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if adding sharrows has been shown to have a positive effect, then cool. they are useful. but once there are a lot of them in a city, they can have some negative effects. I've been honked at and "lectured" by a driver because I was biking on a road without any sharrows visible. also, sharrows are often placed in the "dooring zone" of parked cars.

Just remember that the Dutch were instrumental in bringing slavery to America.

I know there is some evidence of better behavior with sharrows but they are useless paint on the ground really, other than a use for wayfinding they don't do squat for me, and don't do squat in many many instances. In fact I tend to get passed much more closely when I attempt to ride in the line the sharrows give me, sometimes very very dangerously so (my anecdotal experience of course). He may be a bit harsh but he is right. There is also a real problem of city officials using them and calling it good, saying they have cycling stuff on the ground and then moving on. Sharrows will not increase cycling much more then 8-10% if that, many bike folks are getting tied up in infrastructure that only would ever help a small subset of the population, we must do better. At the end of the day Sharrows are still having you interact with cars and the simple act of having to do that (short of a neighborhood greenway) turns off 60% of the population (the interested by concerned folks)

Most folks in this country see cycling as recreation and see folks in lycra as part of that. The Dutch have racing cyclists who use helmets and Lycra, it is actually quite common for weekend warriors to exist, only difference is they are not using that to get to work or go to the store the rest of the week. For cycling to appear normal and something that people can say, "yeah I can do that" the gear has to go, the carbon fiber has to go when we are talking about everyday cycling. I ride 10mi one way every day for my commute, no lycra here, and its on an upright city bike, many here wear lycra for this type of commute, they want to go fast which is silly in the urban environment. (I think it was a London study that showed a fast cyclist and a typical upright cyclist had negligible time differences to their destination in the city.) The Dutch have the highest mode share in the world on purpose, yes they have more of a history of cycling, but that history can be built anywhere (as we have seen in Davis, and now Portland, Minneapolis, and DC even). I would not simply dismiss the ranting of a Dutch cycling blogger off hand. We have different realities here but he is still correct.

I would agree with you on all your points Washcycle. Until drivers here all across the country - both in rural and in urban areas - start to respect other users of the road and mentality changes from "I own the road" to "I share the road", we won't ever see this Dutch person have a different opinion. He comes from a place where driver mentality is completely different. I don't think that will happen here in my lifetime, unfortunately.

Eh, the guy makes some okay points but is overall just blind to other ways of doing things. On the Guardian's bike blog are similar attitudes--for instance, posts about how lycra and cycle-specific clothing are a stupid waste of money. It seems that some people just can't accept that others do things differently than they do.

The infrastructure is getting better all the time, at least around here. I think the sharrows are helpful overall. On George Mason Drive in Arlington, for instance, they alert drivers that yes, I am allowed to be there (the signs saying "cyclists may take full lane" help). If some drivers feel that means that without sharrows, cyclists shouldn't be there, I can't really worry about that. There are always going to be people who draw incorrect conclusions.

I'm with you one the lycra and other cycling-specific clothing. How much do the Dutch need wicking fabrics? Invite them here in August and see how they fare. And do they have to take extra precautions, like highly visible clothing and the occasional sprint, so avoid being squeezed by a Metrobus?

Anywhay, what's wrong with wearing clothing specifically made for that use? It's much more comfortable that way.

The problem isn't the 'sharrow' itself - it can be useful in limited situations. The problem is that in many American jurisdictions, it's become the default bicycle treatment. Where I used to live, we were making headway on expanding the bicycle lane network. But whenever the slightest, most insignificant conflict arose - removal of a parking space or two, lane width reduced by 1 or two feet....sharrows are what we got.

Also, I think the clothing choice does matter. American's make cycling look very dangerous with the lyrca and racing all the time.

Neither the sharrow or the high-tech robotic outfits do anything to encourage people on the fence to consider riding for transportation.

