Eyes on the Street: Disappearing Sharrows

Can you spot the barely-visible outline of the former sharrow? 4th Street at Norton Avenue. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Can you spot the barely-visible outline of the former sharrow? 4th Street at Norton Avenue. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

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Remember those sharrows that bike advocates worked hard to get the city adopt a decade ago? Seems like they’re fading away these days.

For the uninitiated, shared-use arrows “sharrows” are street markings that indicate lanes shared by bicycles and cars.

I’ve never been a big fan of sharrows – they seemed like the very least the city could do to try to make streets barely more bike-friendly, without actually doing much. I am glad they’re in the city’s toolkit – they have some uses, such as getting continuous bike facilites through short pinch-points.

The L.A. County Bicycle Coalition pushed L.A. for years to get the city’s first sharrows implemented. Finally, in 2010, LADOT installed them on several existing bike routes. When Mayor Villaraigosa directed LADOT to step up its bike facility mileage, scores of miles of sharrows started appearing – some on streets where bike lanes were approved and/or would fit.

Lately I’ve been noticing that sharrows have been disappearing. Three examples:

  • The roadway on 4th Street was recently resurfaced between Norton Avenue and Irving Boulevard in Hancock Park. The city painted a new stop line for cars, but the sharrow is missing. If you look closely (photo at top) you can make it out under a layer of new asphalt.
  • Further east on 4th Street – between McCadden Place and Highland Avenue, also in Hancock Park – the city of L.A. did a pilot section of concrete street repair. The new concrete looks great and feels smooth. The stop lines got re-painted, but that block’s sharrows completely disappeared.
  • In East Hollywood, on Rosewood Avenue between Heliotrope Drive and Berendo Street – part of the original CicLAvia route – there was some kind of work done where the street was opened up and sealed back. There’s a bit of sharrow remnant sticking out of the darker repaired asphalt.
Repaired concrete 4th Street between Highland and McCadden - no sharrows
Repaired concrete 4th Street between Highland and McCadden – no sharrows
L.A. City 4th Street (Highland to McCadden) concrete repair with no sharrows.
Rosewood Avenue at Berendo Street – can you spot the remnant of a former sharrow?

I am of two minds about this. Part of me says that bicycle activists need to pick our battles – and we definitely have bigger and better things to focus on. Maybe these wimpy sharrows should just fade away while we push for protected bike lanes, traffic calming, Vision Zero, etc.

On the other hand, part of me feels that if we let these bike facility markings fade away, then the bike lanes could be next…

Readers – what do you think? Have you been seeing L.A. sharrows disappearing in your neck of the woods? Where? What do you think should be done about it?

  • jennix

    I think they’re good to have.

    I didn’t like them at first because i think they give some people the impression that without those you can’t ride in the street. I’ve had a couple of generous citizens tell me as much through an open window. They’re like bike route signs. I love signs, but not everybody understands that they’re informational to riders and a *reminder* to motorists, as opposed to signifying that these are the only legal places to bike in the street.

    I’ve changed my mind since, i have found them useful when i wanted to take a lane, and they actually do seem to dissuade people from being really aggressive when you are taking a lane.

    Unfortunately, whoever decides where to place them is some kind of maniac; on some streets they’re near the dividing stripe, on others they’re just beyond the gutter. And the LADOT told us the sharrows are actually painted where we’re they (the LADOT) “would like (us) to ride”.

    I’d like them to always measure them off the dividing stripe or the center of the road if no stripe exists. I think currently they measure them from the “roadway edge”, but i can’t find a consistent pattern to placement, and i think that adds to the confusion of some motorists as well.

    So… i’m can take ’em or leave ’em, but i do wish they’d be consistent.

  • Wes Reutimann

    When installed appropriately on streets sign posted 25 mph or below, I think they are a good form of wayfinding, as well as validation, for people on bikes. Streets like 4th St. serve as a really important alternative to neighboring arterials that have not been designed to make space for bicycles. On these corridors I think sharrows are very much worth preserving, and maybe even expanding upon in light of all the other new forms of e-mobility that are growing in popularity!

  • Eddy Sackinger

    I like sharrows as part of a Neighborhood greenway. Or for path finding purposes. However if the street has traffic lights on it, or has any other marking on the street I don’t like it (eg a lane divider).

  • com63

    People should report these missing markings to 311. They will paint them back if they get enough service requests. It is still a designated bicycle route.

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