LADOT Sharrows Report Results: Sharrows are Good

The long-awaited report is finally here.  A year after installation, the LADOT Bike Program has completed analysis of our in-depth study for Sharrows on the streets of Los Angeles.  Overall, Sharrows were a resounding success in improving safe interactions between drivers and bicyclists on many different types of street with various conditions.  For a look at the methodolgy used for our study, feel free to read up on our pre-installation Sharrows post.

But don’t take our word for it: take a look at the report for yourself.  We also created a page tab (a drop-down from the “Sharrows” page tab) for a quick link to the study by itself.  The report has already been submitted to SCAG and to the Mayor’s Office.  We hope to move forward with a robust implementation of Sharrows on Bicycle Friendly Streets throughout the City and as a practical solution to gap closure between existing facilities on streets that cannot easily accommodate bike lanes.

Come below the fold, where we’ll do a quick rundown of the report’s results, and what it may mean for LA’s streets in the future.

Sharrows Improve Driver Behavior

Sharrows improved the interactions between drivers and bicyclists in a number of ways: drivers passed bicyclists at greater distances, drivers allowed a greater tailing distance when following behind a bicyclist, tailgated a bicyclist far less often, took fewer aggressive actions, and were less abusive towards bicyclists.

Passing Distance

Fountain Ave had the most improvement, 4th Street had the highest passing distance

In almost every site, drivers increased the distance they would take when passing a bicyclist.  The greatest improvement was on Fountain Avenue, where drivers increased their passing distance by 28% to almost 5 feet of room between driver and bicyclist. 4th Street had the highest passing distance, with drivers leaving 6.06 feet of room, on average, between themselves and bicyclists when passing.  The only street that saw its passing distance shrink was on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, which had the highest (and thus, safest) passing distance before Sharrows were implemented.

Not only did passing distance improve, but the number of unsafe passers also shrank

In addition to the passing distance increasing overall, far fewer drivers passed bicyclists in an unsafe manner.  Fountain Avenue again had the greatest change (seen in the graph above) which saw the number of drivers passing unsafely (less than 3 feet of room) drop from almost 50% of drivers to less than 25% of drivers.  Reseda Boulevard and Adams Boulevard also saw far fewer unsafe passes from drivers.

Changed Behavior

More road conditions improved than passing distance

In addition to improved passing distances, drivers were found to tailgate less, follow behind bicyclists at a safe distance more often, and engage in fewer instances of aggression like honking and/or shouting at a bicyclist.  The best example of this is on Reseda Boulevard, which saw improvements in all three factors.  Additionally, Westholme Avenue saw a sharp decrease in aggressive behavior and 4th Street saw a steep decrease in tailgating and a large increase drivers following at a safe distance.

Recommendations

The report concludes that Sharrows would be most effective in Los Angeles on streets like Fountain Avenue – 2 lane streets with a dotted line dividing direction of traffic.  Sharrows, although not as effective as on Fountain Avenue, were also found to create positive impacts for bicyclists on arterial roadways and low-volume collector streets.

Recommended for Sharrows in Los Angeles

LADOT’s additional recommendations hit a few high points:

  • Sharrows be implemented no less than 12 feet from the curb.  Beyond this minimum distance, however, Sharrows should also be aligned in a way that creates a straight line of travel for bicyclists.  This helps ensure a bicyclist doesn’t weave as street widths change, making them safer and ensuring drivers will be able to react to bicyclists more predictably.
  • Sharrows be implemented along with “Bicycles may use full lane” signage, pending its approval in the California Manual for Traffic Control Devices (CA MUTCD).

Sharrows will be prioritized for:

  • Gap closure between bike lanes where a bike lane is infeasible;
  • Existing bicycle routes, to enhance visibility and safety, and;
  • On 2-lane streets with dotted divider lines, similar to Fountain Avenue

“Thank You”s

We’d also like to issue a special “Thank You” to everyone involved in making this study a success.  In particular, we’d like to thank the LACBC for being great partners in this study, Dennis Hindman for showing up to every single pre-and-post installation Sharrows study ride, and to LADOT Bike Program interns/Student Professional Workers Oliver Hou, Hannah Polow, and Cullen McCormick for crunching the data and putting together such a good looking report.

