In the March 10 Ask The Californian column, a reader asked about the new shared lane markings, or "sharrows," recently painted on Coffee Road in the Westside Parkway interchange construction zone. Ted Wright provided a good answer regarding California's new standards for these markings, and the need for cyclists and motorists to share the road.
I'd like to touch the reader's assumption that it's dangerous for cyclists to ride out in the roadway. In the absence of a bike lane, when there is enough room for a bicyclist and a motorist to share the lane side by side, bicyclists should generally stay on the right of the road, allowing room for maneuverability on both sides. When there isn't room for both car and bicycle, as on Coffee Road, and bicyclists ride to the right, motorists tend to pass without changing lanes, leaving no room to maneuver, and seriously compromising cyclists' safety. By moving out into the lane as the sharrows indicate, bicyclists increase their visibility, and communicate to motorists that it's not safe to pass within the lane. Motorists then treat the bicycles as other slow-moving vehicles, and change lanes or wait for room to pass safely.
Because it's important for the whole community to understand how to share roadway space, Bike Bakersfield is working on strengthening our educational programs for both bicyclists and motorists. We have staff members certified to teach bicycle safety skills and techniques, and will be offering classes starting this spring.