How to Ride in a Sharrow

Sharrow Video Screenshot

Sharrow. The linguistic mash-up of the words share and arrow, hardly rolls gracefully off the tongue. Nor are the meaning and purpose of this traffic symbol, consisting of two painted chevrons above a bicycle, particularly easy for cyclists and motorists to decipher.

But it’s important to understand how they work for you. So, we tip our helmets to the City of Edmundton, Alberta, Canada, Office of Transportation Planning for a winning video tutorial, Dial S for Sharrow. In it, a Lego heroine explains to her hapless streetside Lego companion, with noir-ish allure, how sharrows help bicyclists and motorists share a traffic lane safely.

Sharrows work the same way in New York City. They are indicated in orange on the New York City Bike Map, and if you ride on First Avenue at 48th Street in Manhattan, for example, or on Henry Street at Congress in Brooklyn, sharrow markings will be familiar to you.

The sharrow symbol, found on streets too narrow for a bike lane, indicate where a cyclist should ride to avoid the “door zone” or a vehicle that is pulling onto the road from a parking place. For motorists, the symbol is a visual reminder that they must share the lane, which means slowing down and passing when it is safe to do so. Remember, though, whether a bike lane or sharrow is or is not present, you have the right to signal and take the lane (don’t forget to look over your shoulder first) when an obstruction impedes safety.

Take two minutes to look at the video to review how to ride safely in a shared lane — “so’s you don’t get whacked by opening car doors.”

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