I've seen sharrows in DC and Alexandria. They are usually placed in roads where speed is suitable for cycling and that are the preferred bike routes in the area, but where a bike lane is either not possible because there is not enough room, or where bike usage is so low that its not politically feasible to reserve the real estate for bikes 24/7 (and where additional traffic calming is not desired. For inexperienced riders it serves to show the ideal place to ride - for unfamiliar drivers, it shows them not only that biking is allowed (which signage could do) but also where to look for cyclists. With sufficient education and knowledge, these helps would not be necessary. But by the same token, with sufficient education and knowledge they would not lead drivers to think cycinig is not allowed on other roads (that can also be remedied with share the road signage). In DC and Alexandria at least, painting sharrows is consistent with local govt efforts to ALSO establish bike lanes, off road trails, and, in the case of DC, cycle tracks. Its possible there are localities that think that sharrows mean the other effrots are unnecessary, but I am no familiar with them.

"The Dutch have racing cyclists who use helmets and Lycra, it is actually quite common for weekend warriors to exist, only difference is they are not using that to get to work or go to the store the rest of the week."

They can ride to the store or work on quiet streets or on bike only infrastructure. And usually for short distances. Lots of bike commuters here have long rides, and must share high speed arterials with cars. My sense is that in places with more NL like conditions (like parts of Brooklyn) people are more likely to ride helmetless in street clothes - in Fairfax County its somewhat different. So it may be more the conditions than the culturee.

" For cycling to appear normal and something that people can say, "yeah I can do that" the gear has to go, the carbon fiber has to go when we are talking about everyday cycling."

I have a friend who has both a racing bike for weekends, and a hybrid for commuting. Not everyone wants to spend the money, or use the space in their home, for two or more bikes.

I don't disagree that more people riding in street clothes, on commuter style (or obviously cheap road style, but honestly I can't tell carbon fiber from steel when they pass me at 20MPH) bikes will help to encourage some fence sitters. But its asking a lot for someone to buy an extra bike, or ride in a way thats not comfortable for them, just to encourage more riding by fencesitters. (washcycle, notice how there are some issues that just keep coming up in different forms?)

I wish that sharrows were unnecessary. They do provide evidence to drivers that cyclists have a right to the road, but then as @atlas pointed if there are no sharrows drivers will assume that right disappeared, which it likely hadn't.

What I really wish would happen is that driver's license renewals weren't just a stamp of approval for everyone that showed up on time and wasn't completely blind, but required that you keep your knowledge of driving up to date. That way drivers would have to learn about bicyclist and pedestrian rights now, since honestly 20 years ago that wasn't even a thing discussed in drivers ed.

does anyone know what it means when there is an "ENDS" painted just after the sharrow? Ive seen this on Madison just before 14th (at the mall). if i owned a car that would confuse me.

One of the ways that Dutch cycling infrastructure differs from what the U.S. needs is *speed*. Dutch cities are denser and more compact than American cities, including DC. The maximum safe speed of a cyclist using Dutch infrastructure might be, say, 8 mph, but they're only going one mile to get across town. We might need several miles for an equivalent trip, or many miles for some commutes -- so we need a little more lycra and helmets.

As for sharrows, I think they're fine to fill in gaps. Not enough space for a few blocks for a full bike line or cycletrack, or need a short connection between two bike facilities? Sure, alert the drivers that there will be cyclists taking the full lane. But for longer stretches, it's really not much of a benefit.

John, I think my point is that these two statements of yours are contradictory.

"they are useless paint on the ground really"

"Sharrows will not increase cycling much more then 8-10%"

If they increase cycling by even 1%, then they aren't useless paint.

And they may not do squat for you. But the point is that they help cyclist to ride better (placement, direction etc..). If you already ride well, then that won't help you any. Free mammograms don't help me at all, but I wouldn't say they were useless.

I have only a vague idea what sharrows signify and they don't seem to be on the roads I ride on. I imagine motorists are even less hep as to their specific meaning. However, they do show an image of a bike right there on the road, sending a conscious or unconscious message that bikes are present and belong. I have to think that's beneficial.

The video was a bunch of obvious generalities from a tired, Old Europe perspective. BFD. ...and re lycra, when you have a physique like mine, you just don't hide it from the world!

We should be designing bike infrastructure with our most vulnerable potential users in mind - seniors and kids. Are sharrows working for them? Nope.

