By Jon Craig
Rye residents will add “sharrows” to their vocabulary — and onto a major roadway — this summer when the City embarks on a bike-friendly paving project along Forest Avenue. About a quarter-mile of the thoroughfare will be paved and painted with white lines designating bikeways near the shoulder, following a new trend nationwide.
City council members who last week accepted a $20,000 grant from the YMCA to pay for the project, acknowledged motorists may initially be thrown off by the traffic change, but agreed local bicyclists will be safer in the long run.
“There will be some adjustment,” said City Planner Christian Miller. Studies have found roads clearly marked with sharrows “tend to reduce speed” of traffic, Miller said.
Pavement will be marked with sharrows after Forest Avenue is repaved between Cornell Place and Green Avenue. The width of car lanes will average 10 to 12 feet. The rest of Forest Avenue’s width will be marked off as a bike path. There will be about 60 sharrows in each direction. None will be marked in front of driveways.
Forest Avenue resident John Carey said runners already are running in roadways with their backs to motorists, “a self-inflicted danger” that may get worse with sharrows. “People should not continue to jog in the street when there is a perfectly good sidewalk nearby,” Mr. Carey told the Council. “What if that makes people use the paved street instead of paved sidewalks?”
Mr. Miller said the City is not trying to encourage joggers running in the street, but conceded some stretches of Forest Avenue do not have sidewalks. “Pedestrians should be walking toward traffic,” he said.
Greg Howells, executive director of the YMCA, said the City must spend the grant money on the sharrow project by the end of August or lose it.
Mayor Doug French caused the audience to chuckle when he assured Mr. Howells the money would be spent. The Mayor praised the Y for its vision on this and other city projects.
The Rye Shared Roadways Committee recommended the project last June. “This is really what planning is,” Miller said. “It takes time, but good planning creates good opportunities.” The paving spans 13,000 linear feet, he said.
No rocks or curbs will be removed during the project. In the 2009 edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, shared lane markings were approved for general use. They have been used in a number of cities, including Albany and Ithaca, N.Y.