Tales About Sharrows

From Flying Pigeon LA:
Bicycling to and from the Pigeon a few days ago, I rode a number of “facilities,” as bureaucrats like to call them: the marvelous new section of the Los Angeles River bikepath paralleling Riverside Drive from North Fig to Fletcher, the bike lanes on York, and the sharrows on Fountain in East Hollywood.
It was the sharrows that got me thinking more about connectivity. In part because they seem to be working: motorists leave more room when passing, and wait to pass without honking or shouting. But also because, like so much bicycle infrastrucutre in LA, they are just a fragment, not a network.
Now I know they are a “pilot project,” a test run. But there are plenty of other bits of long-extant bike lane, path, whatever all over the city that just start and stop without connecting to other “facilities.” It’s been a civic habit of ours.
If we were talking about separate bike paths or full-on bicycle boulevards (which we are talking about for certain streets), I could understand–but sharrows, lanes, and even road diets require nothing more than a few buckets of paint, a bit of courage, and the consideration to engage in a bit of outreach in the affected neighborhoods before you start.
The application of sharrows are really freaking easy. I genuinely wonder why more roads don't have them. If I were the czar of roads of Arlington County (not sure this is on the official org chart), I'd paint sharrows pretty much everywhere. (Not personally, of course. Czars don't do manual labor. Except maybe Peter the Great, but he was also interested in transportation). Aside from their efficacy, they would just serve as another reminder to drivers that cyclists use the roads also, even if you don't see one right now. By making sharrows a more common road feature, they'll start to blend into drivers' perceptions of the roadway and serve as a permanent low-level symbol of the "share the road" message advocates are always trying to get across. I wonder why this doesn't happen. Are there real civil engineering reasons why more places don't do this? Is it a political problem? Do those bike stencils cost a ton of money? Does someone have a trademark on the chevron? Municipalities somehow manage to find the time, will and money to paint indicator lines for motorists. Just saying...
My Sharrows on Basically Every Road (or SOBER) policy borrows much of its philosophical underpinnings from banal nationalism. For more information on banal nationalism, read this book. It's very good and if you buy it, I'll get the author to autograph it for you.

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