Sharrows are roadway markings used within travel lanes shared by bicyclists and other vehicles. In January 2007, the US National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) endorsed the shared lane marking concept, and they were added to the 2009 US Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
According to the MUTCD, sharrows are meant to:
- Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in a shared lane with on-street parallel parking in order to reduce the chance of a bicyclist's impacting the open door of a parked vehicle,
- Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in lanes that are too narrow for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to travel side by side within the same traffic lane,
- Alert road users of the lateral location bicyclists are likely to occupy within the traveled way,
- Encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists, and
- Reduce the incidence of wrong-way bicycling.
The principle behind sharrows is simple: They reinforce existing rules of the road. In Michigan, cyclists are required to stay as far to the right as possible, except under unsafe conditions. One of these conditions is when the travel lane is too narrow for side-by-side passage of an automobile and a bicycle.
As your community develops safe bicycle facilities, consider advocating for sharrows as part of your bicycle network plan. In addition to being inexpensive, they are a great way to accommodate bicycles when there is insufficient lane width for a bike lane. In fact, since sharrows do not necessarily reduce the number or width of current travel lanes, they often can be an easier sell to hesitant elected officials or NIMBY's.
Michigan Communities with Sharrows:
- Flint installed the first sharrows in the state of Michigan in 2009 (although not to MUTCD standards). The Safe and Active Flint Coalition received $5,000 to improve bike safety and awareness through a sharrow program. See the Flickr photo gallery on Flint sharrows.
- Elk Rapids has placed sharrows on all streets leading into downtown.
- Grand Rapids DDA recently opted to install sharrows on Grandville Ave SW vs. traditional bike lanes. Grand Rapids also recntly installed sharrows along Division Ave as part of a road diet (photo 1; photo 2)
- In September of 2010, Milford Village Council approved the use of sharrows.
- Ann Arbor now uses sharrows extensively throughout the City. You will find references to Shared-Roadways and Sharrows in their nonmotorized transportation plan on pages 10, 25, 162, 168, 169 and 178.
- South Haven
- A nice informational video on sharrows from our friends at the Iowa Bicycle Coalition: