Sharrow Cam Tells the Story of Long Beach’s Green Shared Lane

Russ Roca, the photographer and bike activist who has taken the lead on promoting Long Beach’s world-class shared lane, brings us a video on people’s first reactions to the lane.  For anyone that missed Friday’s story, Long Beach painted a travel lane green and installed Sharrows on 2nd Street, one of the busiest streets in the city for both bikes and cars.

Longe Beach’s sharrows policy is groundbreaking both locally and internationally.  As far as I know, this is the first time that anyone, anywhere has colored a lane with Sharrows and the world is watching to see the results.  An email thread of the Caltrans’ District 7 Bike Advisory Committee posits that these are the first Sharrows on public streets anywhere in Los Angeles County, although there is some question about whether or not the Sharrows on Westwood Boulevard are on the campus of UCLA.

While there has been some debate on whether or not painting a shared lane in a similar way that other cities paing bike lanes will confuse people; the early results show cyclists esctatic cyclists whizzing past parked cars well outside the door zone.  Long Beach residents don’t seem confused, they seem ecstatic.  Of course, there will always be some malcontents, but the early returns are happy returns.

As an Angeleno, I’m certainly jealous of Long Beach for making such a dramatic statement when Los Angeles won’t even have a plan to make a plan to install Sharrows until next year.  However, the end of the video when L.B. Mobility Coordinator Charles Gandy is encouraging two young cyclists to ride in the center of the lane because "it’s the safest place to be" is such a far-cry from "ride to the right or you’ll be bug splatter" attitude at LADOT that it sort of makes me want to cry.

Roca has more videos on the Long Beach Sharrow experience at his YouTube page.

  • Peter Smith

    thanks Russ and Damien, for the followup.

    will definitely want to know all about this project going forward.

    also curious to know about who came up with this idea? who pitched it? how was it formalized? permissions from Caldot? what did local bike advocacy orgs think? what did Long Beach officials think? how long has it been incubating? debated at town council meeting? ridership numbers before and after if we have them? more videos like the one above. etc.

    i’m guessing the speed limit on that road is 25 MPH?? (which means cars will go 40 MPH when they can) will there be an effort to formally lower the speed limit?

    link to russ’s website is broken.


  • Peter,
    To answer some questions…

    -also curious to know about who came up with this idea? who pitched it?

    Andrea White from the Bikestation took a photo of a similar treatment in SLC and brought it back to the city. It inspired many, such as Pat West the City Manager who is also a cyclist.

    -how was it formalized? permissions from Caldot?
    It’s a non-standard design so the city got permission from the Feds to do an experimental treatment.

    -what did local bike advocacy orgs think?
    I’m part of the local bike advocacy group and we are largely pleased by it. We made it real clear at every meeting, that we wanted the Sharrows in the CENTER of the lane and not off to the right. I think some of us wish there was more public education, mailers, etc., that went along with it though.

    what did Long Beach officials think?
    Most of the City Council has been very supportive. Gary DeLong, whose district this sharrow runs through was very supportive as was the local business association.

    The old school car-centric traffic engineers, not so supportive.

    how long has it been incubating?
    Amazingly, 4 months.

    debated at town council meeting?
    None that I know of.

    ridership numbers before and after if we have them?
    A 3 day count was done a week before placement and we counted 1200 cyclists

    -more videos like the one above. etc.
    Visit my blog at

    -i’m guessing the speed limit on that road is 25 MPH?? (which means cars will go 40 MPH when they can) will there be an effort to formally lower the speed limit?

    This is the assumption most people make when they see pictures or hear about the project, but it is NOT the case. I would say average speeds are actually closer to 18mph, very manageable by bike!

    On a recent busy weekend, I rode the strip from end to end and I averaged 5mph!

    Hope that answers your questions,

  • Links should work now. As for all your questions, I’m trying to get an interview with Gandy for our interview series. If I can’t, I’ll just journalist out the answers. I know the funds were from a grant and I know Caltrans had no problem with the design, but not a lot of the specifics.

  • I’m going to sit here, hands neatly folded, waiting for that CEQA law-suit over Level of Service degradation we’re always hearing about from the LADOT when it comes to installing bike facilities to get handed to the City of Long Beach.

    Any minute now …

  • RussRoca, Im amazed this only took 4 months.

    In Boston, requests for bike lanes are met with “sure, well start the two year process soon”

  • William

    Flagstaff AZ has had a sharrow for at least a couple of years on the main drag gong north through downtown, love it.

