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City of Buffalo Embraces Bicycles with Sharrows

By Justin Booth:
Many people enjoy travelling at their own pace with two wheels. Whether its for running errands, heading to school and work or simply for fun – bicycling is undoubtedly that best way to travel. I may be biased, but I’m not alone and cities across the country have caught onto this; some of the most notable are also cold and get snow but none have Buffalo’s many positive attributes. By taking advantage of these attributes and with some encouragement, we could make our city one of the most bicycle friendly and livable in the world. 
Through a grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, Green Options Buffalo spearheaded the creation of a Complete Streets Coalition which has been meeting monthly with the city to encourage them to re-think how we design and build our streets to safely accommodate all users upon our roadways. What started as a simple policy has begun to percolate into everyone’s thinking and the City of Buffalo should be congratulated! 
Over the weekend, the Department of Public Works made a tremendous step to encourage more bicycle use by installing “Sharrows” or shared lane markings along Richmond Avenue from Forest through Colonial Circle connecting the present lanes as well as striping Connecticut Street from Richmond to Niagara Street. These new markings make motorists aware of bicyclists while showing cyclists that they need to travel on the right side of the road.
By supporting the growing number of citizens who have chosen to bicycle as part of their daily routine and by encouraging more to do so – Buffalo is becoming a friendlier more livable city that will experience all the benefits that come along with it.

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  • N. Page

    Sharrows 1on’t/don’t help anything. Motorists are already aware of cyclists, they don’t need graphics on the roads to tel them. The only thing that will ensure the safety of cyclists is actually enforcing traffic laws and creating measures to calm traffic. When I’m on Elmwood riding I’m holding the whole lane becasue if I don’t and move to the right I get cars bombing past me at 40+ MPH AND and people throwing their doors open w/o looking. Reducing speeds limits and ticketing dangerous drivers and cyclists are needed

  • LI2Northpark

    I know what you mean about taking up the whole lane on Elmwood. I try to avoid Elmwood altogether and stick to Richmond. I just cut over to Elmwood when necessary. It kind of sucks having to do this but Elmwood is just too dangerous to ride on for more than a couple of blocks.

  • JSmith

    I disagree that sharrows don’t help. Sharrows make it clear to drivers that bicyclists belong in the street (evidently some drivers don’t know that). They put drivers on notice that bicyclists are welcome on these streets and that drivers should expect them there. They make it clear to bicyclists that they belong in the street. They make it clear to bicyclists which direction they should be riding (evidently some bicyclists don’t know that, too). They indicate to bicyclists where they should be riding within the lane (i.e., far enough to the left to be out of the “door zone”).
    I read about a study that San Francisco did that found that on streets with sharrows, drivers gave bicyclists significantly more room when passing than on unmarked streets. So there is real data that sharrows have a beneficial effect on traffic behavior.
    My concern is that drivers (or bicyclists!) may not understand what sharrows mean, and be confused as to whether these lanes have been turned into bike-only lanes. Some education and outreach might be helpful to tell people what these fairly new symbols mean. Are there any signs posted on these streets along with the new pavement markings?
    But let’s not stop here! I will believe that Buffalo is truly interested in encouraging safer and cleaner forms of transportation when we have some streets reconfigured to build dedicated cycle lanes and slow traffic. There was a mention a few months ago that these sharrows would be linked to actual bike lanes on Forest and on Elmwood between Forest and the Scajaquada. Is that plan moving forward? (Elmwood would need to be repaved first, as the right-most lane is largely unusable on the north-bound side.)

  • JSmith

    The only thing that really scares me on Elmwood is the city bus. Buses go faster than bicycles at full speed, but because they stop so often, a bicycle rider often has a higher net speed and will keep being leap-frogged by the bus, which is often extremely harrowing.
    Elmwood ought to be the exact type of street that lends itself to bicycling, but the current configuration is fairly intimidating (though nowhere near as bad as Delaware or Main). I would actually advocate taking some of the sidewalk space and building a Dutch-style protected bicycle lane on the sidewalk side of the parking lane. But that would probably require removing street trees and/or narrowing the sidewalk space, and I doubt there’d be much community support for that.

  • 300miles

    “The only thing that will ensure the safety of cyclists is actually enforcing traffic laws and creating measures to calm traffic”
    Enforcing the law should extend to cyclists themselves. Most cyclists (not you necessarily, but still most) do not follow ANY rules of the road. They never stop at stop signs. They rarely stop at red lights. They ride on the wrong side of the road. They ride on the sidewalks. etc etc etc… If anyone comes back and says “well that’s only a few bad apples…” NO it’s not. It’s the majority of cyclists. When they start handing out traffic tickets to cyclists, then we can agree that traffic laws are actually being enforced.
    I think many car drivers would have a little more “respect” for them if cyclists didn’t come across as some sort of roadway anarchists while still expecting everyone else to strictly follow traffic laws.
    (And yes I ride my bike too so I have seen the problems from both sides. I avoid Elmwood and stick to Richmond and the parkways whenever possible.)

