In 2013 Oakland repaved 40th Street with an experimental treatment named ‘supersharrows.’ The long, limey green carpet of a bikeway was inspired by a similar experiment in Long Beach and sanctioned by Caltrans.
Supersharrows are essentially a visual representation of the law across an entire stretch of roadway: bikes are allowed full use of the lane. Or, you can imagine them as sharrows with a vibrant punch! These are not bike lanes where bicyclists have priority over cars, but rather a shared space for both users, with a visible reminder to driviers to look for bikes.
To determine the experiement’s results and impacts, we hosted an online survey about the supersharrows, and talked to local members of the community.
“I live off Piedmont Ave and commute to SFSU by BART, so the 40th St/41st St corridor between Broadway and Macarthur BART is my ‘first and last mile’. I’ve avoided 40th St because it’s such a high-speed corridor where I’ve been honked at and buzzed too many times by cars. But with the new fat green stripe down the middle of the lane, there’s no way for cars to ignore the bicyclists’ right to be there, and I think it’ll create the expectation that bikes will be there. I will - thank you Oakland!” …. Bike East Bay member Joe Chojnacki, Oakland resident.
If successful, we intended to advocate for Oakland to stripe more on streets such as MacArthur Blvd in the Laurel District, Harrison St toward Piedmont, Market St north of Adeline St, a couple blocks either way at Broadway & Grand, and Lakeshore Ave east of El Embarcadero. However, feedback from the survey showed a very divided response: only 51% of respondents liked the green supersharrows on 40th St.
Although people liked the green carpet, in the end Caltrans cancelled the experiment and we will not be seeing more super sharrows in Oakland or other East Bay cities. Some concerns that led to its cancellation included the fact that planners are trying to build up the idea of green paint as denoting a “bike-only” space and on a street with a super sharrow, the green became a shared space.
Another concern lies in their effectiveness. Sharrows are not recommended on a street with speeds 30mph and up - does adding green paint really help, or does it increase confusion? The City of Oakland did some preliminary studies. One of their remarks note that “while super sharrows encouraged cyclists to ride further from parked cars, the treatment may not affect the passing behavior of some motorists, resulting in some passing events where there is less space between the motorist and the cyclist.”
At the end of the day, road diets and dedicated space or bikeways are a preferred treatment.
Why the Experiment?
Bike East Bay compromised with the city of Oakland to allow supersharrows on 40th St. in return for real bike lanes on West MacArthur Boulevard, which are being studied. The compromise was made necessary by neighborhood concerns about narrowing newly planted medians to make room for bike lanes and AC Transit concerns about bus service impacts if a traffic lane was removed for bikes. Bike East Bay prefers dedicated space for bicyclists over sharrows for any street with significant traffic or higher speeds, but we went with supersharrows here to see if they would provide an alternate option. Thanks for providing feedback.
Long Beach, California is taking the lead on a new style bikeway-Super Sharrows! It’s a ‘Sharrow’ treatment with a wide green lane striped for emphasis. Long Beach is experimenting with this concept, but the early results are popular and successful.
- “Wow, for the first time I have a space to feel safe riding my bike on 2nd Street. The super sharrows create an invitation for people to come out and ride to their favorite restaurants and businesses.”