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Visiting Seattle last weekend, it was impossible not to notice that its streets are absolutely covered in sharrows. “It’s almost like they polluted the streets with them,” said Tom Fucoloro, proprietor of the Seattle Bike Blog, who took me on a walk through the city’s Central District, pointing out its transportation features.

A “sharrow” — the word is an amalgamation of “arrow” and “share the road” — is a larger-than-life thermoplastic symbol of a bicycle topped by two chevrons pointing the way forward. More technically known as “shared lane markings,” they’re intended to remind two-wheeled and four-wheeled road users alike to share with each other, and also to encourage people on bikes to take the lane when it’s too narrow to ride side-by-side with car traffic.

Sharrows have been increasing in popularity nationwide, and got a boost in 2009 when they were officially entered into the federal transportation engineering canon. Seattle got a head start, writing them into its 2007 Bike Master Plan. Other cities began earlier, but I’ve never seen such a profusion as in the Emerald City.

Like many experts on transportation bicycling, Fucoloro wasn’t enthusiastic about them. Sharrows are spread so indiscriminately on Seattle streets, he said, that “they mean nothing now.” He has noticed that there seems to be “slightly less aggression” from drivers when they’re in place. “But does that mean all the streets without sharrows are worse?”

Read the entire article at: Grist

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