What is the new symbol on 62nd Avenue N between 66th and 49th Streets? Was 62nd Avenue converted to a bike trail and they didn't tell us?
The new pavement marking you refer to (a bicycle with two arrows above it) is a lane-sharing symbol known as a "sharrow." When a sharrow is present it means that a cyclist may legally use the full lane.
This is a safety improvement element that is endorsed by Pinellas County's Metropolitan Planning Organization. The MPO's long-range transportation plan addresses specific safety concerns countywide, and part of this encourages the installation of bicycle lanes on major roads via resurfacing, reconstruction or restriping projects. When these options aren't feasible, sharrows are an alternative to provide continuity of travel for cyclists and safer access to destinations countywide.
It's important for everyone to be aware that Florida law recognizes bicycles as vehicles, so cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as someone legally operating a motor vehicle.
State law permits a bicyclist to take up the entire travel lane if a road marking (sharrow) is present that helps to promote the safety of the bicyclist in the absence of a dedicated space or bike lane. When a sharrow is present, there should be no debate between motorists and cyclists about who owns the lane; both do, equally.
This may take some getting used to for motorists and cyclists alike.
We checked in with Mike Frederick, St. Petersburg's manager of transportation, on the topic. Frederick told us that we can expect to see more sharrows added to low-volume, narrow roads accompanied by a sign that reads: "Cyclists may take full lane."
The MPO's plan calls for coordination with responsible agencies in the two dozen jurisdictions in Pinellas County to expand the use of sharrows on roadways where designated bicycle lanes are not possible due to space constraints. With more than 170 miles of cycle lanes countywide, we should expect sharrows to become much more familiar as time goes on.
Sharrows are not a hit with everyone — some cyclists may prefer a dedicated bike lane, which also serves to restrict curb or roadside parking. And the idea of cyclists "taking up the whole road," as some readers have put it in letters to the Doc, may be unsettling for motorists who are apprehensive about negotiating road-sharing with cyclists.
But a key point to keep in mind about the use of sharrows is that they provide access for cyclists on roads where there is simply no room for a bike lane to be installed. This is the case on 62nd Avenue N, which is a county road, by the way.
The bottom line is improving safety for everyone on the road.
The safety elements portion of the MPO's "2040 Long Range Transportation Plan" that addresses use of sharrows is accessible online at tinyurl.com/pgurzto.
Email Dr. Delay at firstname.lastname@example.org or send snail mail to P.O. Box 4954, Seminole FL 33775. Follow @AskDrDelay.