ON BIKE CULTURE IN EUGENE | Fine blogging since 2010 (with periodic long breaks)
OK, I think we’re ready for some questions from our studio audience. You, over there …
Oh, hi. Thanks. What is a “sharrow”?
Excellent question! A sharrow is a traffic marking that is stenciled onto the road. Here’s one:
Where is that one?
This is on 33rd Avenue in Eugene, just east of Donald Street. We don’t have a lot of them in Eugene, but my guess is you’re going to start seeing more and more of them.
Why is that?
Because it’s a cool and trendy thing in bicycle safety.
Does it really make cyclists safer?
I have no idea.
What does it do?
It is supposed to remind motorists that it is perfectly legal for a bicycle to “take the lane,” especially in a place where a bicyclist might feel a profound urge to “take the lane.”
What is “taking the lane”?
It is to move away from the right edge of the road and ride in the middle of the regular traffic lane. You might do this when you fear there may be doors opening on parked cars on the right. Or when the road is so narrow that it’s unsafe to have cars passing you. Or when there’s a herd of goats moving along the side of the road.
Or when there are blackberry brambles attacking from the gutter?
One of the prime applications, yes.
And it’s legal, taking the lane?
Absolutely. As a bicyclist you are supposed to ride as far to the right of the road as “practicable” unless you need to …
… avoid hazardous conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or other conditions [or if you are on a] roadway that is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side.
That’s from Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS 814.430). So there.
Why are the statutes “revised”?
I’m not sure. So the Legislature can continue to be a living body maybe.
Is the Legislature a living body?
Hard to say. Based on the loopholes that ended up in the no-talking-on-your-cell-phone-while-driving law, my guess is that it is largely a collection of androids under the control of some unknown and nonsensical force.
Getting back to this “take the lane” thing: I can do that even if motorists have to slow down behind me and thus get all scritchy at me?
Too bad for them.
If they start putting more sharrows around, do you ever worry that motorists will start to assume — quite wrongly, mind you — that it’s legal for a bike to take the lane only in a place where there are sharrows on the road?
I think motorists won’t have any idea what sharrows mean.
Maybe we could educate them. Is there another way to show motorists it is OK to take the lane?
Indeed. You can slap the actual law right on your back fender:
Where did you see that guy?
Downtown at Pearl Street and Sixth Avenue.
Was he taking the lane?
Not at that moment, no.
But how big would your fender have to be for a motorist to actually read that without running you over and then noticing it only after he got out of his car to come over and help lift you and your bike out of the street?
It would have to be big-ass.
But the sentiment is nice, regardless?
Do you think that “sharrow” is an unfortunate term?
I do. I believe what happened is that Arrow, the god of traffic, descended from the heavens to ravish Share, a beautiful but mortal cycling enthusiast, who wasn’t at all in the mood to share her feminine pleasures actually. But Arrow was a truly villainous cad — if not an outright bastard — and, as these things go, Share later gave birth to the half-god/half-mortal Sharrow.
Wow. The offspring was a traffic marking?
Indeed. It’s too bad really, because I think “Sharrow” would have been a good moniker for a sultry, single-name pop star.
Would her talents be dubious?
They would. But being half-god, she’d have a first album called “Where There Be Sharrows.” And she would score with a hit single.
What would the hit single be called?
It would be called “Take the Lane (Baby, Take the Lane).”
And the album cover? Tell us about the album cover!
It’d be this sort of deal:
And now that I think about it, wouldn’t this be a good project for MC SpandX?
Who is MC SpandX?
He’s a guy from Portland who produces and stars in a couple of YouTube music videos that explore the bicycle scene.
What are some of his hits?
Well, there’s “Performance.” It makes a little fun of super-cool roadies and also the really cool guys who ride fixies:
So you think he could collaborate with Sharrow doing “Take the Lane (Baby, Take the Lane)”?
Huge hit potential! It would be a song about urban cycling and commuting.
Would there be a verse about craties?
I think that’s an outstanding idea.
How might that part go?
Took a ratty bungee; gave it a wind, to help my carbon footprint be miniaturized …”
Something like that.
Is it time for our readers to get back to work?