Bike Lanes v. Sharrows: Debate Continues for Hillsborough Street

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Corrections appended: The original version of this article stated that the cycle lanes are four feet wide; they are five feet wide. In addition, the post misspelled Alison Carpenter’s name.

Members of the city’s bike commission want more data on the Hillsborough Street bicycle lanes before they make a final recommendation to keep them on the street or replace them with “sharrows,” or shared-lane markings.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission Monday voted to keep temporary bike lanes while sharrows are added to roads around N.C. State University.

“I would like to keep these bike lanes installed until at least 75 percent of the surrounding road treatments are completed,” said Commission Chair Alan Wiggs.

Temporary bike lanes were placed on Hillsborough Street in late July. They were added to the street’s renovation plan only after residents voiced safety concerns to the city council.

In contrast to a bike lane, which separates cyclists from motorists by a solid white line, a sharrow is a large marking on the road that reminds motorists to share the road. Wiggs said as more sharrows appear on surrounding streets, the commission will have more data about how motorists are adapting to the new markings.

"Sharrows" remind motorists to share the road with bicyclists.

In the next few months, Clark Avenue, as well as Peace, Hargett and Faircloth streets will all be receiving sharrows.

“To me,” Wiggs said, “if we keep [the bike lanes] down for the extent of the trial we can then come back and make a good recommendation.”

BPAC will then recommended to city councilors whether to use sharrows or bike lanes on Hillsborough Street. Raleigh councilors will then make their own recommendation to the state DOT, which owns the street and will make the final decision.

During a recent public comment period, 45 percent of residents expressed preference for the bike lanes, while 55 percent are opposed.

“People truly love them or hate them,” said Eric Lamb, Raleigh’s transportation planner.

One item on the bike lane “con” list is the size of the lanes. Cyclists say the 5-foot-wide bike lanes put them directly in the door zone of cars parked on the street.

Of the 13 residents who attended Monday’s BPAC meeting, seven favored sharrows, while the other six preferred bike lanes.

Although unable to attend, N. C. State University Transportation’s Planner Alison Carpenter sent a statement endorsing sharrows. Lamb said the Raleigh Office of Transportation also supports sharrow use.

Since the bike lanes’ installation, only one incident has been reported. Lamb said a cyclist hit a parked car while swerving to avoid another cyclist, who was crossing the street.

2 thoughts on “Bike Lanes v. Sharrows: Debate Continues for Hillsborough Street

  1. The bike lanes are actually 5-feet wide, not 4-feet. And there is no buffer whatsoever between the bike lane and parked cars because NCDOT was not comfortable with the federal AASHTO guideline allowing for narrowing the travel lane to 10-feet. Very disappointing results.

  2. Dear Editor,

    It is great to hear the progression of Raleigh’s transportation system, whether they implement more bike lanes or sharrows, developing alternative forms of transportation is essential for the progression towards a healthier community and environment.
    I am a college student as well as a bike commuter in the city of Winston-Salem and find that running errands is a stressful, scary, and close to- impossible task without a car. I feel obligated to own a car, to get to work but do not have the money to do so as I try to pay for my education. It is a dream of mine to someday live in a healthy community where biking is widely accepted and citizens are committed to taking care of our neighborhoods and environment. I pray that someday we do not have to be dependent on foreign oil companies and that individuals are able to have jobs because they are not restricted by not having a car to commute to work.
    I was disheartened to hear of the apprehension of some community members about establishing alternative forms of transportation. As Dr. Lamb stated in the proclamation above, “People either hate or love them”. The hesitation about bike lanes could be due to the change in lifestyle that people would have to endure. Change is always difficult at first but essential for the positive improvement of generations to come. I believe driving cars is the addiction of our nation, and many of us need to go to bicycle rehab to become healthy once again.
    In retrospect bicycles are the most logical form of transportation because of the multitude of health benefits, its cost effectiveness, and environmental sustainability.

    A Passionate Student Cyclist