Shared-lane markings — known as ‘sharrows’ — of a bicycle symbol with one or more arrows used within travel lanes shared by bicyclists and other vehicles are becoming more common in several countries around the world. But, the markings are still being applied in an experimental phase in the United States.
The challenge? Determining a universal marking with the purpose of reducing the incidence of wrong-way bicycling, encourage safe passing of cyclists by motorists, assist cyclists with proper positioning on the road to avoid opening doors of parked vehicles, and assist cyclists and motorists in coexisting on narrow roads.
The Federal Highway Administration has proposed the addition of shared lane markings for the next edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Several U.S. cities are participating in federally approved experiments, including Chicago, Portland, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Lousiville, Kentucky, and Austin, Texas, which just installed 70 sharrows on downtown streets.
According to a recent article published on www.kvue.com in Austin, the U.S. Department of Transportation chose Austin as one of six cities across the country to try out the sharrows to see if drivers and cyclists can figure out on their own how they work. The City of Austin and the University of Texas have installed cameras in strategic areas around the sharrows to collect video to be shared with the federal government to see whether or not the sharrows are working.
“This device was first used in San Francisco and it’s part of a research project and ongoing data collection to see how these devices function in the field,” Jason Wilkes, an employee with the City of Austin’s Public Works Department, told www.kvue.com reporter Shelton Green.
In 2004, the city of San Francisco began experimenting with sharrows, and the results prompted the state of California’s Traffic Control Devices Committee to approve the use of the marking in California.
“We anticipate publishing new rulemaking related to our proposed revisions sometime before the end of this year,” the Federal Highway Administration’s transportation specialist Bruce Friedman told BikeRadar. “If our rulemaking is in the form of a new MUTCD and if shared lane markings are included, they will become available for general use without the need to experiment.”
You can see what Friedman and his group proposed here http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/resources/proposed_amend/npa_text.pdf and here http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/resources/proposed_amend/npa_figures.pdf.