"Sharrows" or Shared Lane Markings (SLMs) are pavement markings installed to direct bicyclists where to ride on roadways shared with motor vehicles. The SLM is typically used along corridors with insufficient width for bike lanes. The marking is intended to direct bicyclists in terms of positioning, provide guidance to motorists for awareness of bicyclist presence, and reduce the chance of bicyclists striking abruptly opened doors of motor vehicles on a shared roadway with on-street parking.
As as outlined in California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) 2014 Edition (FHWA’s MUTCD 2009 Edition, including Revisions 1 & 2, as amended for use in California), which states:
The Shared Lane Marking shown in Figure below may be used to:
- Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in a shared lane with on-street parallel parking in order to reduce the chance of a bicyclist’s impacting the open door of a parked vehicle,
- Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in lanes that are too narrow for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to travel side by side within the same traffic lane,
- Alert road users of the lateral location bicyclists are likely to occupy within the traveled way,
- Encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists, and
- Reduce the incidence of wrong-way bicycling.
This law essentially states that motorists will leave 3' between their vehicle and any part of a bicyclist, as they pass the bicyclist traveling in the same direction. There are some further directions, as outlined in California Vehicle Code section 21760, which state:
Three Feet for Safety Act (California Vehicle Code section 21760)
(a) This section shall be known and may be cited as the Three Feet for Safety Act.
(b) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall pass in compliance with the requirements of this article applicable to overtaking and passing a vehicle, and shall do so at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle, having due regard for the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and the surface and width of the highway.
(c) A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.
(d) If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway.
(1) A violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d) is an infraction punishable by a fine of thirty–five dollars ($35).
(2) If a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicycle causing bodily injury to the operator of the bicycle, and the driver of the motor vehicle is found to be in violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d), a two–hundred–twenty–dollar ($220) fine shall be imposed on that driver.
(f) This section shall become operative on September 16, 2014.
Operation on Roadway
California Vehicle Code section 21202 specifies the position of a bicycle on a roadway. This section specifies:
(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.