0 replies
  1. Dan Gutierrez
    Dan Gutierrez says:

    It is unfortunate that the city didn’t use other lateral placements besides 12′, since without data at 13′, 14′, etc., they haven’t established that 12′ is a good minimum. Maybe drivers treat cyclists even better at 13′, etc.

    Reply
  2. Joe Borfo
    Joe Borfo says:

    When and how can the report results be implemented in some manner that promote action towards the use of more sharrows on the streets rather than just for public interest? Also, thank you for this study.

    Reply
    • ladotbikeblog
      ladotbikeblog says:

      Most likely, the findings will be utilized to incorporate Sharrows into the implementation of Bicycle Friendly Streets, which is a current project priority for the LADOT Bike Program.

      And: you’re welcome! 😀

      Reply
  3. Dennis Hindman
    Dennis Hindman says:

    This study did not observe what a person on a bicycle will do once Sharrows are installed. The idea that you can get a significant number of people on bicycles to ride in front of cars that are moving much faster than they are is flawed by not taking in to account humans natural instinct for survival. If you cannot get anyone to ride in front of cars where these symbols are, then the Sharrows are useless. Trying to convince people to ride in front of much faster moving vehicles would be a waste of time, it would be much more productive to get more comfortable and safer infrastructure installed for them to ride on. .

    Most bike riders on Reseda Blvd are much more comfortable on the sidewalk and suggesting to them that they should not only ride in the street, but also in front of cars that are moving 2-3 times faster than them is simply ludicrous. This is giving the city an easy way out of having to do the more difficult work of trying to make a person on a bicycle more comfortable, which would encourage much more people to ride.

    I have simply not been brave, or foolhardy enough, to ride directly on the Sharrows on Reseda Blvd since my participation in the study. It would be much riskier and more uncomfortable to ride in front of cars moving much faster than me compared to moving closer to the parked cars. After riding my bicycle at least three thousand miles after my participation in these Sharrows trials, I have not had anything close to the severity of harrassment or close calls that occurred during my rides in the study. As a matter of fact, the amount of close calls with parked cars doors since then have also been much less than the problems I had with interacting with moving vehicles during the study and I did not change my distance from the parked cars significantly since then.

    Why is it that pedestrians have been given 10,750 miles of protected walkways, with their own intersection signals, and yet no less vunerable people who are sitting on bicycles are mainly expected to be next to, or in front of fast moving cars, with only the protection of some paint to warn motorists not to hit them? When it comes to bicycles, there frequently is the excuse that there is no room or it would be difficult to install a lane, so let’s put them in front of the much faster moving vehicles. Wouldn’t it make more sense to treat these two very vunerable modes of transportation somewhat equally? Los Angeles is simply not going to improve the subjective safety for most potential bicyclists by these types of treatments and due to that the mode share of cycling will be kept very low.

    If you look at videos of different cities in the Netherlands, the pedestrian infrastructure on arterial streets is very similar to Los Angeles except the cars are ususally not allowed to turn into the crosswalk when pedestrians are about to enter that space.

    Compare that to how the people on bicycles in the Netherlands are usually given their own paths next to arterial streets, with bike only crossing signals at intersections. There is also frequently a six foot space between the roadway and the bike path, which is similar to what much of the sidewalks have in Los Angeles.This is done to not only improve the objective safety, but also the comfort level by increasing the subjective safety.

    Why should it be surprising that when you aim for much less than this level of comfort, then the number of bicyclists is significantly less. How many people would want to ride when they feel uncomfortable with the idea? Car manufactures try to make their vehicles as comfortable as possible in to get people to buy their product. If they lowered the comfort level to this degree they would have much less customers. Well, people are not coming out in droves to do uncomfortable cycling in Los Angeles now and I don’t expect that to change signicantly with the installation of uncomfortable Sharrows.

