Great news! Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has made good on the city’s pledge to begin implementing new bike facilities in September 2013. This weekend saw the first new bike markings: half-completed sharrows on Old Bergen Road.
Jersey City residents may be unfamiliar with sharrows, as I think that, when completed, these will be the first sharrows on Jersey City streets. A completed sharrow (see diagram on the left) includes both the bicycle symbol and a chevron above it.
Sharrows are “shared use arrows.” They mark bike routes – ie: designated streets that are useful for bicycles and cars to share the same lanes. Sometimes they’re called bike “lanes” but this is actually incorrect. They’re used on bike “routes.”
Sharrows have two main purposes. They indicate to drivers that the lane they mark is shared by both bicycles and automobiles. They indicate to bicyclists a safe location to ride that’s outside the door zone. Cyclists are recommended to ride more-or-less in line with the center-peak of the chevron markings.
Sharrows are (as I’ve written in the past) a bit wimpy; they’re especially bad in places where bike lanes fit relatively straightforwardly. Sharrows are one tool in a big tool box, and certainly better than nothing. They’re quick and cheap. They’re easy to add to streets without removing or narrowing anything else. They do make things a little safer. They make bikes on the street a bit more legitimate, I think. In some cases on busy commercial streets (including this example in Long Beach, CA), sharrows can get some cyclists off sidewalks, reducing bike-ped conflict. I think that sharrows are best in short gap-closure pinch-point situations (including this example on Burbank Blvd in North Hollywood, CA.)
Below is one example of a completed sharrow in New York City:
So, why is Bikas happy about sharrows in Jersey City? Jersey City’s bike plan shows about 20 miles of sharrowed bike routes and about 35 miles of bike lanes. I think that, especially for rolling out new bike stuff in a place that has nearly no on-street bike facilities, it’s best to go with the low hanging fruit first. The Jersey City bike plan does this by focusing on relatively easy, non-controversial bike lanes and bike routes, which includes sharrows. I am more excited about actual bike lanes on the way, but I am happy to see the city’s first sharrows, too.
Back to the situation today in Jersey City.
As of mid-day Sunday September 29th 2013, the bike symbols were in, but the sharrows are missing the chevrons. The markings extend about 0.7-mile, from Danforth Avenue to Merritt Street. This is in the neighborhood of Greenville, the southernmost area of Jersey City, adjacent to Bayonne. This portion of Old Bergen Road was repaved during summer 2013, when it was due to receive sharrows.
The re-paving bike facility implementation plan, announced in December 2012, shows a few more blocks than what was actually re-paved and later sharrow-ed. The announced re-paving with sharrows was due to extend from Merritt Street past Danforth two additional blocks to “MacAdoo [sic]” McAdoo Avenue. I am not sure why that additional two-block section was left out.
I am happy to see the first new bike markings on Jersey City streets this year. I think that it signals that the Fulop administration is both serious about straightforward steps toward safer streets, and is working to make good on the city’s commitments. I am looking forward to Jersey City completing the sharrows on Old Bergen Road… and to additional bike facility implementation expected in the year ahead.
(Thanks to Mayor Fulop’s aide Domenick Bauer for alerting Bikas and BikeJC to the new markings on Old Bergen Road.)