New bike lanes and “sharrows” are gradually being painted on some roads near Winthrop University and downtown Rock Hill. While many drivers are familiar with the function of bike lanes, city officials are stressing the importance of drivers paying close attention on roads with the new sharrows.
A sharrow designates that a certain stretch of road has traffic lanes to be shared by drivers in vehicles and cyclists. The symbol is a white marker – painted at about every 250 feet of roadway – depicting a bicycle, with two arrows indicating the direction of travel.
The sharrows in and around the downtown area are new to Rock Hill. Bike lanes have previously been used. Bike lanes are painted in white on the side of road lanes and are designated for cyclists only.
Bike lanes and sharrows are part of the city’s effort to create “bicycle corridors” and make roads safer for cyclists. The plan is called the College Town Area Bike and Pedestrian Plan.
The first round of paint was put down this week. The work includes:
• Converting outside vehicle lanes on Charlotte Avenue – from Peoples Place to Wilson Street – to serve cyclists and on-street parking. This will reduce traffic flow to one lane in each direction, with a center left turn lane.
• Painting sharrows on portions of Elizabeth Lane, Oakland Avenue and Eden Terrace.
• Adding “Share the Road” signs in areas where bike lanes or sharrows are new.
City officials had hoped to paint the new lanes and sharrows late last year, but cold weather delayed the project.
Driver education about sharrows is particularly important for the safety of cyclists, said Bill Meyer, the city’s planning and development director.
Sharrows are used on streets where there’s not enough room on the side of the road to establish a dedicated bike lane. If drivers see a sharrow, Meyer said, they should expect a cyclist in their lane of travel.
If a cyclist is using a road with a sharrow, drivers should move to the left lane to safely pass the cyclist, he said. If there is no passing lane, drivers should wait until oncoming traffic subsides and it is safe to pass the cyclist.
Many drivers do not know but should be aware that vehicles are permitted to use lanes where sharrows are painted, Meyer said.
Bike lanes are used on streets to increase cyclist comfort and confidence, Meyer said. The designated spot for cyclists helps keep distance between cars and people on bikes.
While sharrows look and function differently, their purpose is similar, he said. The markings should create awareness and increase safety for cyclists and drivers.
Sharrows also might decrease the problem of wrong-way cycling, Meyer said.
About $32,000 in federal grant money will pay for the first round of new bicycle markers on Rock Hill roads. The city is paying about $8,000.
It could cost about $300,000 to complete the city’s overall plan to put bike lanes or sharrows on several roads connecting Winthrop and surrounding areas to downtown, officials estimate. The City Council has not yet approved using local taxpayer dollars to pay for the full bicycle corridor plan.
While money might not be allocated for the entire plan, officials say simply adopting a bicycle corridor plan will help Rock Hill earn more grant money to paint more bike lanes or sharrows. The plan also should help city officials coordinate with the state Department of Transportation to include the bike markings in upcoming road projects.
If bike lanes or sharrows can be painted in conjunction with other road improvements, Meyer said, the overall cost to the city can be reduced.