    Reply
      • Dennis Hindman
        Dennis Hindman says:

        When it comes to choosing to apply Sharrows or bike lanes, it would be easier to pick Sharrows rather than trying to get space for bike lanes. Putting Sharrows at, or north of, the Sherman Way intersection of Reseda Blvd does not do anything to encourage more bicycling on this busy street. You are simply telling them to ride in mixed traffic and hoping the motorized vehicle drivers are paying attention to these much slower and smaller moving objects in front of them.

        I do believe that the LADOT will put in Sharrows to avoid some potential confrontations with having to remove space for cars or pedestrians. Interesting that LADOT was willing to remove some pedestrian walkway space in order to accomodate a bus only lane on Wilshire Blvd. Let’s see if something like that would happen for cycling.

        Simply put, the safety measures for bicyclists in this city remains at the bottom when compared to trucks, cars and pedestrians.

        Reply
        • ladotbikeblog
          ladotbikeblog says:

          Reseda was only one of 6 test sites for Sharrows; I’m not sure why you’re so hung up on one and ignoring the other 5.

          We’re going to install sharrows where they will have the greatest safety impact. That was the whole point of the study. One of the recommendations is that Sharrows be implemented with other safety/traffic calming features in order to maximize their effectiveness.

          If you believe we’ll do otherwise , it’s incumbent upon you to make your voice heard in upcoming projects where you feel possible bike lanes are being passed over in favor of Sharrows.

          Reply
          • Dennis Hindman
            Dennis Hindman says:

            The two streets that were the most uncomfortable to ride for me during the Sharrows pilot were Adams Blvd and Reseda Blvd and not surprisingly they both have posted speed limits of 35 miles an hour. On both of these streets the application of Sharrows would have very limited impact towards encouraging cycling due to the volume and speed of the motorized vehicles. As the volume and speed of the vehicles is reduced, the application of Sharrows would make more sense due to more people willing to cycle in mixed traffic.

            I took part in this pilot knowing that the study in San Francisco, that had Sharrows at 11 feet, showed that bicyclists and cars moved a few more inches away from parked cars. I wanted more in the toolbox for LADOT to move the installation of infrastructure along. I now see that the application of Sharrows could be applied very liberally if the behavior and fears of potential bicyclists are not taken into account. Viewing moving motorized vehicles as not as dangerous to cyclists as parked cars is not what I am hearing when talking to experienced or potential cyclists.

            You must also understand that people were willing to ride this far out in the street during this study due to the encouragement of the authority that is the LADOT. It’s not something that many of the participants would do on their own. If I am not mistaken another participant, Dorothy Wong–who used to race bicycles–told me she felt uncomfortable riding this far out in the street on Reseda Blvd.

          • ladotbikeblog
            ladotbikeblog says:

            I’m not sure where we’re disagreeing on this. You mention the possible minimal effects Sharrows may have on encouragement, but the study was to measure safety results, not encouragement results. The results of the study showed, by a number of different metrics, that drivers interacted more safely with bicyclists after the application of Sharrows. I personally don’t believe that a bicyclist riding closer than 12 feet from the curb will negate those safety improvements. And finally, Sharrows will be one of many tools used for bike infrastructure – not as replacement for other, more appropriate, tools.

  4. Dennis Hindman
    Dennis Hindman says:

    The point I am trying to make is that if you put Sharrows in a location on the street where no one will ride, then you haven’t done anything for objective or subjective safety of cyclists and that seems to have occurred on Reseda Blvd. San Francisco had this problem when they put Sharrows to the left of a bus only lane and the bicyclists stuck to the bus only lane, which means the Sharrows are useless in this instance.

    http://sf.streetsblog.org/2010/06/25/new-sharrows-on-sutter-and-post-streets-not-popular-with-cyclists/

    Obviously, this is not exactly what LADOT has done, but it illustrates that cyclists fears and behavior must be taken into account before moving forward with an application. I see putting Sharrows on most arterials as likely non-usable for most cyclists. My observations of cyclists not using Sharrows on Reseda Blvd due to the discomfort level that is would create is a similar problem. Most people seem to still ride on the sidewalks on this street, even with bike lanes available. The volume and speed of cars are discouraging people from cycling on a street like this and Sharrows are not helping to calm those fears.