Re: clothing and bike style - I think a lot comes down to distance. I love CaBi bikes and we've even bought dutch-style bikes to ride around town with kids, etc. BUT, my commute is 5 miles and I want to get there and back as quickly as possible. That means road bike and lycra.

I believe (I could be wrong) that average commutes in the US are longer than in Holland. Distance is a big driver in what you wear. I think the ideal situation in the US would be to have people going longer distances in lycra on faster bikes, with lots of people in regular clothes on upright bikes doing shorter trips. So a mix. Similarly, I think the ideal "infra" is a mix -- some off-street, but also some on-street (where cars are speed limited).

Vern. The problem with cycletracks is that they're expensive and time consuming and that both money and manhours are limited. So how many miles of bike lanes and sharrows are you willing to trade for a mile of cycletrack? And then of course, cycletracks won't go in everywhere.

"We should be designing bike infrastructure with our most vulnerable potential users in mind - seniors and kids. Are sharrows working for them? Nope. "

Why should we be designing bike infrastructure with seniors and kids in mind? Why shouldn't we be designing it with commuters in mind? (BTW I am over 50, and sharrows help me)

Yes I wear lycra. So what. Will drivers treat me better if I am dressed in casual clothing? Will they give me more space?

If studies say sharrows are good, then great. But atlas has a point: sharrows imply that cyclists are not allowed on other roads. I still think they are good though on balance.

"sharrows imply that cyclists are not allowed on other roads."

Do they? I've used to hear this same argument about bike lanes. And drivers also think that a bike path means we should not be in the road. I suppose cycletracks could imply the same thing, no?

That people are stupid is not an argument against them.

Not to overcharge this, but people used to argue that dressing a certain way implies that a woman is "asking for it" but we know that she is not.

We can't make decisions on what the ignorant are going to imply from those decisions. We have to make the decisions that are best and then try to educate people.

Washcycle - I'm not saying that cyclists need every road wrapped up for them with a bow. Cycle tracks and premium infrastructure should go places that cyclists need them the most for transportation. Sharrows have their place. My problem is, many cities don't have a single cycle track. Many cities may have a few bike lanes. What the sharrow does is give an 'inexpensive' way out for engineers, etc to provide some level of bicycle accommodation - at the expense of better, safer, more accessible facilities. It's a sharrow boom happening across the country and it needs to go bust. Sharrows should be the LAST think you implement, the sprinkles on the sundae, not the default treatment as they are becoming outside the DC beltway bubble.

I agree that sharrows are better than nothing, but I still think they are often substandard. That is, they are often placed so as to plunk people right into the middle of fast-moving traffic.

To me, a big difference between US and Dutch "infra" is that, on Dutch infra, people can ride an entire five mile trip to a useful destination very slowly so they do not sweat much. To do the same on my commute, even in the relatively bike-friendly east end of Alexandria, requires nerves of steel.

In the US, if you don't put on some sort of show that you are making an effort to avoid slowing down the almighty cars, they honk and yell at you (tip: if you stand up, they will think you are trying harder). I've noticed that I ride faster when the bike lanes disappear on me. Why do I ride faster? Because I do _not_ have nerves of steel.

US infra [bad word deleted].

By attacking the Dutch video, you miss the point. Who are we designing our streets for and why do we design the way that we do? Where are sharrows appropriate and what is the purpose of using them? Do sharrows actually make a street feel safer to bike on? For how many people are sharrows beneficial? Are sharrows provide an easy out for cities that don't want to actually change anything?

Yes, protected bike lanes are challenging, but they are challenging because they actually change the status quo. Sharrows are easy because they change precious little. A street that felt unsafe to bike on will continue to feel unsafe after the installation of sharrows.

In my opinion, sharrows are a type of wayfinding. They are helpful to point you in the right direction. When combined with other infrastructure (forced turns, speed reducers), they can form good infrastructure in the form on Bicycle Boulevards. Alone, though, they remain merely wayfinding, and should be treated as such. Useful? Yes. Bike Infrastructure? Not really.

