Bike markings on Middlebury Main Street intended to improve safety

MIDDLEBURY — Motorists traveling through downtown Middlebury are used to seeing cyclists. They are now also seeing bikes of the two-dimensional variety.
Travelers might have noticed some of the 10 “sharrows” recently stenciled at various locations on Main Street. The 9-foot-by-3.5-foot sharrows are designed to encourage motorists and bikers to safely share the road.
“The decision (to lay down the sharrows) came from requests from the cycling community,” explained Middlebury Director of Operations Dan Werner. There are many areas of Main Street that are narrow and that don’t include a separate designated lane for bicycles, Werner noted. He and other town officials believe the conspicuous designs — featuring a bike, topped by arrows — provide an extra message to drivers that they will be navigating in close quarters with bikers.
The design has been culled from the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Werner acknowledged that at least one member of the local law enforcement community has expressed concerns about the sharrows, and the possibility they might lead cyclists to believe they are entitled to drive down the middle of the road. The MUTCD guide states the sharrows should be seen as guides to encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists, to reduce cases of wrong-way bicycling, and to signal that bicyclists might have to get into the middle of the road to make a left turn.
The stenciled sharrows cost $200 each, for a total cost of $2,000, according to Werner. Since they are stenciled, Werner anticipates they will last around three or four years before they are erased by traffic that will include studded tires and snowplows. There is a possibility additional sharrows could pop up on other local roads in the future, he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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