  • Did you bother to Google before claiming these were the first anywhere? New York has dozens of miles of sharrows — maybe close to 100 — and San Francisco has had them for many years. Cute video, though.

  • @William, that Flagstaff sharrow lane is painted green, too??

  • I see the line “painted a shared lane” has caused some confusion. I meant I wasn’t aware of any city that color-painted a lane that wasn’t a bike path but was for both cars and bikes. There are certainly many streets in the world that have sharrows, and many bike lanes that are painted. I’ll check on Flagstaff.

  • It looks like Salt Lake City has two blocks in downtown with this treatment, but not sure.

    Idea was Dan Bergenthal’s — transportation director for Salt Lake City.

    Here’s a press release (pdf) on the painted sharrows in SLC from about 10 months ago.

    Address is ‘200 South, between State and Main.’ Nothing on google street view.

  • Mike,

    They might be a first – sharrows painted green but no actual striping. Interesting idea gotta say, thanks for letting us take a look.

  • what’s the next step to get this in front of the Department of Yes we can’t? (LADOT) and rub their noses in it? Putting sharrows in the middle of the lane is EXCELLENT work. Bravo Long Beach!

    Seems like this could become a reality in other cities like Burbank, Pasadena, Santa Monica etc..

  • angle

    The LADOT needs to get a pink slip. Not joking.

  • An interesting point worth noting:

    Russ Roca has a video demonstrating that this road is already performing at an abominable rate of automobile service (with a 5 mph average through the area during normal weekday conditions).

    There are plenty of streets in LA where car capacity has hits its ceiling, and adding bikes to the mix does next to nothing to make the road slower for cars. On those most congested streets, the only option (the LADOT) would have us believe is to widen the road, remove parking, and speed up the cars.

    In Long Beach, it would appear they have taken the $0 option: let the cars hit capacity, and focus on allowing more people to get through the area using bicycles. This is the cheapest way of increasing the number of people moving on the roads.

    So you see, with a bit of twisted logic to match the insane transportation engineers’ perspective on roads, we might end up with a good justification for this treatment on hyper-congested roads in LA.

  • Here’s that video of riding through 2nd Street when it is at capacity. Who’s slowing who down?

  • I think this is a very interesting idea which may not have been thought through very well.

    I’m all for encouraging more people to bicycle and use other enviro-friendly modes of transportation. I’m an enthusiastic bicyclist myself and live a block and a half from the Sharrows.

    Unfortunately, the ONE thing I’m painfully aware of from biking around Long Beach on the bike trails and on the roadways is that MOST of my fellow bicyclists are total incompetents.

    The percentage of bicyclists who even make a *gesture* at obeying traffic laws is probably in single digit percentages — and more likely a couple of points max from what I see.

    Add to that the problem of people who are often barely in control of their bicycles or who menace themselves and other bicyclists, pedestrians, and others with their clumsy or reckless behavior on the trails and on the streets.

    Yesterday, I had my very first experience with the Sharrows.

    I tend to avoid second street whether in a car or on a bicycle. When you live here, you know how to get around without using that traffic light-dotted would be promenade.

    But I was riding my bike up from my flat in the shore to a friends house in the Heights and, so, ended up crossing Second St — and the Sharrows — at a traffic light protected intersection.

    No sooner had I begun to cross the westbound Sharrows lane than a bicyclist blew the light going approximately 15-20 mph, causing me to jam on my breaks.

    When I yelled that he *still* had to pay attention to lights he laughed and said, “No worries, bro” — as though *I* had just apologized to him!

    On my return, at dusk, I was almost home, traveling on my own side street off of Second. I stopped, as usual, at the four way stop — and good thing I did, since a young guy on a road bike blew through *his* stop to my right, hands off the bars and arms folded across his chest.

    The Sharrows *may* be a good idea — but we’re going to have to completely re-educate the overwhelming majority of bicyclists to understand that THEY have a responsibility to themselves, their fellow bicyclists, pedestrians and, yes, even motor vehicle drivers to *obey the laws of the road.*

    If not, we’re going to see red on green before you know it.

  • Man, I wish this whole bike-spirit thing we got here in LB would spread to the rest of the area. I fear that the downside of the hyper-bike-friendly policies here is the rise of a “ditch LA” mentality in Long Beach. I love it here, but I also love the rest of the area – my blog is LA loyalist since I’m just as interested in Greater LA issues as with LB centric ones. My vision for the whole area is one in which the success of one community is the pride of the whole city, not a source of jealousy.


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