D.I.Y. Strikes Again: Sharrows Appear in Northeast L.A.

12_7_09_sharrows.jpgThey appear. Photo: Ubrayj02/Flickr

Last Friday, the city’s D.I.Y. Department was hard at work in East Los Angeles installing Sharrows on several city streets.  There was an unofficial count of sixteen painted Sharrows on the street.  Oddly, they seem to be centered in the area surrounding the Bike Oven in NELA’s bike district.

This is hardly the first time L.A.’s D.I.Y. bike culture has struck.  The bike lanes on Fletcher Bridge that appeared briefly in the summer of 2008 earned some amateur street artists a star turn in Bicycling Magazine.  More recently, they "announced" a park opening in Mid-Wilshire during this year’s Park(ing) Day.

While these street markings usually get taken up within a couple of days of being put down, the purpose isn’t to calm the streets but to throw down the gauntlet to LADOT.  While the city is being ringed with smaller cities, from Santa Monica, to Long Beach, to Pasadena, to Hermosa Beach, that are literally ringing the city with progressive road design; the City of Angels progressive efforts are either being unintentionally mired, or intentionally buried, in studies and paperwork.

Of course, the D.I.Y. team has thrown their gauntlet less than a week before Wednesday’s Big Bike Meeting held by the Transportation Committee.  It will be interesting to see if this form of confrontational advocacy is being pushed by a small segment of the community, or if cyclists have finally reached the breaking point when it comes to dealing with the city.

  • These sharrows are in NORTHEAST LA, or for those so inclined, the “eastside,” and not in East LA by any means; just a small side note from the geographic-turf obsessed…

    To think it must have cost these guys a few bucks and taken a half hour to paint an entire st with sharrows, while the DOT refuses to do so because…they are frightened that their entire careers spent carelessly destroying this city will be exposed when we all start realizing how easy it was to move people around LA without butchering, polluting, and traumatizing them? Or is it the fact that LA remains the largest automobile market in the country, making it arguably the largest automobile market in the world, so that we’re witnessing the last stand of car culture, the remember the alamo moment that will never come as we instead ride past all the little boxes in the world with smiles on our faces, a beverage in our bottle cages and a speaker bike in tow…DIY the world!

  • I know for a fact that these are in El Sereno. Or is it Eagle Rock?

    I can’t recall, for the life of me, where they are.

    Dash it all.

  • Evan

    “While the city is being ringed with smaller cities, from Santa Monica, to Long Beach, to Pasadena, to Hermosa Beach, that are literally ringing the city with progressive road design”

    I thought that Santa Monica was evil and hates bicyclists? (not saying you’ve claimed this, Damien, but that’s the impression you get from some…)

  • Ramon,

    I was trying to be vague so that I’m not the source of the Sharrows getting taken up, but there’s a big difference between “vague” and “incorrect.” Thanks for the catch.


    A lot of cyclists have issues with the SMPD that don’t extend to the engineers. In some ways SM is kind of like NYC. Progressives painting bike lanes and cops over-policing Critical Mass and other group rides while not enforcing laws keeping bike lanes and paths clear for cyclists. Weird analogy, but it kind of works.

  • Jason Harris

    So am I missing something or are these literally just road markings with arrows and a bicycle on them? We’re not referring to like, dedicated lanes or anything right? If all this is is road markings, I can’t see them doing any actual good for cyclists at all. I guess it’s a nice symbolic gesture to bike riders, but I strongly doubt having a new unfamiliar symbol on the road will alter the behavior of the drivers on said road.

  • joe

    @ Jason

    at first I had the same thoughts, how would this help. But recently visiting some areas that have installed sharrows. I found that motorists are less likely to be “shocked” by the sight of a bike being on the road cause they have been reminded with this simple paint.

    what is shocking is that its taken such a long time for Los Angeles to put this simple thing on any roads.

    And when I drive and see sharrows, I always look around to see how many bikes I see. Just yesterday I was visiting a friend in Pasadena just off lake and California and saw a family of 4 happily and safely using the sharrowed street Lake/ It was a great sight to see, the kids and parents all had smiles.

