend fun bikes are not set up with lights.

  22. I think, before you decide that they’re not useful during the day, that you might try them for a while and see if there is a change in driver behavior. What I notice is that I don’t “surprise” nearly so many cars. And there’s recent reports that a bright vest isn’t that helpful, at least not for straight-line overtaking.

  23. Actually, daytime running lights has been de rigour for motorcycling for decades for the same reason you promote here. I don’t disagree one bit on the validity of running a good daytime running light to enhance visibility. With the advent of high output LEDs that run on minimal battery power, even more reason for cyclists to consider running daytime illumination.

    My newer LED light has a USB socket so that I can charge it from my work computer, so its a good idea. Some new race bikes are coming with small built in LEDs–i think Cannondale makes one.

    I do continue to think that daytime running lights should not take the place of using roadway positioning to enhance visibility. Its not one or the other, but all of the above. I hate to give cyclists the idea that there is one magic bullet that replaces good situational awareness.

  24. The funny thing about the motorcycle and auto headlight thing is that the effectiveness studies now seem to be mixed; the novelty-effect in the early days may have made them look overly good (it’s hard to tell for sure; there are some people who are certain that running headlights in the daytime is a Bad Thing, and they may be doing a good job of publicizing some otherwise marginal studies). But it’s also a problem if people become trained to expect that everything moving on the road has its headlights on (many cars do now; I had a Saab built in 1972 that had this feature), and bicycles are unlit.

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