Jan 232012
Do sharrows have a role to play on Montgomery County streets?  Sharrows are being considered as a solution to make Bethesda streets more appealing to bicyclists, especially where space is too limited for other solutions or where bike lanes could make things worse.  The City of Rockville has already placed sharrows on Piccard Drive.
Consider these possible locations of sharrow markings in Bethesda:
  • Sharrows in the middle of the righthand lane of Arlington Road from Old Georgetown Road to Bradley Blvd.  It’s a four lane road with fairly short blocks, no dedicated turn lanes and some streetscaping, which I think helps to calm traffic, at least compared to most four lane roads in the suburbs.  It carries a varying amount of traffic depending on the time of day.
  • Sharrows in the middle of the righthand through-lane on Old Georgetown Road from Battery Lane to Wisconsin Ave.  It’s a busy four lane road with some additional turn lanes.  South of Woodmont Ave. it’s one way northbound.
  • Sharrows on Bradley Boulevard from Goldsboro Road to Wisconsin Ave. in the rightmost non-parking lane.  Unless the lane is wide enough to share with a car side by side within the lane, the sharrows would be in the middle of the lane.  It helps cyclists feel like they don’t have to ride in the parking lane (which allows parking but is a legal travel lane).
  • Sharrows on Norfolk Avenue from Woodmont Ave. (or from Wisconsin?) to Rugby Lane between the parked cars and moving cars.  The road has very short blocks with stop signs (and a couple traffic lights) and no lane markings except a center line.  Bike lanes were rejected a few years ago based on input from cyclists.
Sharrows in the middle of the lane would be accompanied by Bikes May Use Full Lane (BMUFL) signs.


  11 Responses to “Sharrows on Bethesda streets?”

  1. another yes

  2. Agree, but Old Georgetown Rd. may need more. That street is fairly bike unfriendly and the sidewalk is extremely narrow.

  3. I don’t think Norfolk needs sharrows, but if they are put in, they should be in the middle of the lane, not in the door zone. This is a busy area where drivers are constantly parking and leaving and bikers are safer in the middle of the lane where they can be seen. Also, the speeds are so slow (because there are stop signs every block) that there’s not much speed difference between bikes and cars.

    Old Georgetown Rd between Battery and Wisconsin needs some serious speed control. Most traffic goes 40 MPH if it can even though the posted limit is 25.

  4. I can’t quite figure out how to slow down traffic on Old Geo. Rd. I was passenger in a car doing about 35 mph between Battery and Cordell and I’d say half or more cars were slower than that. I asked the driver to slow down (heck, I was on the committee trying to figure out how to make people drive slower in Bethesda). The county Planning Dept and DOT fought within the committee over whether to make these major roads narrow with tight corners and close-in trees (Planning) or wider so as to be “more befitting their role” (DOT). This is actually much closer to the planners’ solution. But maybe enforcement would help?

    Norfolk sharrows are not going to be done without consultation and more outreach because the best solution isn’t so clear cut. But you could put sharrows there that aren’t in the door zone nor in the middle of the lane. It’s pretty wide.

  5. Yes to sharrows BUT ONLY IN COMBINATION WITH BMUFL SIGNS on Arlington Rd and Old Georgetown Rd. Why stop them at Battery Lane? They are needed on Old Georgetown all the way out to 355. (It might actually help to NARROW the rightmost lanes to prevent encroachment by right-turning cars that are passing a cyclist). Less sure they will help on Bradley (due to level of traffic congestion) and I don’t see any need for them on Norfolk. Lessons to be learned from Piccard sharrows: they are placed so cyclists avoid the door zone of parked cars, BUT their placement also puts bikes in a position where cars want to squeeze by them without crossing the center line. Maybe drivers think that’s how it’s supposed to work. Also the last sharrow on the northbound side is aligned with the center of the right-turn lane. Bad.

    • Helen, on Piccard the sharrows are centered 11.5′ from the curb. I don’t know how wide the road is, but the state standard is to put them at least 11′ from the curb, which I actually don’t think is enough to stay clear of parked car doors. Do you think it would be better if they were further from the curb there?

      • You didn’t ask me, but I think the standards that say sharrows should be placed x feet from the curb miss the point completely (even more so than standards that say bike lanes should be placed x feet from the curb).

        Sharrows should show the optimal path for safe bike travel, not the FURTHEST TO THE RIGHT path for bike travel. Locating the optimal path might differ from street to street and actual human brains might have to be harnessed to determine what the optimal path is, depending on width of travel lanes, existence of on-street parking, number of driveways, etc.

        • That’s another good point.

          Maybe we need three sets of sharrows for each road: one set for experienced riders, one for more timid riders, and one for truly fearful riders. They could be color-coded.

          My biggest gripe about sharrows is that they’re bumps in the road. I ride around them if I can.

  6. Yes, the placement of sharrows – just like positioning oneself in a traffic lane – must vary by situation. The net is, it’s not clear to all road users what the intent is, so nobody really knows what to do. Yes, they are bumps in the road. If one rides their centerline on Piccard, I think you are outside the door zone. It’s one of those situations where the real useable space (between the road’s centerline and the door zone), is too wide to “take” and too narrow to share. I don’t think the sharrows really solve anything, in fact they may be making it worse. Motorists are (understandably) still reluctant to cross the center line to pass bikes, and I suspect some motorists think that the sharrows have meaning similar to a bike lane (ie: that the motorist can operate in parallel with the cyclist while not crossing the center line). Maybe the real issue is the onstreet parking – is it really needed? On both sides?

  7. Yes, the sharrow on Norfolk should be from Wisconsin. OGR should have sharrows from NIH to Wisconsin. Agree with Nancy about the placement of a sharrow towards the middle of the lane as needed to avoid dooring. Regarding OGR speeds in downtown Bethesda, once people pass Battery it tends to slow during the day due to proximity of traffic lights and volume of traffic. The fact that it’s two lanes helps but could actually serve as a hinderance to some cyclists as motorists will have to learn to yield the lane when cyclists occupy it.

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