Bike lanes and sharrows show city’s cyclist-friendly attitude

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published July 7, 2015

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ROYAL OAK — Not many Royal Oak residents knew what a sharrow was before last month. And even if they did, they weren’t talking about them as much as they are now, since the markings started popping up along the greater downtown roadways.

Confused? According to city leaders, there is no need to be.

Roadway markings like sharrows and dedicated bike lanes are part of the city’s nonmotorized transportation plan, which was adopted into the city’s master plan in the spring of 2012.

“Royal Oak is committed to being a bike-friendly city and better defining citywide bike routes,” said Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids. 

City Engineer Matt Callahan said the markings are intended to alert other road users to expect bicyclists to occupy travel lanes, and to help bicyclists position themselves away from parked cars to avoid striking suddenly opened car doors.

“These markings are also used in situations where it may not be obvious where bicyclists should be riding, such as at intersections with multiple turn lanes,” Callahan said.

As part of the plan, streets are marked with two different markings: Sharrows — shared bicycle roadway markings, which look like chevrons with a bicycle at the top — and dedicated bike lanes. The dedicated bike lanes are solid white lines with a bike inside the narrow lane.

City officials clarify that the dedicated bike lane is the portion of a roadway that is designated for the preferential or exclusive use of bicyclists. Sharrows are found in locations where there is insufficient width to provide a designated bike lane. Cyclists are asked to ride down the center of the chevron, or sharrow, when possible.

The bottom line, according to city officials, is that the markings alert drivers to share the road.

Royal Oak Police Lt. David Clemens said bicyclists can ride on any roadway except for limited access freeways and any road with signs explicitly prohibiting them.

“For the most part, they can ride on any surface street; they can even ride on Woodward, because there is no signage prohibiting them from doing that,” Clemens said. “They must obey all the normal traffic laws that a vehicle would have to obey.”

Clemens said that, ultimately, the markings are a reminder to share the road with cyclists.

“I think it is really important to note that road safety is a shared responsibility and every road user should exercise common sense and patience,” Davids said. “Just as drivers are expected to follow traffic rules, cyclists are also required to obey roadway rules and yield to pedestrians.”

To view a copy of the city’s nonmotorized transportation plan and bicycle network map, visit romi.gov/bicycling-royal-oak. The city’s website also includes a southeastern Oakland County bike guide that Oakland County and Beaumont Health System developed.

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