The Better Bike Lanes

In my last post, I groused about bike lanes that I thought were done poorly; that were actually, in some situations, dangerous to the folks who are supposed to use them. I thought it was only fair to bring attention to some bike lanes in Phoenix which I think are done well. My home town is dominated by automobiles. The phrase “good Phoenix bike lane” might seem to be a textbook example of an oxymoron, or an urban legend, but I can testify to their existence and I have photographic proof!

I’m not talking here about multiuse paths. Those facilities separate bikes, pedestrians and equestrians from automobiles completely. I’m talking about roadways which try to make it safer for bicycles to share the road with automobiles.

The most important components of this type of infrastructure are painted road elements called Shared Lane Markings (SLMs), or “sharrows.” The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has an excellent description of them in their Urban Bikeway Design Guide – Shared Lane Markings. The Complete Streets programs all over America include sharrows as an automatic characteristic of their planning.

A sharrow is a painted image of a bicycle topped with two chevrons indicating the direction the bicycle rider should go when traveling in that lane. Its purpose is to let motorists know they may encounter bikes in that lane, and bicycles have a right to be there.

A Sharrow

Evidence says the use of sharrows makes the roadways safer for bicyclists. I think when they are sometimes included in marked bike lanes, they make the bike lanes even safer. That is what I expected to see a little bit further on, when I saw the white lines:

Bike Lane Ahead of the Sharrow?

No, actually, these are on-street parking areas. If there are no cars parked there, in my opinion they function as an excellent bike lane.

Parking and Lane

The closed lane markings still make it somewhat of a no man’s land at the intersections, but at least these are side streets controlled by stop signs. Traveling up this road about another quarter of a mile, making a right and riding another half mile I come to a bike-lane-to-intersection-transition I think is the best idea short of a cycle track (a bike lane physically separated from the roadway using curbing or a change in elevation):

Bike Lane and Turn Lane

Even though the solid white bike lane markings have become dashed, it is still clearly a bike lane. And the use of sharrows makes it even safer.

Good Bike Lane Ending

Ironically, the only two times I have seen infrastructure like this not work so well is when irresponsible bike riders are going the wrong way down the bike lane or irresponsible drivers are parked in a clearly marked bike lanes!


BluesCat is a senior citizen still living and working in Phoenix, Arizona. He had problems with this post: his auto-correction kept substituting “shallow” for “sharrow”!

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