  • N. Page

    I also think this needs to be addressed outside the city using NF BLVD as a prime example. To get from North Buffalo to UB North I ride a short distance on NFB from Decatur to Longmeadow, in the 0.5 mile strip I typically get buzzed by about 2 cars going well over the speed limit and refuse to move into the other lane. There is no reason why the street south of Sheridan to the Kenmore can’t be reduced to 1 car lane with bike lanes on the side and a turning lane in the middle. The area is all residential and doesn’t handle that much traffic. Right now it’s a drag strip at rush hour and these steps would do a lot to make it a safer strip to travel on and make getting from the city line to places in Tonawanda/Amherst much easier. Same for Kenmore
    This should really be an Erie County Initiative, not just a City one. When you think about it, really only the city is doing anything positive about it.

  • https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmePzfleUPRnOdEFCAG4DnSbcVxA1h_hh4

    “Sharrows 1on’t/don’t help anything. Motorists are already aware of cyclists, they don’t need graphics on the roads to tel them…”
    Is that just something you’re saying, as in your opinion, or do you have a study to back that up, or what? It would be helpful to clarify.
    Because there are more than one study which shows sharrows have a demonstrated positive effect.
    Here’s a link to Los Angeles’ study:
    http://ladotbikeblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/ladot_slm_final_report_062211.pdf
    (If car-centric Los Angeles can use sharrows, anyone can…)

  • JSmith

    I would have more sympathy for this argument if it wasn’t the case that at every single traffic light, there is always one last motorist who “needs” to get through the intersection after the light has turned red.
    And would you disagree that the majority of motorists routinely violate the speed limit?
    I don’t advocate breaking traffic laws, by either motorists or bicyclists. But consider that the potential consequences of a motorist driving at 40 mph through a residential city neighborhood are far higher than the danger posed by a bicycle rider who coasts through a stop sign.
    A couple of blog posts from a bicyclist in Toronto who goes into much more detail about this argument:
    http://www.theurbancountry.com/2011/02/bicyclists-must-obey-laws-if-they-want.html
    http://www.theurbancountry.com/2011/07/on-scofflaw-cyclists-exemplary.html

  • N. Page

    Just my opinion based on what I see when I’m out riding. All the laws regarding cyclists is contained in the drivers handbook so I figure they are unnecessary. It’s like telling a driver they are required to stop at stop signs, but I guess we can’t take anything for granted in today’s society.
    I’m glad people have done studies and actually demonstrated their efficacy. In the LA link, they do work but the changes are pretty modest in my opinion. I guess it’s better than nothing

  • JSmith

    Your last comment hits on the major difficulty. The problem with NFB is that it straddles Tonawanda and Amherst, so now you’ve got two municipalities who need to agree on making a change.
    I don’t hold much hope for change on streets like NFB. When they reconstructed Maple recently they made it far worse for bicyclists by removing the shoulders that made for de-facto bike lanes.

  • JSmith

    This was supposed to be in reply to the comment by 300miles, in case it’s not clear.

  • N. Page

    I be happy if we could get a law on the books (like Utah) that allows cyclists to treat stops signs like yeilds and lights like stop signs. There is no logical reason, safety or other wise, that requires a complete stop by cyclists (or even motorists) at the vast majority of stop signs. I’m in the most danger when slowing/stopped at stop signs. The faster I get out of the inspection the safer I am which is why I roll the majority of them when riding.

  • 300miles

    i figured that out 🙂
    I think it’s a bigger exaggeration when you say “at every single traffic light, there is always one last motorist who “needs” to get through the intersection after the light has turned red.” … because that simply isn’t true. The great majority of cars will always stop at a red light. Maybe you are talking about Left turn lanes and Arrow lights, but in certain circumstances it is totally legal for the car to finish the turn under the red arrow.
    Cars blatantly running red lights do happen, but it’s not an everyday, everyminute problem. And when it does happen and there’s a cop nearby, the driver WILL get a ticket.
    Compare that with cyclists and it’s the polar opposite.. they almost never stop at a light and when they ignore the laws, they never get pulled over.
    Cyclists will simply never gain respect and equal use of roadways as long as they continue to push a “me-first” ideology that assumes everyone else around them has to strictly follow the laws, while cyclists themselves admit they never follow any of the laws.