Re sharrows, I support anything that calls attention to cyclists' legitimate use of the road. Re lycra, I live in suburbia and usually ride 15 plus miles (often 30 or 40) when I ride. Try doing that in street clothes!

The attitude in the video is just plain condescending, with zero effort made to understand the US perspective. It's fine if your purpose is to poke fun at others, but don't be surprised if the pokees think you're a bit of a jerk.

Has anyone done any independent tests on the performance advantage of wearing racing clothing.

I know the profession wear it, but they get paid by the advertisers.

Why is it that people trash folks on road bikes in lycra,but don't say anything about folks who drive sports cars? Who needs a Vette,Porsche,or Ferrari? Not everyone wants to drive a Carola,not everyone wants to ride a hybrid. If someone's a bad driver/rider,call them out on their behavior and not their sense of style.

I would say sharrows can be useful if they accompany serious traffic calming. Otherwise I'm in league with the Dutchman on this question.

The same can be true of road diets. I grew up in Philadelphia where many of the streets are naturally narrow, and now live in Providence, where many are not, but I don't find that Providence's efforts to narrow streets has always had the effect of making them bikeable. It may be true that drivers slow down to 30 mph instead of 40 mph, and that's welcome, but if there's no shoulder, it's still impossible for cyclists to share space with cars moving at that speed.

Sharrows and neck-downs will only be effective when they are accompanied by an (enforced) 15 or 20 mph speed limit.

"It's a sharrow boom happening across the country and it needs to go bust. "

From what I can gather there is also a boom in bike lanes, cycle tracks, and off road bike trails. Both the cycle track and sharrows growth will be faster percentagewise, cause they start from an almost zero base. I really do not see places where its true BOTH that sharrows are used in places where bike lanes would be appropriate, AND that they are all that the localitiy is doing. But my experience is mostly in Greater DC (and Im also familiar with parts of NYC). As I said, there may be places that are otherwise.

I know there is some evidence of better behavior with sharrows but they are useless paint on the ground really

some of evidence of better behavior =/= useless paint.

I thought the Dutch video was somewhat amusing. In particular, it reminded me of the opening act of "The Gods Must Be Crazy" (1980):


Lycra (i.e., tight-fitting aerodynamic clothing) is more useful at higher speeds. For someone riding at 5 mph on CaBi, aerodynamics don't really matter. If you are riding at 20 mph and up on a road bike, the aerodynamics will matter.

I'm undecided about the usefulness of sharrows. I've tended to think that they weren't effective, but I don't really know that. I do think that the more frequent the notices that bikes belong on area roads, the better for all cyclists.

But that's just one part of the puzzle. Another huge part has been the popularity of CaBi. Almost all CaBi users I've seen, are wearing casual, non-Lycra clothing. CaBi users are so numerous these days that area drivers become more accustomed to seeing cyclists as a part of everyday life in the region.

Although many drivers remain aggressive, I'd like to think that the ubiquity of CaBi riders has helped to calm down the overall driving population at least a little.

Dutchman does not appear to grasp the idea of utilitarian cycling as a means for filling the evolutionary requirement for vigorous exercise daily (or at least every day you eat). I don't hunt on a daily basis for my food but my genes can't tell the difference between that and riding my bike to work to get a paycheck to buy food in a grocery store. So if relaxed Dutch cyclists are meeting their evolutionary requirement by going to the gym daily or playing futbol, great. I think "racing" my bike to work every day is a much more efficient and elegant solution for thriving in the modern world to which we are maladapted.

The carping about clothing really struck me as shallow. Has he not noticed that it's a lot hotter and more humid here? Amsterdam's record for August dew point (i.e., absolute humidity) is pretty much the average here. It's 55 F and rainy there right now; of course I'd wear regular clothes if I were riding there.

As others have pointed out, anyone that suggests "street clothing" as a universal solution to DC area cycling commuters must be a Dutch tourist who's never been here before.

I have an hour and twenty minute one-way commute every morning. If I rode an omafiets, you can make that two hours one-way.

The average temperature in the summer is, what?, 85-90 degrees? I have actually heard "cycle chic" advocates argue that you should just ride at a gentle pace to avoid sweating. Again, that turns my 1:20 commute into a 2:00 commute, each way.

