Bicyclists and cars are always supposed to share the road.
But in Santa Rosa they're being asked to take that advice literally on a stretch of Sonoma Avenue near Montgomery Village.
As part of its effort to make the busy road safer for cyclists, the city has installed "sharrows" on a three-block stretch of Sonoma Avenue east of Montgomery Village.
A sharrow — a combination of the words "shared lane" and "arrow" — identifies stretches of the road where vehicles and bicyclists may need to share the lane in a single file because there isn't enough room for both to travel side-by-side.
"This is our first experience with sharrows, so we're wanting to see how they're going to operate out there," said city traffic planner Nancy Adams.
Bicyclists contacted Thursday were skeptical of the concept.
Ophthalmologist David Lightfoot commutes by bike from his Bennett Valley home to his office downtown using Sonoma Avenue. On Thursday afternoon Lightfoot called the new roadway markings "useless symbols" that he doubted would have any impact on behavior.
"I don't think anyone knows what they mean, bicyclists or drivers," Lightfoot said.
He said he had no intention of centering himself over the arrows on the street — as the city suggests — because it would put him too far out in the lane. That would annoy drivers, whom he predicted were more likely to honk and angrily pass him than slow down and patiently travel behind.
"Share the street? What if they decide to not share? Who pays? Me!" said Lightfoot, wearing a bright yellow vest he called his only protection.
Bike riding Mormon missionaries James Miller and Mark McMullan, both 20, said they'd seen the new symbols on the road showing a bicycle with two arrows above it, but weren't about to use them as guides.
"Usually we see cars driving right over them," Miller said.
The sharrows are part of a larger city effort to turn Sonoma Avenue into the main east-west corridor for bicyclists. The project was approved by the council in 2007 and is funded with a $300,000 state grant. Most of the 2.5-mile stretch of road from Santa Rosa Avenue to Summerfield Road will be getting dedicated bicycle lanes. The Summerfield Road to Yulupa Avenue stretch got them last week, and Hahman to Santa Rosa Avenue is expected to see them over the summer.
Instead of two lanes of travel in each direction, the Hahman Avenue to Santa Rosa Avenue section will have vehicle lanes pared to one in each direction, with a two-way left-turn lane in the middle, and six-foot wide bike lanes.
In addition to making room for the bike lanes, the re-striping should help reduce the "lane friction" on Sonoma Avenue created when drivers stop to turn left across traffic, forcing drivers behind them to either come to a stop or switch lanes to go around them, said city traffic engineer Rob Sprinkle said.
"I think it's going to be a really welcomed change to that roadway," said Julia Gonzalez, outreach coordinator for public works.
The 42-foot-wide section of Sonoma Avenue between Hahman Avenue and Yulupa Avenue, however, is too narrow to accommodate bike lanes without removing on-street parking, Gonzalez said.