Kicking off the first project implementing Asheville’s recently adopted comprehensive bicycle plan, city workers have begun installing shared-lane markings on South French Broad Avenue.
The markings, sometimes called “sharrows,” show a bicycle with two chevrons above it. “These are not bicycle-only lanes, but a reminder to motorists and bicyclists that they share the road,” said Ken Putnam, Asheville’s assistant director of Transportation and Engineering, in a press release. “The sharrows encourage bicyclists to ride with the flow of traffic and away from parked cars. They have been shown to increase bicyclist and motorist compliance with traffic laws. I see this as an opportunity to make travel safer for both bicyclists and motorists.”
“The sharrows will remind bicyclists to ride away from parked cars since motorists don’t always remember to check for bicycles before opening their door,” added Tom Redinger, longtime local cyclist, former N.C. Bicycle Committee Representative, and Asheville Area Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force member. “Maybe it will also help drivers remember to look for bicycles on their right before making a right turn.”
North Carolina law considers bicycles to be vehicles, and their operators are expected to follow the rules of the road, including traveling with traffic, signaling turns, and using lights at night. Helmets are required for bicyclists, and for bicycle passengers under the age of 16. The sharrows do not create bicycle-only lanes or new rights for bicycles; they reinforce existing rules of the road. They encourage safe driving and riding behavior from both motorists and bicyclists, city officials said.
Other bicycle-infrastructure projects currently planned are bike lanes on the uphill side of the street on Lexington Avenue, and rental bicycle lockers downtown. These projects, along with others in the comprehensive plan, will create a connected network of bicycle facilities in Asheville.
The city and the task force have a bicycle-commuter guide available by contacting the city at 232-4564. The task force has offered bicycling basics classes in the past and will make them available again if people are interested in attending. The task force has a Web site, which offers meeting and contact information.
— Hal L. Millard, staff writer