I rode through Winter Park on my way to work yesterday so I could take photos of the new Sharrows on Palmer Ave. I want to congratulate the City of Winter Park and its bike/ped board and traffic manager, Butch Margraf, for this excellent implementation!
The purpose of sharrows, technically known as Shared Lane Markings, is primarily to indicate a cyclist’s right to the lane. It does not confer this right, it just informs road users of it. Cyclists have the right to the lane on every road and only have to ride to the right and share a lane that is 14 feet or wider AND has unobstructed pavement on the right third AND when this position does not otherwise interfere with a cyclist’s safe operation.
The hope is that the presence of a properly placed sharrow will encourage cyclists to use a safer lane position in a narrow lane. There is some debate as to whether they are intended to demonstrate lane position, or just to alert motorists to the presence (and legitimacy) of cyclists in the lane.
A common use of sharrows (and, I believe, the official use in California) is to replace bike lanes next to on street parking and encourage cyclists to ride farther from parked cars. In this use, they do demonstrate lateral position (in the MUTCD guidelines the placement is WAY TOO CLOSE to the parked cars—the document recommends 11 feet from the curb, it should be at least 13… but this is a topic for another post).
Their use on Palmer Ave. is to alert motorists that cyclists have a right to the entire lane and to encourage cyclists to ride on the road (not the sidewalk) and in the lane (not hugging the curb). This marking is not meant to indicate where a cyclist should ride. It is not necessary to ride in the middle of the lane, in most cases (although, you have a right to do that in a narrow lane!). The left side of the right tire track (about 4 feet from the edge) is a good position on Palmer. However, it is a good idea to move to the left tire track before that silly median to prevent motorists from trying to pass and cut you off.
As I’ve said before, I’m looking forward to seeing more of these in Central Florida. And even more than that, I’m looking forward to seeing bicyclists riding in safe lane positions — as the norm and not just an amazing, remarkable, freak occurrence which turns out to be an optical illusion.