CH sharrows do not follow guidelines

Sharrows on Edgehill are positioned in the same lane where cars park.


I was excited about Cleveland Heights trying to become more bicycle-friendly by installing sharrows on some roads, but I am very concerned about the way it was done. Instead of improving safety for cylists, the new sharrows actually seem to increase the danger to bicyclists.

Though not mentioned in Nick Matthew's [November] Heights Observer article on the new sharrows in Cleveland Heights, the main purpose of sharrows is to help bicyclists position themselves in the lane. According to federal guidelines in the 2009 Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, sharrows are meant 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 road users of the lateral location bicyclists are likely to occupy within the traveled way;
  • Encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists;
  • Reduce the incidence of wrong-way bicycling;

These same guidelines also recommend that sharrows be painted 4 feet from the curb if there is no parking on the street. But in Cleveland Heights, our sharrows are 2.5 feet from the curb, putting them too close to the curb. This could encourage unsafe passing by motorists. Drivers are given the impression that they can pass the cyclist without altering their course on this narrow roadway. As a result, they get too close to the rider – potentially increasing the danger of the cyclist being hit.

Additionally, the guidelines recommend that sharrows be painted at 11 feet from the curb if there is parking allowed on the street. Edgehill Road allows parking, and the sharrows were again painted at 2.5 feet from the curb. Parked cars are often found surrounding the sharrows. How is this helpful?

The State of Ohio's "Bicycling Street Smarts" publication states that hugging the curb, especially on a narrow road, is not advisable and can result in a bicyclist getting "squeezed out."

Our own City of Cleveland Heights Web page on ordinances contains a link to bicycle safety tips called "How Not to Get Hit by Cars" with clear advice: "Don't hug the curb."

Ironically, the photo of a sharrow the city is using on its site, its facebook page, and printed in the Focus newsletter is not located here in beautiful Cleveland Heights, but was lifted from and shows a correctly placed sharrow in Arlington, Virginia.

The last line of Mr. Matthew's article even states that the position of the Cleveland Heights sharrows does not follow ODOT or bike coalition recommendations. I am concerned about the safety of cyclists on these roads and liability issues for the city. 

These sharrows should be re-painted at the safe and recommended distances from the curb.

Ann Henderson
Cleveland Heights

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Volume 3, Issue 12, Posted 10:30 AM, 11.05.2010