The suggestion that long- and middle-distance bike commuters should wear street clothes is like the curmudgeon who thinks people wear swimsuits to go swim laps at the pool because they're sexually depraved.

"Why don't they wear wool trousers and ankle-length maxi dresses?"

Oh, and on the subject of sharrows, I think they can be useful as the "stamp of authority" legitimizing cyclists on the road. Even more valuable are signs that say "Cyclist may use full lane."

Which leads me to my (least-) favorite example of sharrows. On S. Walter Reed there's a stretch north of King Street (http://goo.gl/maps/W1uNR) where there used to be a bike lane. Then someone decided to install sharrows. So they used some sort of asphalt grinding tool to grind down the road surface where the line from the bike lane used to be, leaving a rutted, jarring trench. And where did they paint the sharrows? If you guessed "directly on the trench" give yourself a cookie.

Anyway, this stretch also has signs posted every couple of hundred yards saying "Cyclists may use full lane" which I think does an even better job of answering auto-centric folks who think bikes should be on the sidewalk.

This time of year, I literally drip. I use not one, but two sets of cycling specific-clothing every day and I wear cycling sandals so that my feet don't have to go into a wet shoe. Even if I went slower, I'd still perspire, just for longer.

I could buy more expensive and stylish clothing that would not appear so lycra-ish, but I really am unconvinced that doing so would have any impact at all on encouraging larger numbers to try cycling.

oboe, on those bike lanes:


This time of year, I literally drip. I use not one, but two sets of cycling specific-clothing every day

Wait a second. This is genius. I'm going to bring a second pair of shorts & jersey next Monday. Getting into my sopping wet kit for the return leg is my least favorite part of the day.


Thanks for the link; it's interesting to see the history involved. The coda is a bit depressing, though.

"At last report, the BAC was working with the county to find a workable solution."

(posted April 15, 2010)


My bike commute used to include 2 blocks of riding on sharrows each way. As far as I can tell, the sharrows did not improve my safety or help cars understand my right to be on the road at all. I got honked at by cars more during those 2 blocks than the other 3.5 miles of my commute combined. Cars often passed or tried to pass me on those blocks without safe buffer distance, and I got yelled at to "get out of the road" at least once per week. If a municipality wants to better integrate bikes on the cheap, then signs that say "bikes may use full lane" are significantly more effective in my experience and probably cheaper.

Mid-lane sharrows can be used along with the R4-11 (bicycles may use full lane) sign. The signs are typically posted at 1/2 mile intervals, while sharrows are supposed to be every 250 feet.

Sharrows 5 feet to the left of the parking lane and encourage riding in the door zone, but it some cases the lanes are narrow enough so that such sharrows are in the right tire tracks, and the sharrow should be farther left so that a cyclist is encouraged to use full lane.

In the Arlington example, with the R4-11 signs having been posted, the mis-placed sharrows are a net negative, though they are a nice complement to the 2-ft bike lanes on Decatur Street in Edmonston

Above I meant to say that the sharrows can encourage riding outside the door zone.

Oboe, I'm ashamed to admit how long it took me to figure this out. Put the morning's kit in a ziploc bag and forget about it till that evening. But no longer than that!

Wearing old-fashioned shorts from Sears isn't such a big deal for an hour or so and you can get wicking from Under Armour-type shirts. Some research shows that cyclists who look more experienced and capable are given less safety margin on the road. That includes cyclists who wear helmets and cyclists with shorter hair (thanks to sexist drivers) and undoubtedly includes cyclists wearing tight cycling apparel with European ads on it. Drivers who think you're an expert will assume you'll hold your line no matter what and pass you more closely. If you dare to look really fast, with no packs or panniers, you'll invite even more stereotypes. Sometimes I just want to look like everyone else in the grocery store (but thinner). My children refuse to be seen with me in lycra in public. So there's that. And I like to be able to go biking without having to wash my clothes in cold water and drip dry them.

Bike shorts are ultimately more comfortable on the bike, and rear pockets in bike jerseys are extremely useful. So that's what I wear, usually but not always.

