Archive | December, 2012

Sharrows and Signs

27 Dec

Photo from Fan of the Fan community blog.

This will not come as news if you’ve been riding or driving around Richmond a bit recently, but just in case you haven’t stumbled upon them, Richmond has been getting more sharrows (shared lane markings) as well as bike route signs.  As far as the routes go, Fan of the Fan says this:

The R2 runs From Monroe Park up Floyd Ave through the Museum District and over to Grove Ave out to the University of Richmond. The R3 runs along the Boulevard north to Bryan Park and across the Boulevard Bridge toward Forest Hill Park. There will be more info and map routes online soon but keep an eye out for more bike traffic on these routes!

Sharrows have been installed mainly on the main north-south route so far, including on Forest Hill and Westover Hills Boulevard, as well as the Boulevard from Byrd Park to the Diamond, where they continue on Hermitage to the city line.

With still more sharrows being installed, you may hear questions from folks about what they really mean.  Here are some FAQs lifted from the City of San Carlos, California web site:

What is “Sharrow”?
A sharrow is an arrow-like design painted on a roadway to mark a bicycling route.

What is the purpose of this marking? This “Shared Lane Marking” is intended to inform cyclists and motorists where a travel lane is shared by both modes. It has been shown to be helpful in situations where motorists may squeeze cyclists against the curb, where it may not be obvious where cyclists should be riding, such as intersections with multiple turn lanes, or where cyclists commonly ride too close to parked cars. The idea is to keep cyclists away from parked cars while promoting awareness of their right to use the road.

If I see this marking in a lane, is the lane only for bikes? No. This marking is used for shared lanes; lanes that are used by bicyclists and motorists. Shared lanes are different than exclusive bike lanes which are set aside for bicyclists only and are marked by a solid white line and by a different symbol.

If I don’t see this marking, can I still use the travel lane? Yes, cyclists can ride on any street except for those with signs explicitly prohibiting cyclists.

I’ve never seen this marking before. Where and how did it originate? Cities such as Denver (where the marks were first used), San Francisco, Portland, Chicago and Paris have some variation of sharrows on their streets. However, having pioneered in Denver in the mid-1990s, sharrows attracted the attention of transportation officials around the United States. The marking was considered controversial at its inception. Nonetheless, Boulder, Colorado became one of the few cities outside of California to install the shared-lane markings in June 1990.

Portland followed and decided to experiment with sharrows. After a study found the marking provided a statistically significant benefit to cyclists by encouraging them to move left and center. The study was commissioned in 2004 in an effort to improve cycling conditions on San Francisco’s crowded streets. Since then, the California Traffic Control Device Committee, an advisory body, has recommended that the marking be adopted by the entire state. Following that, San Francisco has stenciled approximately 2,500 sharrow markings on city streets.

The principle behind sharrows is simple: They reinforce existing rules of the road. In most states, 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.

In addition, shared-lane markings have gained acceptance in some European and Australian cities. An Australian report published several years ago on “bicycle friendly zones” – the sharrow equivalent – suggested that shared-lane markings can be more effective than bike lanes in encouraging cyclists and motorists to pay attention to one another. The report also says the markings slow traffic and encourage all modes to share limited street space.


Everyday Cycling

21 Dec

Know someone who, with a nudge and good information, might start cycling more to get around?  And for whom you still need a holiday gift?

You might consider one of a couple of recently published guides to cycling aimed at just this kind of person.  I confess that I have not had the chance to read either one of them yet, but both authors are known quantities in this area, and the reviews are generally quite positive.

The newest one is Everyday Bicycling by Elly Blue, a Portland cyclist who has written for BikePortland and Grist.  Urban Velo says the following about the book:

Blue takes cycling and makes it digestible to cyclists and would-be’s in a friendly, laid-back tone. Absent of any authoritarian voice, this is the book I wish I had years ago, when getting acquainted with the elements of cycling meant drifting through online forums, bike shops and co-ops, gleaming bits and pieces of the big picture over time. “Everyday Bicycling” is comprehensive without being daunting, an ideal read for anyone who wants to learn how to integrate cycling into their lives, or just brush up on the basics.

The other book is  Just Ride by Grant Petersen, maker of Rivendell bicycles.  Click here for a New York Times review.  Like Blue, Petersen offers practical advice for practical riding, but it’s also about what you don’t need to cycle for fun or transportation, namely lycra shorts, a $2,000 bike with skinny tires, or a jersey with logos on it.  Some think Petersen goes too far in his opposition to this kind of thing.  As someone who is seen now and again in lycra on a road bike, I might be inclined to agree.  But I really appreciate what he’s trying to do: move cycling away from being a special “sport” for athletes with special equipment back to something everyday people with regular bodies and budgets find appealing.

You can order the books directly here and here, or if you’re not in a rush, why not bike over to a local bookstore and see if they have it in stock?

