In Santa Rosa, bikes and cars to share 'sharrows' lane

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.

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