Contact Street Smarts
An education in ‘Sharrows’
Dear Street Smarts, Q: I travel through this stretch of Soquel Avenue at Branciforte in the morning on my daily commute. Even though as a strong and experienced cyclist I can easily hit 25 MPH sprinting on flat ground, I would prefer not to at only 4 blocks into my commute, nor should I have to. After the city spend millions in bike lane improvements this stretch from B40 to Ocean Street with the "sharrows" is potentially lethal. When the signal at B40 is red, I find it safest to wait at the traffic light catty-corner to Shoppers Corner and count the number of cars in the right lane so I know how many to let past me as I wait, slowly riding in the crosswalk since the lanes are just too narrow to share with rushing commute motorists. Once the cars in the right lane are past, I take the whole right lane, as is my right -- and according to signage, exactly what I should do. With a little assist from going down hill, I am at the speed of traffic between Ocean View and May. I often am honked at, pushed to the curb, buzzed close, etc. on this stretch due to a total lack of "sharing" in the "sharrow" lane. Since a bike lane (that should have extended along this stretch) is non-existent, this is mostly an enforcement issue for SCPD. An inquiry sent to the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission's Hazard Report at http://www.sccrtc.org/services/hazard-reports/ A: Sharrows are civil engineer's way to say that the road is too narrow for a bike lane, thus the bicyclist MUST take the middle of the lane for the safety of the rider. Motorists must share the lane with the cyclist. Here's a video made by Ecology Action on the appropriate use of Sharrows, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtOFyGsTifk. To riders whose space is violated by drivers, please remember the license plate number and vehicle description, and report it to the police. Drivers, your insistence on claiming the travel lane, driving aggressively and forcing cyclists off the road can get someone hurt. Can you afford to pay someone's medical bills? If your behavior is found to be malicious, a criminal case could be opened against you. Is few seconds of your time that valuable? While we are talking about bike safety, don't forget the " Give Me 3" law goes into affect this September. Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last year, it tells motorists to allow three feet of space between them and the cyclist when passing. If three feet of space is not available, then drivers must wait until it is safe to pass. Read more on the California Bicycle Coalition's website at http://calbike.org/give-me-3-its-the-law/. Laws and traffic devices such as these were put into place because cyclist were being run off the road and/or struck by vehicles passing too close to the cyclist. Now, I know I am going to get a lot of hate mail aimed at unruly cyclists but clearly, these laws and devices were put into place due to unruly drivers. Share the responsibility. Share the road. Share the benefits of following traffic laws.
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