No obstacle seen for sharrow guidelines

       After facing a rough patch at first, sharrows now appear to be locked into a smooth ride, from national guidelines to Colorado Springs streets.
       Test markings were to be placed May 26 on a segment of North Tejon Street that has an unusually wide road width (mitigating against car/bike conflicts that could fail the test), and the Bikeway Advisory Committee (BAC) unanimously approved a localized draft of sharrow guidelines after perceiving no show- stoppers in them at a May 24 meeting that included public input.
       Also, City Council - which has not asked to see the guidelines - has offered no objection to the sharrow concept at three meetings in April and May, and had even seemed ready to OK them on the Westside's 30th Street and Colorado Avenue in April before hearing complaints from some neighborhood representatives that city staff had not followed public process in planning the markings. That led to a staff decision to draft guidelines and let the public look at them in concert with two advisory committees.

The graphic above is a page from a PowerPoint presentation by city staffer Kristin Bennett to the Bikeway Advisory Committee May 24 on city staff's draft of local guidelines for sharrow usage. As the graphic shows, there are already some guidelines for sharrows - also called shared lane markings - in the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) that's used throughout the country.
Courtesy of Kristin Bennett

       Sharrows are street markings with a bike symbol and a double arrow, meant to remind motorists that bicycles are allowed in most traffic lanes and cyclists that they don't need to ride so far to the right that they might get hit by doors opening on parked cars.
       Street locations for actual markings have yet to be determined, but the only other (currently announced) public meeting on the guidelines will be at the monthly meeting of the Citizens Transportation Advisory Board, Tuesday, June 7 at 2 p.m. at City Hall, 107 N Nevada Ave.
       The draft guidelines would make a number of streets in the city eligible for sharrows. Suggested are any roadways with 2,500 to 40,000 cars a day - as long as they don't have room for bike lanes, their speed limit is 35 mph or less and they are part of the City's Bikeway System Plan. On the Westside, that would appear to define Colorado Avenue, 21st Street and 30th/31st Street.
       Regarding the plan, there was some concern at the BAC meeting that it has not received a major update since its creation in 1996. When Kristin Bennett (whose planning work with the city includes bicycle issues) used the word “toolbox” as a metaphor to describe the various actions the city can choose from to help cyclists - with sharrows being one of the “tools” - BAC member Ron Bevans asked, “Where is the toolbox? The tools are scattered all over the ground.”
       But the vote did not include a call for any changes to the plan at this time, and, as for taking on a possible full-scale rewrite, there were indications that money would be an issue .
       In an oral addition to her guidelines presentation, Bennett commented that she has noticed other cities putting sharrow markings in the center of traffic lanes. The national guidelines call for the markings to be no less than 4 feet from the side of the road and/or parked cars, but with the typical city traffic lane being 10 to 12 feet wide, the center of the lane is the best way to avoid wear from car tires, Bennett said.
       No member of the BAC, nor the public, objected to the possibility this comment raised of locally marking sharrows in the center of traffic lanes. In fact, no member of the public directly opposed sharrows in general, although they did raise some questions about how they would be deployed, based on the guidelines.
       Comments from cyclist supporters at the meeting reiterated past comments that it's not a bad thing if a car is slowed down by a bicycle, short of “road rage,” as one put it.
       To her presentation, Bennett added pre-meeting questions/suggestions from BAC member John Nuwer and members of the public (in a survey about sharrows that was posted online for a few weeks). However, in the end, her draft guidelines went through as written, without recommended changes from the BAC.
       Public concerns touched on sharrow-placement criteria, proposing that road conditions be factored in, along with speeds and traffic volumes. Other questions were more general - whether issues of safety, liability and impacts on traffic flow had been fully researched.
       To many of the public concerns about sharrows, Bennett's response was that “professional judgment” would be used by staff; also, she noted that each possible sharrow location would be studied ahead of time on a “case by case” basis.
       The cost issue had not previously been publicly discussedo, other than a statement from City Traffic Engineering at a council meeting that Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) was available for the initial sharrow markings. Bennett's response about costs was that “SLMs [shared lane markings] can be incorporated into the city's annual on-street bikeway work program, which has a budget to implement various network improvements. The SLM cost would vary annually depending on projects identified.”
       Another lingering question has been about paving the rest of the trail paralleling 30th Street - in hopes of attracting bikes away from 30th - Bennett said that would first require revising the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site Master Plan, which calls for the trail to remain natural in keeping with its historical theme.

Westside Pioneer article