City $$ for Bicycle and Pedestrian Initiatives

12 Dec

The Richmond Mayor’s Participation, Action, and Commuication Team (MPACT) is holding two more meetings — tonight (12/12) and tomorrow (12/13) — to get citizen input on budget priorities for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.  Those who have been the two meetings already held say that few attendees pushed for spending on bicycle and pedestrian projects.

This is an opportunity for us to communicate our desire for spending in this area directly to the city administration, and to demonstrate to fellow Richmonders that this spending is important.  Please consider attending one of the remaining two meetings.  Tonight’s meeting is at George Mason Elementary School, 813 N. 28th Street; tomorrow’s meeting is at Holton Elementary, 1600 W. Laburnum Avenue.  Both meetings begin at 6 p.m.

It does not matter if you are not from the area of the city where the meeting is being held.  Hope to see you there!



Community Biking Forum Sunday 12/9

5 Dec


Why Is That Bicyclist in My Lane?

1 Dec

A facebook page/group called Bicyclists Belong on the Travel Lane includes a nice, fairly succinct list of responses to what many motorists no doubt ask when they encounter a bicyclist taking the lane.  It also serves as a good reminder of why a cyclist would want to take the lane.  It boils down to this: it’s usually safer to be there than hugging the curb or riding right next to parked cars, and you have the legal right to be there, however much motorists might resent that.

Riverfront Plan
Thanks to all of you who contacted your city council members last week to encourage them to pass the Riverfront Plan. The plan passed unanimously!  Coverage in the RTD hits the highlights of the plan and the ongoing issues with the possibility of the city acquiring Mayo Island and/or the USP/Tarmac property for public use.

Legislation on Texting while Driving
Another tidbit I’ve been meaning to post about is a report in the RTD that the Virginia State Crime Commission is going to consider legislation that would make texting while driving a primary rather than a secondary offense.  (Endorsement of the legislation by the commission supposedly carries significant weight among legislators, who would ultimately have to pass any new law).

Distracted driving poses a major threat to cyclists and pedestrians as well as other motorists, and texting is highly distracting (even talking with hands-free equipment is more distracting than you would think).  Under current law, you cannot be pulled over for texting while driving itself.  You can only be cited for it if you are pulled over for some other reason, and the first offense carries a fine of only $20.  Hopefully new legislation will be passed and convey a sense of seriousness appropriate to such dangerous behavior.

Cyclist for the Bay Ride Tomorrow

1 Dec

Cyclist for the Bay is an program of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to promote cycling as a way of helping to protect the bay and the environment as a whole.  The group is holding a Ride and Street Sweep tomorrow, 12/1, from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.  The casual ride will start at the Lakeside Farmer’s Market on Lakeside Avenue and go about 20 miles around Ginter Park.  The ride will begin after a bit of trash pickup (thus the “sweep”).  Click here for further details via the Virginia Bicycling Federation.  You can also follow the link above for more information about the program or take the Cyclist for Bay pledge to use your bicycle more often for transportation.

Also of interest…

East Coast Greenway Guide
In other news, a very detailed Guide to Bicycling and Walking for the Virginia parts of the East Coast Greenway has just been released.  It includes maps of various scales that look like they would be easy to follow.

And in case you haven’t gotten tired of reading my posts hailing the benefits of separated bike lanes and similar infrastructure, the Christian Science Monitor recently published a piece focused on the Green Lane Project and the benefits of this kind of infrastructure for getting more people on bikes, using Chicago’s recently installed Kinzie Street buffered bike lane as a prime example.  Among the cities participating in the Green Lane Project, Memphis is probably the most comparable to Richmond (albeit still quite a bit bigger), so we should keep an eye on how things develop there over the next couple of years.

On that note, maybe it would be a good idea for city government and business leaders to go to a gold or platinum level Bicycle Friendly Community for their next trip to check out just how do-able and beneficial substantial infrastructure can be.  What do you say, Chamber of Commerce?  How about a trip to Portland, Minneapolis, or Madison, Wisconsin for that matter?

This is really the time to think about moving things to the next level in Richmond.  There are a bunch of new bike racks on Broad Street and in Carytown, along with a few other locations, and more sharrows or shared lane markings have been installed along the north-south route developed by the mayor’s bike-ped commission a couple of years ago.  The unfortunate thing is that city traffic engineers went with a “sharrows all the way” approach, even where bike lanes could have been easily installed where underused parking exists (think Hermitage north of Westwood, for example).

Sharrows are maybe the only option in some cases without major reworking of the road, but I think it’s fair to say that those cyclists already hesitant to ride in traffic are not going to be comforted by sharrows on, say, the Boulevard.  According to a Streetsblog piece, other cities like San Diego have gone the route of installing sharrows everywhere and have not seen notable increases in biking as mode share.  They might make cycling on those roads bit safer for those already out there, but probably won’t lead to a major increase in cycling for transportation.

Creating a network of separated lanes and bike boulevards in Richmond will be a very long-term process and no doubt challenging, but with the basic network in place with sharrows, we should turn our sights toward installing some other types of infrastructure in order to demonstrate its effectiveness and set a precedent for the future.