ASHEVILLE – Bicyclists and drivers alike in north Asheville have probably noticed new markings being installed on the streets there. Shared lane markings, or “sharrows” are yet another tool being used by the City of Asheville to provide multi-modal transportation options within the city and enhance safety for both bicyclists and drivers.
Kimberly Avenue and surrounding streets are the newest recipients of sharrows as the City of Asheville’s Transportation Department works to create a planned 6.5 mile network of bicycle-friendly streets along major commuter routes.
In 2012, Asheville City Council voted to implement a Complete Streets policy for Asheville. That policy is intended to balance the needs of all travelers no matter their mode of transportation or ability.
Asheville has already rolled out an expanding network of bike lanes, but not all streets are wide enough for such enhancements. That’s where sharrows come in.
“A sharrow is really an invitation to share the road,” says Transportation Planner Barb Mee. “It is a reminder that we all, drivers and bicyclists alike, are out there using the same space.”
South French Broad from downtown to Livingston Street became the first route to receive sharrows in 2008. It was the city’s first project subsequent to adoption of the bicycle transportation plan. As city staff looked at continuing to implement the bicycle plan, the sharrows in North Asheville emerged as the best next step in creating a connected network of on-road bicycle facilities in Asheville.
Shared lane markings have been found to be a best practice in encouraging bicyclists to ride the lane on the road rather than off to the side. They are used when lanes are not wide enough for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to ride side by side. When using these routes, bicyclists should ride at least as far to the left as the middle of the arrow. This keeps bicyclists visible and in the flow of traffic and away from the dreaded “door zone” of cars parked on the street. It also gives a wide berth for traffic coming out of driveways or into an intersection.
They also give drivers a heads up to look out for bicyclists. The markings indicate that there is not room for drivers to safely pass a bicyclist in the lane, and they are often used on downhill grades and along residential streets where bicyclists can keep up with the speed limit.
Sharrows can help bicyclists navigate a commute as well, pointing the way along a route that is sometimes safer than major corridors like Merrimon Avenue.
“These are usable alternative routes that keep bicycles off of roads that are currently more suitable for cars and trucks,” Mee said.
The north Asheville shared lane marking network is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.
Bicycle enhancements like sharrows are aligned with Asheville City Council’s strategic goal of supporting multimodal transportation options. For more on the Comprehensive Bicycle plan, go to www.ashevillenc.gov.