Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No, you’re not drunk and seeing double…

You’re seeing one of the most recent installations of shared lane use markings, or sharrows, on Yesler Way in downtown Seattle. These markings are meant to indicate to motorists and bicyclists that there is likely to be bike traffic on this road and that both modes should share the road.

Seattle, like other large cities, has curb side parking which converts to a travel lane during the peak hours. Typically, this doesn’t really require anything more than No Parking signs with a time restriction on them for motorists like this.

But, now, how do you mark a roadway with sharrrows with this condition? Do you put a marking in the lane that is always open but becomes the left lane during the peak hours? Do you put a marking in the right lane which is parking for a majority of the day?

Seattle has decided that it will do both options. On one side when parking is allowed, the marking will be covered, so it won’t look like someone got crazy with the thermoplastic. Then, when the right lane is a travel lane, it just gives extra warning that bikes can legally be in either lane. This is an often forgotten rule by motorists.

Overall, this is a difficult situation and one that will doubtlessly come up again as large cities try to incorporate these markings on their streets. It should be interesting to see how this turns out. Now, if they could just repaint that broken white line…


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