How Not To


Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had the opportunity to travel back to my home town, Pittsfield, Massachusetts. I was right back in ‘motordom’, putting several hundred miles on a rental car driving between New York, Pittsfield and the Boston suburbs (and back).

I was interested to note that North Street, the main street in town, now boasted sharrows.

Unfortunately, they were painted squarely in the door zone…

We may have abused the original intent of sharrows here in Portland, but at least we don’t have to suffer this.


10 responses to “How Not To”

  1. Chris:

    Unfortunately, that may well be close to the required standards. The national standards or recommendations were apparently watered down by jurisdictional disputes. I think they show the sharrows at 3′ from the parked cars, or about 11′ from the curb. Portland doesn’t do that at all. Portland positions their sharrows in the middle of the car driving path (apparently so they won’t get worn off by car tires more than any other reason). But that does put the sharrows solidly in the “take the lane” position!

  2. Mrs Dibbly & I are preparing to spend 2 weeks later this month in the small city where we grew up, in SW Florida. I expect to find much worse than this, despite the fact that there are a lot of well-off, active retirees, snowbirds, and tourists there who could benefit from infrastructure for riding bikes. Any time I leave Portland I find that I appreciate it so much more upon my return.

  3. I’m clearly falling behind in my transport geekery. I have no idea what you’re writing about, Chris. Can you flesh that out a little for us dummies?

    • The ‘sharrow’ is the bicycle symbol with the two chevrons on top of it. It’s intended to convey that bikes and cars should share the lane, and was originally designed to be used for a range of traffic volume where this mixing is reasonable, and when a separate bike lane is not possible.

      One of the first uses in Portland was on NW 19th between Hoyt and Burnside, where traffic volumes required a second auto lane and the bike lane was dropped.

      In Portland we have put this almost everywhere, using it more as wayfinding for bikes, and it is losing some of its ‘sharing’ message.

      But in the application in the photo it appears to be telling cyclists to ride to the right of auto traffic (dangerously in the door zone in my view) which is the complete opposite of the what the symbol was designed for (sharing, not separating, the traffic lane).

  4. Uh oh Chris, does this make you anti-bike lane too? Those sharrows are placed right where a conventional bike lane would have gone if there was slightly more room.

    As Doug noted, those are standard minimum reach-from-curb- dimensions. Personally, I think our bikeway standards need to be re-framed as Preferred Pacement/ Minimum Placement/ and Constrained (exception) Placement. That would be more in line with the way auto lane widths are defined. Current bikeway standards always default to less than ideal dimensions.

    • Not at all. Lanes have their place (and ideally would have room outside the door zone). But this beast is neither fish nor fowl. It’s being used to show separation (instead of sharing), but without the benefit of a delineated lane.

      • Chris,

        I particularly like how the arrows are pointing right up the tailpipe of the parked UPS truck.

        What clearer message to bicyclists: “Get off my pavement!” (Brandishes cane).

  5. “putting several hundred miles on a rental car driving between New York, Pittsfield and the Boston suburbs (and back).”

    Slightly off-topic, this indicates the need for improved intercity passenger rail on the Albany-Pittsfield-Springfield-Boston line (the “Boston and Albany”). You shouldn’t have needed to drive this route at all.

    There actually is one train on the B&A line every day but it’s too unreliable and doesn’t make connections.

    • Amtrak needs to raise fares on the LD trains in order to fund more frequent service on middle-distance routes like Albany-Boston. I’m going to ride the Starlight from OAK to VAN in mid-January for $76.10. That is too low; obviously I’m glad personally to pay that little, but it should be higher.

      The Greyhound “advance purchase” fare is just about exactly the same, but it requires a transfer in SAC and takes just as long. Obviously, if one is going to sit up all night a train is a much vehicle in which to do it.

      The fare should be at least $20 more than the bus for an equivalent long distance itinerary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *