‘Sharrows’ in Vail, Avon tell cars, bikes to cooperate
June 10, 2014
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The name “sharrow” was coined by Oliver Gajda, of the City and County of San Francisco Bicycle Program, and is a combination of the words of share and arrow. San Francisco began painting sharrows on their streets in 2004 and since then, the San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic determined, through various studies, that shared lane pavement markings there have had a positive impact on motorist and cyclist behavior, positions and safety.
VAIL — People like Adam Koch and his nephew, Cruz, were who the town had in mind when crews painted shared-lane arrows on roads this month.
Riding down Vail Valley Drive on a tandem bicycle last week, Adam and Cruz, 8, were among the scores of walkers and cyclists to take notice of the new markings.
"They make you feel safe," Koch said.
Dubbed "sharrows," the shared-lane markers look like a chevron symbol you might find on a military uniform, with an insignia of a bicycle underneath. The idea is to show drivers that bikes are allowed in the drive lane and they should anticipate seeing bikes on that road, but they are also to show cyclists where they should aim their bikes.
"If you notice, they've been put 3 feet off the road to try to get bikers to stay off to the side without actually creating a separate bike lane," said Gregg Barrie, a senior landscape architect with Vail's Department of Public Works. "Because in a lot of places, you don't have enough room to create a separate bike lane. … Also, in these areas, you get a lot of people who don't ride their bikes that often and they ride the wrong direction. They ride against traffic rather than with traffic. So part of the idea with these sharrows is to help reduce that conflict and make people think, 'Wait, I'm supposed to be on the other side of the road.'"
VAIL GETS 53 'SHARROWS'
Barrie says Vail Valley Drive is a perfect example of a road that needed sharrows.
"On some days in the summer, you can barely drive your car down Vail Valley Drive because there are so many bikes and walkers on that road," Barrie said. "So the idea was us finding a way to make this more safe for people, to get drivers to slow down a little bit and recognize bikers have a right to the road along with them."
Vail's Gore Valley Trail system runs for 12 miles from East Vail to West Vail and back, but sections of it — like Vail Valley Drive — aren't a trail at all, just a road. Meadow Drive in Vail makes up another part of the Gore Valley Trail system where cars and bikes share lanes.
"The places we chose to put them were places we get a fair amount of traffic — especially on Meadow Drive in the hospital section — as well as tons of bike and pedestrian traffic," Barrie said. "We put up 53 of them in total … and amazingly enough they put all those down in about five hours."
AVON ADOPTS MARKINGS, TOO
But Vail isn't the only place in the valley you'll find new sharrows. The town of Avon recently adopted the idea, as well.
"Vail has this outreach effort that you can commute and get around on a bike in Vail, and now here comes Avon with the same consistent markings and theme," said Avon Town Manager Virginia Egger. "That's great to have the same kind of thinking across the valley. We know that people want to be able to move around by bikes and on foot."
You'll find Avon's sharrows on Avon Road in that road's series of roundabouts, something Egger said is important as drivers often forget that bikers share the roundabouts, as well.
"We really wanted to acknowledge that bicycles are welcome on this challenging set of roundabouts," she said.
Barrie said he really liked Avon's idea to include the sharrows in the roundabouts.
"That's something we would like to look at in Vail, is whether or not we could put them up in spots heading into the roundabouts," Barrie said. "As just a mental note to drivers — 'Hey, there may be a bike here in these roundabouts, and I need to prepare for that.'"