Thursday, December 10, 2009

guerilla activism: do-it-yourself "sharrows"

Sharrows, street markings that encourage car people to share the road with bicycle people, have grown from a DIY form of outlaw guerrilla activism in places like Northeast LA to becoming an officially sanctioned part of street design in progressive cities like Glendale. Hooray for DIYers--sometimes it's better to get out there than sit around waiting for permission.

Sharrows remind us that roads are psychological constructs. Lanes are just paint on asphalt. Traffic signals, red or green, can't actually stop moving objects. Like ink on paper, they suggest in our minds a reality, and are as changeable as perception: for instance, a dotted-line merge lane from the 10N to 405N freeways wreaked havoc on traffic until it was changed back into a solid-line, travel-only lane. I know this because my wife's commute was ruined for that short while, and I could feel her stress level when she got home. Quite a ripple effect just from some misplaced paint!

As badly needed as sharrows are, they're not the sole answer. Painting sharrows on a superwide, cars-only street like La Brea Blvd. won't make it any more fun to cycle along. But it's not all chicken and egg here--sharrows could be that daily reminder to nudge fence-sitters just over the edge into placing their votes for real change: infrastructure.

Feeling daring? Download your own sharrow template and spark some change!

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About the Photographer

Los Angeles, CA, United States
Writer, designer, and urban planning geek.

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