Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Sign of the Times

Apologies for my crude Illustrator skills. But this or something like this is what I think the city should put up on either side of 2nd Street and in pamphlets at all the businesses. It gives instructions! There seems to be a general air of confusion down there. Some people think the stripe is a bike lane, some think it's a bike path (a recreation path like the on the sand), some think cars aren't allowed there.

I've discovered that the green sharrow really is a Rorschach test.

For bike commuters and vehicular cyclists that understand the rules of the road it validates what they already know. Bikes can be on the road! Legally! No one ever need to fear being given a ticket for supposedly riding too far in the center ever again! Yay.

For roadies and club riders who aren't vehicular cyclists, it prods them into a better lane position. When I participated in the bike count on 2nd Street, I was shocked at how many club riders rode in the door zone! Worse yet, they would duck in and out of empty parking spaces rather than riding in a straight, visible and predictable pattern. Observing the sharrows the last few weeks, I've noticed the biggest improvement from this class of riders

With timid sidewalk riders and door zone riders who absolutely fear being in the middle of the lane and would rather choose to duke it out with opening car doors and close passes the results have been mixed. I've spotted a few that probably would have hugged the curb but are now hugging the right edge of the green paint. An improvement of sorts. However, there are still quite a few that for some reason won't ride in the middle of the lane - EVER. No amount of paint is going to help them see the light.

Some motorist feel that it is a bike only lane and move immediately to the left lane. Some motorist understand the concept and will ride patiently behind a cyclists when one is present. Some motorist think their god given right to the road has been pulled from beneath them and are internally seething.

Some business owners are supportive. Some think that bicycles will somehow slow the 5mph weekend traffic to 2mph. Some families think it's great, they can now safely ride bikes with their 6 yearolds on the street. Some residents think it is a bloodbath waiting to happen.

Rorschach test, know what I mean?

What do I think? I think its better that it's there than if it wasn't. For one, it does provide a higher level of visibility and safety for cyclists riding on 2nd Street. Secondly, it shows in an amazingly graphic way how every cyclist can ride on EVERY STREET in Long Beach. If you had some cool cycling glasses that incorporated the latest augmented reality technology that showed you where you could legally ride - every street would have that big ass green stripe.

If I were going to be in the LBC for much longer I'd take photo of the big ass green stripe and carry it around with me everywhere I go for my next conversation with a police officer, especially if it's officer Wharton. I'd also take along the City of Long Beach's Sharrow FAQ with me too.

I'm planning to make one last sharrow video....a How To of sorts for motorists and cyclist. If the city won't do it, WE have to.



Peter said...

i actually like that illustration a lot.

i will say this about sharrows, in general -- i had no idea what the arrows were for until someone told me a couple of weeks ago. i've only been riding for about a year, but i'm very up on 'the scene', have ridden plenty of sharrows (and been duly harrassed and terrorized by motorists), but had no idea -- and frankly, I'm still not convinced -- that the point of the arrows in a sharrow is where a rider is supposed to position themselves - in the middle of the sharrow, as opposed to one side or the other.

to me, an arrow is something to tell us a direction -- that's it. if we want to show lane positioning, that requires a new/improved symbol.

the green paint does help to show positioning, so that's a great start.

Anonymous said...

I still think that painting almost the entire lane green has added to the motorist's confusion. If I were driving through second street and saw a bike painted on a huge green lane it visually says to me bike lane only. Maybe a more direct approach by adding the words Bikes Share Lane painted on the lane would help.

fred said...

The comments and the post both show where the trouble lies. Different interpretations of something that should not need interpretation. Bike use full lane, motorists change lanes to pass.

The paint seems to have confused some riders and motor vehicle operators, because the education portion is missing.

epon said...

Great illustration, may I link to it in a post on ?

Do you mind if I copy it and host the file so the link wont break later incase your image is moved ?


John Schubert said...

I'm not surprised that two commenters noticed confusion. Experimental traffic control devices have a lot of that, and that's why they're experimental. "Glance recognition" is an important thing to have in a traffic control device.

The sharrow plus green paint got a lot of good publicity. But we live in an era where highway departments nationwide are looking to use less paint, not more. This is not a solution that will scale up nationwide.

The "Bicycles may use full lane" sign has been fully approved for the forthcoming new edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. It's passed the "glance recognition" hurdle and is cheaper than maintaining all that paint.

And... as you pointed out ... vehicular cyclists "get it".

You don't need permission from paint, or from a sign, to ride safely.

Want more, safer, lower-stress cycling? Promote more vehicular cycling. Signs and pavement markings play a minor role. Behavior plays the big role.

John Schubert