Terribly dangerous shared lane markings in Richmond VA

Shared lane marking on North Boulevard, Richmond, VA

Shared lane marking on North Boulevard, Richmond, VA (photo by author)

Shared lane markings (share the street arrows, or “sharrows”) are a good way to indicate mixed traffic on low-speed, low-traffic neighborhood streets.  Placing sharrows on a high-speed stroad, however, raises questions.

On this stretch of North Boulevard in Richmond, Virginia, near the Richmond Flying Squirrels ball field (and its enormous parking lot) I chose to ride on the sidewalk despite sharrows indicating my right to “take the lane.”

The video below should clear up any disagreement regarding my judgement to disobey the Rules of the Road.

As dangerous as this situation appears, a professional engineer placed his or her seal of legal responsibility on the roadway design pictured.  While my area of competency is structural engineering (not transportation), I am nevertheless curious about the thought process used to arrive at this design.

Did the engineer perceive any incompatibility between cars moving 40 mph (or greater), and people on bicycles moving 12 mph?  If they are merely selecting pre-approved designs from the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), should we consider the work they are doing to be engineering, or is it that of a technician?

Beyond the particular engineer involved, these are questions for the civil engineering profession, for Department of Transportation officials, about our regulatory apparatus, and about what we as citizens are demanding of the former three.

It is difficult for me to decide whether these markings are hurting more than helping, or vise versa.  Are they effective in warning motorists of the presence of cyclists?  Or, are they attracting less experienced cyclists into a dangerous situation?  

My intuition at the site was to avoid using the actual roadway.

Maybe our friends in Richmond will share some insight.

Update: To be clear, the problem of sharrows on high-speed, high-traffic roads pervades most American cities.  I am not picking on Richmond, a city with great bones, history, architecture, and natural setting – albeit somewhat lagging in bicycling infrastructure.  Rather, my photo/video representing the sharrow problem happened to be snapped in Richmond.

3 thoughts on “Terribly dangerous shared lane markings in Richmond VA

  1. Pingback: A protptypical American cycle path – the Cannon Creek Greenway | Rebuilding The Rust Belt

  2. I have to say your assessment of “terribly dangerous” is hyperbole. The sharrows were poorly installed (inconsistent positioning), but I used to live just north of this location and have ridden that road countless times. In fact, when I lived there the conditions were worse, because the streetscape hadn’t been improved, the pavement was in bad shape, and there wasn’t as much retail (it was largely still industrial). From your video you can see vehicles aren’t actually driving that fast, and after that platoon of traffic, the road is empty.

    While not an inviting road, it also isn’t “terribly dangerous” and it is disappointing that someone that is car-free as you are, is so uncomfortable using a bike in typical urban conditions. If one is knowledgeable of how to effectively ride in urban traffic (e.g. defensive practices) it isn’t dangerous as you assert.

    • Is 40-60 mph traffic off a highway exit ramp really typical urban conditions? It hasn’t been in any city I’ve lived or cycled in (New York, D.C., New Haven, even Richmond). There are not many high-speed two-lane arterials that serve as primary highway routes in this city that I’ve found.

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