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Sharrows: Are you Cool with Your Kid Pedaling in Them?

The green lanes on Second Street are designed to be shared by cars and bikes, but how do you feel about your children riding one?

With the recent addition of a share-lane along 2nd Street and roundabouts placed along Vista in Belmont Heights, Long Beach is aiming to become a “bike-friendly” community.  What do you think of these additions and modifications?  Are they ingredients for a “bike-friendly” Long Beach or a recipe for disaster?  Do you allow your kids to pedal along the green lane on 2nd Street? 

Elizabeth Borsting

 When I first moved to Long Beach it was touted as the “International City.”  Since moving here as a college student back in 1986, I’ve seen the city go through several identity crisis as city officials grapple with what exactly they want Long Beach to be.  Wasn’t it just a few years ago that we were going to market ourselves as the “Aquatic Capital of the World?”  While I think making the city more bike-friendly is a good idea, I think that strip of green paint along 2nd Street is an accident waiting to happen.  I don’t want my 13-year-old son using the 2nd Street bike lane.  I’ve seen distracted drivers and people opening their car doors and nearly missing a cyclist.  On the other hand, I love the bike path along the beach.  As a family we’ll ride our bikes down to Shoreline Village and have lunch, and I feel safe doing so with my kids. 

 Patricia Tsoiasue

 I love that the city wants to be designated a bike friendly city.  Wanting to do something is half the battle. Long Beach has an old infrastructure that didn't leave room for bike lanes.  The sharrows are an experiment.  (trying a new solution to a problem is never a bad thing).  So... Now that we've tried the sharrows... Do they work?  I've seen folks use the sharrows on occasion, but not a whole lot.  I have to admit the sharrows are a bit scary for me, and I don't think it's a good idea for kids to share the road with cars on such a busy street. I think the sharrows were an interesting idea, but really, the traffic is too heavy for bikes to use them.  If they are to work, it would be on a less congested street.  To be honest, I would find them somewhat tricky for myself.  When I think of bike friendly, I think of separate bike lanes.

 

Susie Ridgeway

A. I am a pretty safety conscious Mom and I would never send my kids on the green lane in Belmont Shore on their bikes.  Number 1, there are too many cars going through the Shore; Number 2, there are too many cars trying to park or get out of their parking spot and Number 3, the drivers often are in a rush and have no patience for bikes in the bike lane and they go through the Shore too quickly.  I just don’t feel the green lane is safe enough for kids on their bikes.  As far as the roundabouts go, I don’t feel they are safe right now.  Cars go flying around the round about with no consideration of the other cars, I have almost been hit a few times and now.  I try to avoid the roundabouts at all costs.  I think there needs to be some education of drivers on how the roundabouts work!

