Princeton Sharrows Project Underway

Sharrow symbol

The wait is over for the new lane markings to help improve safety for cyclists in Princeton.

On Monday, work began on the shared lane markings known as sharrows, with the first markings being placed on Witherspoon Street. The last road to be completed will be Nassau Street, which is a state road.

Sharrows are bicycle symbols placed on roads to guide cyclists on the best place to ride to avoid car doors that might suddenly open. Being “doored” by a car is one of the top ways cyclists are injured, and dooming sometimes leads to the cyclist begin thrown in to oncoming traffic lanes.

The markings also serve as a reminder to drivers to share the roads with cyclists.

“Sharrows basically reinforce the notion that bikes have the right to be on the road, in the same lane as cars, and that cars need to share the lane,” said Borough Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller during a discussion about the project at the council meeting last night.

Some officials expressed concerns last night that many people do not know what the markings are for.

“When I mention it to people, they don’t know what it means,” said Councilwoman Barbara Trelstad. “Is there a plan to educate people? I was under the impression that the bike committee was going to do some sort of outreach.”

Crumiller said the committee was creating a video but was a little behind in its education efforts. It is unclear what other efforts will be make to spread the word to residents and drivers about the new road markings.

Unlike bike lanes, sharrows do not designate a particular part of the road just for cyclists. They are simply markings that guide cyclists and alert motorists to see and share the lane.

The symbol, a bicycle with two chevron marks above it, is usually installed about 11 feet from the curb, or approximately 4 feet from parked cars. The marking has been used successfully in San Francisco, Seattle and Portland.

Sharrows were recommended earlier this year by the Princeton Joint Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee that researched bike safety in Princeton Township and Princeton Borough as a way to make Princeton safer for cyclists.

The two Princetons average 14 to 16 bike accidents a year, with the last fatal accident occurring in 2007, according to a report by the joint bicycle committee. The bicycle committee reported that most of the accidents involved males and occurred during afternoon rush hour.

Princeton streets have lots of on-street parking and narrow roads that make adding bike lanes impractical, so the committee came up with the sharrows proposal as an affordable solution to increase safety.

The markings are a standard that appears in federal guidelines being implemented across the nation. In the Princetons, the markings will be along Harrison Street from Faculty Road to Mt. Lucas Road, Witherspoon Street from Nassau Street to Valley Road, Nassau Street from Harrison to Bayard Lane and Paul Robeson Place/Wiggins/Hamilton Avenue from Bayard Lane to Snowden Lane. A map can be found here.

The project has required coordination between the township, borough, county and state, because some of the roads are county or state roads.

The cost is an estimated $47,200. The township portion is $14,400, the borough is $14,800, the county portion is $6,000 and the state’s share is an estimated $12,000.

While some local officials suggested signs along roadways to remind drivers to share the road, the borough and township’s joint traffic and transportation committee supported sharrows as a way to make roads safer for cyclists. Officials argued Princeton streets are already clogged with too many signs.

In a survey of Princeton residents last year by the transportation committee about traffic concerns, pedestrian and bicycle safety topped the list of residents’ concerns.