  • JSmith

    No, I was talking about cars going straight through the light just as it turns red. I would say it absolutely is an everyday problem, because I see it several times every day. Sometimes the car is already in the intersection as it turns red, but often the last car comes through egregiously late, not even entering the intersection until the light has already changed.
    I get annoyed by bicyclists who run red lights and break other traffic rules too (I will only go through a red light that is governed by detectors that will not trigger for a bicycle), but mostly just because I think it is bad PR for bicyclists and leaves a bad impression with motorists.
    But traffic laws are in place to maintain public safety, and I think we should therefore take into account the relative risks of breaking them. A bicyclist who runs a stop sign, rides on the sidewalk, or even runs red lights or rides the wrong way is mostly (with situational exceptions) just annoying and inconvenient. A driver who does the same thing is putting others at risk of potentially lethal consequences.

  • grad94

    thumbs up for the sharrows. can we get some on grant street? i don’t know why, but nearly every time i bike down grant street, some driver hollers at me to get the [f] off the road.
    also on my wish list are bike boxes. they are painted squares that give cyclists precedence at intersections and not get killed by drivers turning right.
    http://www.streetfilms.org/how-to-use-a-bike-box/

  • hoss

    Great job, Justin!
    Yes to bike boxes!
    Sharrows on Main Street, and Amherst St. please.

  • 300miles

    If people today can’t figure out how to use a roundabout or how to stop at a red light, I don’t see how something as odd as ‘bike boxes’ are going to be much help keeping cyclists safe.

  • grad94

    in 1940, no one knew how to maneuver a cloverleaf exit because they were barely invented. now everyone knows how. ten years ago, no one knew how to run a blog, now anyone can. it is just a matter of time and learning how.

  • bbvdm

    Oh Goodie!! It’s been a while since our last useless bicycle article. Geez…thanks.

  • RaChaCha

    I just saw the sharrows on C Street over the weekend, and couldn’t be happier to see them for the first time ever “in the wild” (as opposed to in a design manual).
    For those who think this kind of thing unnecessary, ANYTHING that helps get the message to drivers that bikes have a legit. place on the road is helpful (especially if it also reminds cyclists that there are rules that apply to them, as well). During my short time on a bike this summer, I was shocked at the ignorance of the non-cycling community: drivers putting me in physical jeopardy (and themselves in jeopardy of arrest) to send a message (or something), people on foot yelling at me that I should be riding on the sidewalk, etc. etc.
    But the top shocker was the ignorance of a police officer, who refused to ticket a driver who t-boned me — driving square into me after stopping at a stop sign and not bothering to look for anything other than cars. The cop gave me 2 mutually exclusive lines of bullshit about how the situation wasn’t clear because of a lack of a crosswalk, or else maybe I was in the wrong because a cyclist is supposed to yield to motor vehicles — and then added insult to literal injury by telling me that if the driver had done what he did to a person in a car he would have been ticketed.
    Sharrows communicate with beautiful simplicity that cyclists have a place on our roads and streets, how they are supposed to ride (especially important where there is a large immigrant population, many of which have never been on a bike, at least not in America or a developed city, before arriving here) — and also imply that cyclists are not second class citizens on the road. All good messages.
    Way to G.O., Justin!

  • grad94

    sorry to hear about your accident. hope you are ok and that asked for that officer’s name & badge number for refusing to ticket the driver.

  • hilaritee

    you are wise to do this; i witnessed two different cyclists get hit by cars on elmwood this summer. the second cyclist was lucky that the suv that hit her didnt crush her under its back wheel. luckily the driver was alerted to what he had done by the crunching sound of her bike going under his tires. i am not a cyclist but i wish one side of elmwood could be used for a bike/skateboard lane instead of for parking.

  • JSmith

    Well, I had a look at them tonight (albeit through a car windshield in the driving rain). I think they look great – far enough from the curb to be out of the “door zone” of the parked cars, and I like how they are often spaced at the beginning and end of each block. The beginning of the block seems like a good place to alert turning drivers to the presence of bicycle riders, and the end is a good reminder that drivers may find themselves waiting in line behind a person on a bicycle, which is perfectly all right.
    The one negative about this is that they’ve been installed just as the bicycle season is winding down for, shall we say, non-enthusiasts. I hope the paint makes it through the winter so Buffalo’s bicyclists can really try them out in large numbers next spring. The study from L.A. that was linked above recommended against using paint and said that the painted symbols were almost completely rubbed away after only one year. They recommended using thermoplastic instead. But maybe the L.A. heat is worse on paint than Buffalo’s various weather extremes.