Sharrows

The city of Durango is rightly committed to boosting multimodal transportation with the aim of reducing vehicle use by increasing walking, cycling, public transportation and carpooling. This is good for all involved – drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, parking spots and buses alike – for many reasons, including easing traffic congestion, improving health, making commutes less lonely, improving air quality and reducing the illustrious carbon footprint. And there are many good ways of encouraging such multimodalism. The jury will be out for a while on the city’s soon-to-be installed methodology: sharrows.

This invented word combines “share” with “arrows” depicted in a graphic painted on roadways with the intent of creating bicycle-and-car synergy in the same space. The notion, as described by the U.S. Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, is to:

“Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in a shared lane with on-street parallel parking in order to reduce the chance of a bicyclist’s impacting the open door of a parked vehicle;

“Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in lanes that are too narrow for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to travel side by side within the same traffic lane;

“Alert motorists of the lateral location bicyclists are likely to occupy within the traveled way; “Encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists; and

“Reduce the incidence of wrong-way bicycling.”

To accomplish these lofty ends, the city will be slowly eradicating bike lanes throughout town, replacing them with the visual message that cyclists and motorists must share the sandbox. It could work. It could also be a bit of a wheel reinvention, redundant or simply obvious. Time will tell, but the city will install the graphic on Main Avenue downtown and West Second Avenue from Park Avenue to 27th Street next month – and the work will be done at night (What else does the city do at night? When the parking meters are replaced with their smarter offspring, we wager it will take place after dark.)

It could be an innovation to behold, increasing safety and unity for one and all commuters. It could be much ado about nothing. In either case, it will spruce up the roads with a snazzy cartoon.

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