    Cyclists need to be separated by space and time from motorized vehicles on busy,fast moving streets, in order to create a comfort level that people ages 8-80 would be willing to participate in. Leaving it up to the motorized traffic on arterial streets to decide whether to create space and time is not a risk most potential cyclists are willing to take.

    Reply
      • Dennis Hindman
        Dennis Hindman says:

        The report also recommends the use of Sharrows for gap closure in a class II (bike lane) network. That would be Reseda Blvd where the Sharrows do not seem to be used much at all by people bicycling.

        Funny how it’s alright to make 7-foot-wide parking lanes, with 5-foot-wide bike lanes next to it, and yet the bare minimum recommended for less-safe or comfortable Sharrow applications would place the center of them at the outer edge of the above mentioned bike lane stripe. Putting the Sharrows at 11-feet would place them more towards the middle of where a typical bike lane is placed in Los Angeles.

        My recommendation to get real-world use for Sharrows on arterial streets would be to move the Sharrows closer to the parked cars. A 12-foot minimum sounds great on paper, but in actual use you want to encourage the bicyclist to move just a few inches more away from the parked cars, which would reduce the bicyclists comfort somewhat. As you move the Sharrows further out into the roadway, it’s natural that the comfort of the cyclist will drop as they are closer to the noise and uncertainty that comes from being around fast moving vehicles. You could potentially put the Sharrows so far out that only the most brave bicyclist will ride there, which would make the Sharrows almost pointless, except for filling in gaps for routes on maps, as they seem to be for Reseda Blvd.

        Moving the Sharrows further out than 11-feet would get more use where the differences in speed between the motorized vehicles and cyclists are not nearly as great when compared to arterial streets. In other words the cyclist would not be as uncomfortable riding further out in the road in this situation.

        The vunerable bicyclist, balanced on two wheels, is much more sensitive to roadway conditions than are drivers. Putting the cyclist in a position where the stick figure numbers say they should be, but the cyclists is much less comfortable riding, and you could end up with no one riding where the Sharrows are placed.

        Reply
  5. John Terry
    John Terry says:

    We need sharrows on Ohio Avenue between Westgate Ave and Kelton Ave. This is THE major throughway between UCLA (Westwood) and Santa Monica, as well as Brentwood. Many students use this route and the drivers are always rude. It also facilitates the interconnectedness of bike lanes between these regions.

    Reply
  6. bikerdude
    bikerdude says:

    I have ridden Reseda Blvd multiple times to work. The cool thing most cars slowed down and passed me safely with the sharrows in place.

    I wish the State of California would pass the law that cars, buses, and trucks MUST give bicyclist 3 feet when they pass.

    I’ve said this before hopeful motorist will start respecting bicyclist on the street by seeing more and more bicycle facilities’ on the road and then recognize bicyclist have the same right to be on the road as cars.

    Reply
  7. John Huan Vu
    John Huan Vu says:

    I’m not completely sure about the distances implemented but for me the very presence of the sharrows is a game-changer. It’s an inexpensive way to legitimize (and make safer) bike travel on streets.

    Anecdotally speaking motorists are MUCH better behaved around bikes on Fountain, I’ve seen this first-hand. No laws were changed and no room was taken away and it would appear that very little political capital was expended.

    Reply
  8. Tom Bunn
    Tom Bunn says:

    Dennis Hindman, I would suggest that you look at some of the videos at commuteorlando.com — for example, go to http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/on-the-road/the-confident-cyclist/ and look at the video, Safe Cycling on Curry Ford Rd. I understand your point that cyclists are not all confident enough to ride like this, but over time features like the sharrows will help both cyclists and motorists learn where cyclists belong in the road. Thanks ladotbikeblog!

