Sharrow Lanes: Benefits and Laws for Using Them
Bicyclists and drivers on Texas roads may have recently seen lanes newly marked with a bicycle and two chevrons. These lanes are known as sharrow lanes and have recently been approved by the Federal Highway Administration for use in Texas and across the entire country.
Sharrow lanes are those that allow both bicycle and vehicle use. The bicycle and arrow markings on them are there to remind drivers that cyclists may also be using the lane, and to be on the lookout for them. Sharrow lanes are also different from bike lanes, which are indicated on roads with a solid white line and one full arrow. Bicycle lanes are strictly reserved for cyclists, while sharrow lanes can be used by both motorists and cyclists.
The lanes are also a reminder to cyclists to travel farther away from the side of the road where vehicles may be parked. This may help reduce the number of doorings, an incident in which a driver opens their door into the path of a cyclist, causing the cyclist to crash. While drivers should always check their mirrors and blind spots before opening a door to ensure no vehicle is traveling close by, cyclists should also be wary of the danger of doorings and ride further away from cars.
A cyclist’s use of a sharrow lane will depend on where and how they are traveling. If they are overtaking another vehicle traveling in the same direction, making a left turn, or trying to avoid unsafe conditions such as a very narrow lane, they can travel in a sharrow lane just as a vehicle would. However, if these conditions are not present, cyclists should still to stay on the right side of the road. Cyclists are also permitted to travel in the left lane on one-way streets that have two or more marked lanes for traffic.
It is important for motorists and cyclists alike to understand that sharrow lanes do not identify the only streets cyclists are allowed to travel on. Under Texas law, cyclists can travel on any road except for limited access freeways. These lanes are simply intended to remind motorists of streets that have heavy bicycle traffic and to remind cyclists to use safe behavior while on these roads.
While sharrow lanes may be relatively new around Texas, they will soon become an important part of the road infrastructure around the state and country. It is important that both motorists and cyclists understand and abide by the laws surrounding sharrow lanes so everyone can be kept safe on the roads.