Sharrows are Coming To Bedford!

Submitted by Terry Gleason, Chair of Bedford’s Bicycle Advisory Committee

The Sharrow symbol
The Sharrow symbol

Three Bedford roads, Hancock, Hillside, and Springs, after repaving is complete, will soon be marked with sharrows, or more officially, “shared-lane markings”, a standard road marking indicating  that bicyclists may use the full lane.  Sharrows can be seen in other towns in the area but are new to Bedford.

The principle behind sharrows is simple:

  • Recognizes a travel lane is too narrow for safe side by side passage of auto and bicyclist
  • Guides bicyclist away from curbs, storm drains, road debris on edge of road
  • Alerts motorists that bicyclists are likely to occupy lane
  • Guides bicyclist away from “door zone” on streets with parked cars

Busy roads in good repair with narrow lanes, speed limits less than 35 mph, and deemed useful bicycle routes are ideal candidates for sharrow markings. The Bicycle Advisory Committee has been working with DPW to identify the right road for the first sharrow project in Bedford.

Bicycle Committee chair Terry Gleason reported, “Two years ago we showed DPW a priority list based on our initial studies of bicycle routes and traffic. They in turn offered alternatives that they felt would be better for introducing this new street marking. This spring when DPW notified us about the summer repaving project and asked the committee for its input, we quickly realized we had finally found a fit! All three roads provide excellent connectivity between Town Center and important ‘north Bedford’ bicycle routes. In addition, those roads are links to the Minuteman Bikeway and provide access to the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail. Although the traffic can be busy at commute times, the speeds and the residential nature of the roads, made them excellent choices as our first sharrow project.”

Sharrows should not be mistaken for Bike Lanes which include a white line demarking a permanent lane space for bicyclists on roads wide enough for side by side travel. To pass bicyclists legally and safely on narrow roads, state law (Chapter 89, Section 2, as part of the 2009 Bicycle Safety Bill update) states:

“If it is not possible to overtake a bicycle or other vehicle at a safe distance in the same lane, the overtaking vehicle shall use all or part of an adjacent lane if it is safe to do so, or wait for a safe opportunity to overtake.”

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