  • DJB

    Could somebody point me to academic evidence about the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of sharrows and bike lines for increasing ridership or their effect (if any) on accident/death rates for cyclists? Just curious . . .

  • The only studies I know of that show that sort of relationship are those that show that simple increases in the number of total riders increase safety.

    Alta Planning has shown that to increase the total number of riders you need to have a connected, dedicated, series of bicycle facilities in the right of way. So, in a sense, stuff like sharrows are a part of the solution – though in and of themselves unlikely to produce the safety improvements cyclists would like to see.

  • Mahatma

    You guys give way too much credit to some LADOT conspiracy that just doesn’t exist…

    Too bad LA contains all the hipster hoods or you could just vote with your feet to any of these beautiful, progressive cities you cite that surround LA.

  • Spokker

    No conspiracy, just common sense. Bikes have an equal right to streets as cars. In fact, bikes have more of a right than drivers do, as drivers must be licensed by the state. Cyclists don’t have their register their bikes, themselves or anything else. Anything that gets drivers to understand that their presence on the road is okay works with me.

    You sit there behind the cyclist and pass when it’s safe. If you can’t pass safely then you’re out of luck. Sit there and shut up.

  • Jason Harris, sharrows are a waste of paint. Actually, they should be a waste of paint, because the idea they convey is so dumb: bikes should be here. Paint should not be needed for that, because it’s the law. But it turns out, drivers really do need to be reminded constantly via paint and signs. What sharrows do is remove the “get off the road!” anger that some drivers have. The sharrow says “you are wrong, the bikes should be on the road, and the city backs that”

    An added benefit is that novice cyclists are more likely to ride on the sharrow than too close to the parked cars. A properly positioned sharrow should keep the cyclist outside of the door zone.

  • I often rode through Hermosa Beach and find it noticeably more pleasant now and with fewer incidents of close passing than before the sharrows were put in. Sharrows shouldn’t be necessary, but they do in fact have an effect and are not a waste of paint. They add a slight element of confusion to the road space, which is actually a good thing, because it means drivers have to turn on their brain.

  • MU

    Here are two studies looking at the impact of sharrows:



    Both concluded that sharrows had a positive impact on ‘motorist positioning’ (passing distance) and ‘cyclist positioning’ (riding farther from parked cars – outside of the door zone and farther in the lane where they are more visible). They also show that sharrows reduce wrong way and sidewalk riding which have been shown elsewhere to be substantially more dangerous than riding in the road. Neither study was big or long enough to look at accident/injury rates. But they did demonstrate behavior changes that have been shown to improve safety elsewhere.

    Both also point out that nothing indicates that these are a replacement for distinct bike lanes.

    To follow ubrayj02’s point, sharrows do appear to slightly improve actual and perceived safety, which should increase ridership, which will cause a further improvement in actual/perceived safety, etc. They will have this impact to a much smaller degree than real bike lanes, but they do have the benefit of being cheap and fast to install without affecting car traffic/parking at all which always seems to be the stopping point for short sighted pols.

  • Will Campbell

    A few months ago I rode the then-new 2nd Street sharrow’d lane in Long Beach. It was a tremendously empowering experience.

  • DJB

    Thanks y’all!

  • m14t

    Looks like similar activity is going on in NYC as well: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/brooklyn/bike_war_paint_g7EizkFEZktV3IlNUJosQM

  • John

    Sharrows are better than many poorly designed bike lanes that put you in the door zone. The idea is just to make clearer what’s already on the books.

  • D

    Heard that it takes 60 days for the LADOT to get around to covering them back up. I would say good chance that once the cover up paint drys that a new freshly coated sharrow pattern will appear. You know, that’s “the workload these days.”

  • Yeah, I’m so bummed – I read the same quote in the LAist article.

    I still think we should write the mayor and Rita Robinson to thank them for reversing the LADOT’s decision to ignore NELA in the latest bike plan.

    These sharrows are the only significant infrastructure that the LADOT will do in our neighborhood for bikes. The new bike plan completely cuts our area out of the glory and fun.


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