John B. Greet June 09, 2011 at 01:49 PM
I understand the motivation behind installing the sharrows. Increasing driver awareness of bicylists who are using the same roadways is always a good thing. The question then becomes how best to do that. I don't think shoving bicycles out into the middle of traffic lanes is either wise or particularly safe. As Elizabeth so aptly stated, this is an accident waiting to happen, and as we often remind our own remaining teen, "In a collision between a bike and a car, it really won't matter much who is at fault. As the person on the bike you will be the one to suffer the most serious injury." With these sharrows I think we have actually *increased* bicyclist vulnerability. If a sharrow had to be installed, it should have been along the right side of the right-hand traffic lane, so that motorists in the same lane could still safely pass as necessary and so motorists in the parking lane could have a more visible reminder, right there next to their car doors, to be more aware and cautious of bicyclists when pulling in or out and when opening their doors into traffic.
Nancy Wride (Editor) June 09, 2011 at 06:46 PM
I think the Sharrows might be why I am dodging cyclists on the sidewalk? I am not keen on my son riding to school in the ALLEYS in the morning because there is no more harrowing a drive than to the Lowell Elementary drop-off. I should write a first-person comedy about that, because several of you that I know have hilarious stories. One person I know almost got hit by a parent/kid on that motorized scooter. Hasn't there been a study on the Sharrows safety yet? Note: I was told the safest place to ride in it is actually near the left, because car doors openings are a major source of injury....
Nancy Wride (Editor) June 09, 2011 at 06:48 PM
Also, why are there no Sharrows in Naples? Their bike path is really nice and it seems there might still be room for Sharrows there?
Shore Resident June 09, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Nancy, think about it. There aren't any Sharrows BECAUSE there is a bike lane. Now, if we could keep them in the bike land and not the sidewalk........"sighs"
Nancy Wride (Editor) June 09, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Right. I drive there every day and the lane to turn into where the school is, where Rita's Flowers used to be, is just so easy, so well marked. Lane is clearly marked. There is no way that a cyclist would be hit in the bike lane by a parked car door opening. I'm sure there is a reason that I'm missing, like there isn't enough room. I like the Sharrows on paper, but admit to being nervous about driving in one.
Allan Crawford June 10, 2011 at 05:59 PM
As a bike advocate and one who uses the sharrows almost daily I agree that the age and experience of a child should be considered when deciding whether they can safely ride in the sharrows, particularly if they are riding alone Recently I saw a bike map from another city that showed the skill level required to use various types of routes. Think of it like a ski area. There are green beginner routes, there are blue intermediate routes and there are black diamonds. Not every route is appropriate for every skier..just like not every bike route is necessarily appropriate for every rider. The bike paths are our Green Routes, the bike lanes and sharrows are more like intermediate or blue routes. What the sharrows indicate is where a bicyclists should ride in order to be visible to cars - and to be out of the door zone. Studies show that one of the most common causes of bike accidents is the driver didn't see the bicyclist. If the bicyclist is riding right next to the car (in the door zone) they are difficult to see. If they are further out in the lane...they are both visible and out of the door zone...thus in a safer place to ride. We encourage people to use common sense, if you are comfortable and can maintain a reasonable speed the sharrows work well. If you have young kids, the sharrows may not be the place you want them to ride. This is our neighborhood and we encourage bicyclists and motorists to enjoy and share our streets.
Jeri Thompson June 10, 2011 at 06:51 PM
I don't know the numbers but there are safety reports out there, and the sharrows are a huge success. There are less accidents between walkers on the sidewalks and bikes. Plus as one reader put it, there is an awareness created with the sharrows between cars and cyclists. The city of Long Beach has the information on the safety reports. I think a call to the city would answer those questions as I am not an expert on this topic, I just know a few things.
Steven Sennikoff June 10, 2011 at 07:22 PM
I completely agree with Susie Ridgeway's comments regarding the "sharrows" and the faux roundabouts. One of the basic principles of town planning and urban design is to keep pedestrians and bikes away from automobile traffic, not to throw them directly into it. With the amount of traffic, the number of distractions, and cars pulling in and out of parking spaces, it's only a matter of time before something tragic happens. This ill-conceived concept needs to be rethought and eliminated. It's the roll of the City to provide safety for its residents, not to create opportunities for harm. Regarding the new "roundabouts," true roundabouts are designed to actually slow traffic down as vehicles travel around the center, allowing traffic to proceed safely on to various directions. What have been constructed are merely intersection islands that allow traffic to flow directly past the "roundabouts" and through the intersections without any traffic control. Like with the "sharrows," it's just a matter of time before a tragic accident.
Tim Hanson June 10, 2011 at 10:15 PM
I agree Steven, the idea is to separate bikes and pedistrians from the cars, not bring them together. Bicyclists should be banned from any streets frequented by autos. Let them ride the river trails, or restrict them to walking their bikes on the sidewalk when there isn't a bike lane.
David Huntsman June 13, 2011 at 11:39 PM
Nancy, by "nervous" do you mean "cautious"? If so, that's kind of the value of sharrows... We as motorists have become very detached from the road we drive on. Sharrows remind us of the humanity we share the road with.
David Huntsman June 13, 2011 at 11:46 PM
Tim, cyclists can't be banned from public roads. Local municipalities may ban them from sidewalks. Road users (motorists and cyclists) are entitled to use our public roads and the varying restrictions for each type of vehicle is spelled out in the California Vehicle Code.
Nancy Wride (Editor) June 14, 2011 at 12:26 AM
David, Yes, cautious is more apt. Because of all the car crashes and fatalities I've reported over the years, once you see that up close, you don't take it lightly afterward. I think it is good to be on alert, regardless. (I had to report a story of Border Patrol agents chasing a van of smuggled workers and the van struck an Acura and split it in half. A local reporter went to cover the crash and learned her son and daughter were in the car. I have never forgotten that).
Roy June 14, 2011 at 05:25 AM
With the close sequence of traffic signals and crosswalks along with the blinding morning and afternoon sun, it's just a matter of time till someone gets hit. I've noticed several blind-spots caused by signs and landscaping in the center divider of 2nd St. which shields pedestrians and cyclists in the crosswalk. This obstacle draws your vision to centerline of 2nd St. away from cyclists to the right in the sharrows. As far as creating a safe atmosphere, the green paint does nothing but determine liability when someone does get injured.

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