Q. I've seen these new street markings of a bike with two chevrons/arrows. What do they mean?
A. These are "shared-lane markings" or “sharrows.” Shared-lane markings are intended to remind drivers that they should expect to share the lane with cyclists, and to remind cyclists that they can ride in mixed traffic where there is no bicycle lane. They also show where cyclists can ride on the street without being hit by a suddenly-opened car door. Although it is the responsibility of the motorist to check before opening their door, riding too close to parked cars (in the "door zone") is still a common mistake bicyclists make that can lead to serious injury.
Q. Do these markings really have an effect on driver and cyclist behavior?
A. Yes. Research shows that shared-lane markings significantly increase the passing space between motor vehicles and cyclists and reduce improper bicycling behavior.
Q. On some streets, cyclists riding over this marking will take the entire lane. Aren't they supposed to move to the right?
A. Not always. According to Virginia law, cyclists are to stay to the right except to pass another vehicle traveling in the same direction, to prepare to make a left turn, to avoid riding in a lane that turns or diverges to the right, to avoid unsafe conditions, or when the lane width is too narrow to safely share with a motor vehicle. It should be noted that the minimum lane width for a motor vehicle and bicycle to share side-by-side is 14 feet (AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities).
Q. If I see these markings in a lane, is the lane only for bikes?
A. No. These markings can be used in any lane that is used by bicyclists and motorists. Bicycle lanes, which are set aside for bicyclists, are marked by a solid white line and a different symbol.
Q. So, if I don't see these markings, then it's not a shared lane and bicyclists aren't supposed to be there?
A. No, cyclists can ride on any street in Arlington except for limited access freeways with signs explicitly prohibiting cyclists (such as Interstate 66). Just as every street in Arlington has a 25 mph speed limit unless stated otherwise (even if there is no speed limit sign), cyclists are allowed on every street regardless of whether there is a marking or sign for them, unless stated otherwise. Shared-lane markings are intended to reinforce that cyclists are allowed to use the traffic lanes, not to define a special condition.
Q. Are these markings going to be on every street that does not have a bike lane?
A. No, these markings will be used primarily on streets designated as part of Arlington’s bicycle route network. They may also be used where there is a significant number of cyclists or to note a connection between common cycling routes.
Q. I've never seen these markings before. Why are they being used now?
A. These markings were recently approved by the Federal Highway Administration for use nationwide. Now that they are included in the national set of standard pavement markings, you can expect to see shared-lane markings more frequently in Arlington as well as in neighboring jurisdictions like Alexandria and the District of Columbia.