sharrowSome progressive cities have begun using sharrows, shared road markings, to remind motorists that bicycles have a right to the road and that we may well be riding farther in the lane than they would expect. Unfortunately, cities that have used sharrows needed to pass special legislation to permit their DOT to use the signage, as they aren’t part of the manual uniform traffic control devices (MUTCD). The MUTCD lists all nationally accepted road signs and RIDOT could use any symbol listed.

Many cycling advocates have been holding their breath for sharrows to be included and the rumor mill has been churning that they will be included in the 2008 release of the MUTCD. The proposed changes to the 2003 version of the MUTCD is now available online. Section 9 appears to cover most bicycle related laws. While there is a new section (9B.06) that discusses the addition of a “Bicycles May Use Full Lane Sign”, I see no mention of sharrows in the document. I also looked through the proposed figures for the 2008 version of the MUTCD and saw no hint of sharrows in there either.

Did I just miss them? I sure hope so as they would be a huge boost to cycling advocacy in Rhode Island. Many of our roads are too narrow to safely allow cyclists and automobiles to coexist, sharrows would provide an often needed reminder to motorists that there could well be cyclists out on the road.


  • Mar 4, 2008 at 5:44 am

    By law, bikes belong in the right 1/3 of the travel lane, not the filthy, unkept shoulder full of glass, grates, metal and sand. Sharrows, unfortunately, are often placed in the gutter. Only slow moving cyclists are obliged to squeeze right to let vehicles pass, not ones doing the speed limit. This is why the shoulder is important. It acts as a safety valve. Roads where the shoulder is compromised (broken, missing, piled with debris or snow) constitute an illegal ban on bicycling.

    Shoulders cannot be used to add motoring lanes or designate bike lanes. Cities and towns may only add a lane when entire road can be widened, which means buildings or homes are seized by eminent domain or parking is eliminated. Often a better solution can be to convert parallel roads into one-way thoroughfares in either direction, which preserves safety for all roadway users. But macro-engineering is necessary to understand what's causing traffic increase.

    In RI, it's obvious that traffic bunches at natural obstacles, particularly coves, estuaries, ponds and rivers that aren't adequately bridged. Many of the State's worst pinch points come where traffic is thereby forced together, such as Apponaug and Hoxie. Also, airport and train surrounds cut off all flow except motoring in a discriminatory way.

    Sure, bring on the sharrows, but use them to make complete routes that don't simply stop, like the sign in Governor Francis that reads "Bicycle Route Ends" just shy of Hoxie, when a cheap culvert covered span on Landsdowne St could connect cyclists to the Bike lanes on West Shore Rd. Designating some reasonable percentage of transportation dollars to bicycling infrastructure will preserve roadways better than any other paln. Adding motoring lanes just encourages more traffic.

  • Mar 4, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    The current draft of the proposed 2008 version of the MUTCD does indeed include sharrows. See pg 1127 (ch. 9, section 9C.07). The version you link to does not include graphics; the version with graphics included also shows figure 9C-9 "Shared Lane Marking". I'd be happy to share the graphics version with anyone who emails me ( Huzzah!

  • Mar 4, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks Eric, I'm breathing easier on this end 😉 The sharrow symbol is on page 398 of the doc I linked to. So now we just need to wait until they are approved and we can start working to convince the city they would be great to adopt.

  • Apr 3, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Eric – Do you know what ever became of the approval of the sharrow symbols? If they got approved – seems like downtown is ready for em..

  • Apr 6, 2009 at 5:08 am


    Sharrows are still included in the draft MUTCD, but the final version has not been released yet. Realistically, we are looking at 2010 before it is released.