Thursday, July 21, 2011

Minneapolis' Green Sharrow Bike Lane

I thought I'd share a few pictures of one of the more interesting pieces of bicycle infrastructure I came across on my recent trip to Minneapolis. They are green sharrow lanes in the downtown core of the city. They're not quite just sharrows, but they're also not quite bike lanes. What they do provide, however, is added visibility and space for bikers on roads where, for whatever reason, the city has decided they don't have space for an actual dedicated bike-only painted lane. This gives bikers a clearly denoted shared space on the road with cars, alerting drivers to expect and give room to bikers riding in the green lane.

I took a few pictures of how I saw it working from my perch on top of the Minneapolis Public Library.

Here's the stretch of sharrow lane as it sits empty. Sharrows are painted at the beginning and end of the lane with the middle stretch painted green. This is not coloured asphalt, but just green paint. Pretty easy and cheap to apply, I'd imagine.

Here's a biker using the lane, while a car sits up ahead waiting to turn. They're both using the same space.

And here is a bus using the lane:

And what it looks like when the road gets busy:

As with all sharrows, the lane pretty much disappears when there are too many cars, forcing bikers to the gutter and virtually obliterating their space. I think there are some positives and negatives to the painted lane approach for sharrows. On the one hand, if you're going to put in sharrows only, then adding a different colour on the road is a good way to visually alert drivers to expect bikers and give them their space. On the negative, this lane in no way replaces a dedicated bike lane and could be actually less safe in that bikers might have a false sense of security riding in this lane, forgetting it is shared with cars and busses. It would be interesting to see some collision statistics for before and after.

Could these work on College where the bike lanes disappears on the west portion? How about on Spadina Ave?

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