This year, the Camden Public Works Department will be painting sharrows on Mechanic Street, from downtown Camden to about the junction with John Street. Watch for this new addition to making Camden more bike and pedestrian friendly.
Sharrows first appeared in Denver in the 1990s, but the word itself (a contraction of “share” and “arrow”) was first used in San Francisco in the early 2000s.
A sharrow is not a bike lane, it doesn’t create road space reserved for bicycles. Instead, it’s meant to be used in situations where cyclists and drivers must coexist in the same lane. Think slower-moving neighborhood streets; you’re never supposed to see sharrows in areas with speed limits above 35 mph.
Primarily, it’s a tool that tells you where people can ride a bike to avoid both flung-open car doors and vehicles passing too closely. In theory, if you ride where the sharrow is placed, you won’t find yourself squeezed in a lane too narrow for cars and bikes together.
“Shared lane markings should not be considered a substitute for bike lanes, cycle tracks, or other separation treatments where these types of facilities are otherwise warranted or space permits,” reads the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, put out by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). Sharrows can complement bike lanes, but they won’t bring the same kind of increase in cycling or improvement in bike safety.
If you have suggestions for other streets that could benefit from some sharrows, please contact the Camden-Rockport Pathways Committee, camdenmaine.gov