    Reply
  9. Tallycyclist
    Tallycyclist says:

    Dennis makes a good point that if people don’t feel comfortable enough to start biking despite implementation of sharrows, then they aren’t really helping out much, save for those who already are biking in the first place. While I agree that having good “vehicular” cycling skills is a both smart and great for safety, expecting that to be the best solution for everyone is wishful thinking. Most American roads are not particularly friendly (including many neighborhood ones thanks to driver mentality that cyclist don’t belong on roads or drive way too fast on them). I myself do things like “take the lane” everyday, but that doesn’t mean I like it. In fact, the stretches of my commute where that is necessary also happens to be the most disliked and scary portions of my ride. I don’t feel comfortable when a 4000 lb vehicle is charging towards me and tailgating. Luckily shouting and swearing by motorist are not daily occurrences, but there are MANY other ways in which my ride can become intimidating or stressful. I consider myself way more experienced as a cyclist now than when I started riding daily 2.5 years ago. However, I feel less comfortable dealing with crap cycling conditions these days than in the beginning, when it was a thrilling new experience.

    My city is finally starting to put together a plan to designate routes for cyclist who wish to commute by bike. The definitions for each of the proposals are unfortunately so vague that, in theory, they could get away with doing absolutely nothing to the infrastructure and simply “designating” a particular street as cycle friendly. I doubt they will go this extreme, but we shall see as this unfolds. They could also try and put in sharrows on every other street, but I’m willing to bet that’s not going to make hardly any difference for those who currently ride, nor will it entice new cyclist to bike on the road. Tallahassee has sharrows on three streets currently. As far as I know from personal experience, they are correctly placed in that they don’t put you in a door zone, etc. But to ride on them also means taking most of the lane essentially. I do it, and dislike it. I can only imagine what the majority of the population, the potential cyclists of the future, would ever feel about doing riding under such circumstances.

    Bike facilities can be great, if designed accordingly. I’ve cycled in Denmark twice, and it was so relaxing, quick and easy to get ANYWHERE on ANY STREET in the city. The infrastructure there is amazing and makes you feel safe. So much so that over 30% commute by bike everyday and at least 80% of the population commutes by bike sometimes (in Holland it is estimated to be >93%). Intersections are clearly marked and at trickier junctions, cars cannot make right turns while cyclist have their own green. It’s also a huge help that you can’t turn right on red in Denmark, because they don’t have that extra layer of unpredictable traffic behavior that is detrimental mainly to cyclists and pedestrians, but also to drivers. To me that privilege is a bad one. If intersections are indeed such a big deal, then maybe we shouldn’t be allowing behavior that only exacerbate the issue.

    We’re never going to achieve those levels if we don’t start building good, separated infrastructure like what the Danes of Dutch have. Holland is an even better example. Their infrastructure is of the highest quality in Europe and they have the highest cycling rate and the safest stats for cyclists. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Danes and Dutch are not inherently more brave or enthusiastic about cycling. Most don’t even identify themselves as “cyclists” but rather, as a someone happening to choose to commute with a bicycle. Take away all their infrastructure and priorities for cyclists and I can guarantee their cycling percentage is going to drop like it did in the 60’s and 70’s-they aren’t cycling because they’re too poor to drive, so driving is no barrier to most people there financially.

    So long story short, I don’t think sharrows are particularly effective, at least not for making cyclists feel safer, etc. Do they work? That depends on what you’re trying to achieve from it. Don’t expect to become the #1 cycling city in the US with 20% cycling rate by putting them everywhere and doing nothing else. Most people won’t ride if they don’t feel safe doing so. And if they do, they’ll probably quit within the first few tries. NO, bike infrastructure is NOT necessarily better than nothing. It depends how WELL it’s designed. Crap infrastructure will remain just that: crap. But it’s misleading for people to try and say that no infrastructure is safest based on stats and conditions in the US. If 30% of our population (all ages and demographics) suddenly began biking with the current infrastructure in most of our cities, I doubt our safety stats (which is already not impressive) is going to work in favor of no infrastructure.

    Reply

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