Bicycle Advisory Committee Discusses Sharrows and Other Road-Sharing Information

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

The Sharrow symbol

A road marking used as a visual aid for multiple road-users—motor vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclers—is called a sharrow and is increasingly used, especially on heavily traveled routes and along parking lanes. Bedford’s Bicycle Advisory Committee discussed the benefits of sharrows as well as changes to the Massachusetts Driver Training Manual at their November 7 meeting.

A sharrow, according to Bicycle Advisory chair Terry Gleason, is—most simply—“a reminder” to expect bikes on what have become increasingly chaotic streets. Unlike bike lanes that provide dedicated space for cyclists, sharrows are used when bikes must share center-of-the-road space with motor vehicles. They are also used along parking corridors to remind motorists to check before exiting their cars and before pulling out of a parking space. Gleason also stated that bikes in sharrow-marked lanes have priority over the motorist.

Bicycle Advisory member Bob Sawyer reported that changes have been made to the Massachusetts Driver Training Manual to provide rules for interactions between motorists and cyclists. At least one question about the subject is included on the written Massachusetts driver’s license test. From the Driver’s Manual:

As a motorist in the presence of bicycles

  • Do Not Cut-Off After Passing:  When passing a bicycle traveling in the same direction that is on your right, you must not return to the right until you have safely passed the overtaken bicycle.
  • Do Not Make an Abrupt Turn After Passing:  When passing a bicycle near an intersection or driveway where you want to turn right, you cannot turn unless you are at a safe distance from the bicyclist and you can make the turn at a reasonable and proper speed.
  • Do Not Squeeze Bikes in a Narrow Lane:  If a lane is too narrow to pass a bicycle at a safe distance, be PATIENT until you can safely use an adjacent lane or WAIT until it is safe to pass in the lane you share.
  • Do Not Fail to Yield When Turning Left:  When turning left at an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway, you must yield the right of way to a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, including a bicycle, if it is in the intersection or close enough to be an immediate hazard.
  • Watch for Bicycles on Your Right:  Bicycles can legally ride to the right of motor vehicle traffic. The law says it is not a defense for a motorist causing an accident with a bicycle that the bicycle was to the right of other traffic.
  • Do Not Open a Door Without First Looking:  Drivers and passengers can now be fined up to $100 for opening a vehicle door into an oncoming bicycle.

It should be noted that rules for cyclists also exist and that citations are given out regularly in Bedford for breaking those rules, according to police reports made available to the Bicycle Advisory Committee.


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