I thought the video was fine. I think some of you are making too much of the narrator's comments on the choice of attire. I think it was more observational than criticism.

In the US because our infrastructure is more primitive compared to the Netherlands it is expected that those who do cycle exhibit a more "fanatical" pose.

Keep in mind the mode share in Amsterdam is 38% (2009) while in the US it is still less then 2%. So maybe the first 2% anywhere are hard core and are riding just for the sake of riding as much as anything else.

Question is what does cycling look like when you get to 20 - 30%? I bet it starts to look more like Amsterdam because then most are using a bike for its convenience. Donning a special costume to do so then seems weird.

Bike share and more utilitarian oriented bikes are making inroads though on what people are wearing. I can't picture anyone in team kit riding CaBi.

My view on road paint is that its usefulness is mostly educational. The facts are that motorists will use any and all road space they can physically reach.

On my evening commute I typically use several miles of DCs bike lanes. They are positioned in door zones, often blocked by double parked cars, an serve up the unwary cyclist for a nasty right hook at every intersection.

We won't get to 30% mode share using just these cheap marginal approaches. But the necessary next step is a big one - we need to reallocate space on the road away from cars and create cycle tracks - places where riders are safe from traffic.

We need to rethink the timing of lights at intersections to separate out the various modes of traffic.

And where traffic and cycling still mix we need to slow traffic down to a human scale - 20 MPH with no +10 tolerance.

Crickey. That's genius. Why have I never done that? At my old office, the stairwell was for some reason kept at 100 degrees and 0% humidity. Soaked jeans would dry in 1 hour. I would dry my clothes there and it was perfect. But now...this is such a simple solution. I can even keep a dry kit at work for days I forget.


Now...if you could just tell us how to jury rig a hot shower in an office complex (and a neighborhood) with no gym, we'll be all set.


Just trying to be constructive here.

First of all, the Dutch are one of the top countries when it comes to biking. We can only learn from them.

Now, about the lycra and helmet thing. I don't think he means wearing lycra is essentially a bad thing.
The point he's trying to make is that there's less variability when it comes to the type of bikers you see in the US and it's true. My grandma would never bike in the US, my mother would never bike in the US, my father would never bike in the US, my sister may never bike in the US. But all of them would likely do it in the Netherlands.

Yes, you see plenty of very dedicated people wearing lycra to work, which is good. But you barely see people biking to work on their regular clothes. What that denotes is that biking infrastructure is not up to the people's expectations yet.

And about sharrows, I agree that they have positive effects. But they also have issues: they don't enforce anything: you're still at the will of drivers when it comes to security distance, avoiding being doored, etc.
Also, I agree that sharrows are easier to install and cheaper that separated bike paths. However, and here's the catch with sharrows, they are as cheap and easy to install as a bike way, all you need is paint.
Moreover, the fact that sharrows exist shouldn't prevent us from choosing safer alternatives, which is exactly what it's happening in the US.

We can only learn from them.

I think we can teach them a few things too. And they'd be closed-minded to see it any other way.

you barely see people biking to work on their regular clothes.

That's not true.

the fact that sharrows exist shouldn't prevent us from choosing safer alternatives, which is exactly what it's happening in the US.

In some cases, perhaps, but in others they are the best practice. Saying they're over-used (and I don't know that they are) is a very different statement then saying they are useless.

My grandma would never bike in the US, my mother would never bike in the US, my father would never bike in the US, my sister may never bike in the US. But all of them would likely do it in the Netherlands.

US bike culture has everything to do with the fact that most Americans live in suburban culs-de-sac, or in rural areas. This combined with rural interests' outsized political representation gives us the differences in cycling culture.

Your relatives may be unlikely to ride bikes, but they'd be more likely to ride if they lived in, say, Portland or Capitol Hill than if they lived in a rural area of the Nederlands.

That means US solutions are likely to be much different than Dutch solutions. Unless you can drive everyone into the cities, and give California its rightful 8-10 senators.

Cycling as a mode share will always be low in the country as a whole--but it has the potential to be very high in urban areas.

A better model would be to look at London than Amsterdam.

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