In Search of Good PSAs about Bike Lanes and Sharrows

Just around the corner from Campfire Cycling (a.k.a. Commute by Bike World Headquarters) is Mia’s Lounge, your basic bar. Except Mia’s has a little store, tucked into a corner, where you can buy bags of peanuts, chips, candy bars, sodas, cigarettes, carryout beer and distilled beverages.

It’s the shortest distance between us and sugary caffeine — not counting the Greek restaurant across the street from us, which always seems to be having a communal employee cigarette break blockading the entrance.

So once or twice a day someone here will announce, “I’m going to Mia’s. Anybody want anything?” And then that co-worker will walk over to a bar, during work hours, come back a few minutes later, and it’s perfectly okay.

Mia's Sidewalk Rider and Sharrow
A sidewalk cyclist passes in front of Mia's. The sad sharrow sighs.

Yesterday, I apparently got a job at Mia’s.

I had stopped in front of the bar to ponder a flier in the window. Four kids, probably 12-year-olds, came cycling up the sidewalk. One shouted ahead to me to make room. Instinctively, I squeezed toward the wall — which is counter to my usual strategy (when I have time to think) which is to block the sidewalk nonchalantly.

Not everyone ignores the sharrow
Not everyone ignores the sharrow

I instantly realized my missed opportunity, so I said to the kids as they passed, “You can ride in the street here — you’re supposed to.”

I heard one of the kids say something like, “Okay. Thanks,” as they all pedaled away from me.

The bartender at Mia’s stepped out of front door and said to me, “You’re hired. I’m so tired of that, I can’t say it as nice as you can anymore.”

I don’t really want a job at Mia’s, but maybe I can leverage this into one free beer.

I’m all for sharrows (as well as bike lanes, and simply sharing the roads). But I’m starting to wonder who (besides bike advocates and people who read bike blogs) even knows what sharrows are. I just had a meeting here at my desk with a smart guy; a citizen of the city where I live. I showed him a photo, also taken in front of Mia’s, of a cyclists and a sharrow. I asked him if he knew what it was.

“Umm… That that lane is just for cyclists?”


What do we do to educate people about the meaning of these cryptic markings on our roads? Anything?

I don’t see much TV, so I kind of assumed that there were PSAs or something that told motorists, This is a sharrow. If you see one painted one the road, it means you should run down fewer cyclists than you would ordinarily.

I guess I’m wrong. Where I live there apparently has not been an effective effort to educate the public about the fabulous things the city has done — which makes it a little less fabulous, I think.

But have other municipalities done this? It turns out that they have. What I found is not particularly impressive, but it’s better than nothing.

Here is a selection:

This has the production values of a YouTube reply video made by a nine year old, starring the mom of said tween. And the music creates a mental association of bike lanes and sharrows with a menacing accordionist.

Concise and to the point. But, again, the weird music. Discordant xylophone arpeggios descending into madness — the madness of bike lanes!

This was a class project done by some college kids — apparently filmed and produced on the way to class on the day the assignment was due. The shaky video gives the sense that bike lanes are good for fleeing the university campus in the event of an earthquake. There’s absolutely no education message here except for a few bland titles: “Pedestrians are Everywhere,” “Bike Lanes are Everywhere,” “Bike Lanes Protect Everyone.” If you have read this paragraph without watching the video, you’ve saved yourself from motion sickness.

Better. Short and to the point. The whimsical Leave it to Beaver music is almost too upbeat. Maybe there’s no pleasing me.

Again: These are all better than nothing.

But what are we doing, cyclists? How are we getting the word out to other cyclists as well as motorists?

Telepathy isn’t working.

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