So a bunch of white paint in the form/shape of someone riding a bicycle, with some adjacent arrows also painted in white, showed up on the pavement on a bunch of Crookston streets recently.
They’re called “sharrows,” and the numbers of them that turned up last week on several streets around town amount to a dramatic uptick compared to the sharrow “experiment” that commenced on busy North Central Avenue toward Highland School a couple years ago.
THE SHARROWS DO NOT SIGNIFY BIKE LANES.
No, the caps lock key on the keyboard of the person writing this editorial was not inadvertently activated in the previous sentence making up the previous paragraph. It’s in all capital letters on purpose, in the hope that the people who think the white, bicycle- themed paint on the surface of all these streets indicates that the lane in which the paint appears is reserved only for bicyclists realize that that is simply not the case.
The sharrows are simply a reminder, to both people behind the handlebars of bicycles and behind the steering wheels of motorized vehicles, to be on the lookout for each other, and to share the road.
Hey, we get it. Unless you’re an ultra bicycling enthusiast, there wasn’t a chance in heck that you knew the white paint applied to the North Central Avenue surface a couple years ago was called a “sharrow.” And we couldn’t blame you in your bicycling ignorance if you thought those particular sharrows, located near the curbside, were a symbol signifying that portion of the street was a bicycle- only lane.
But those sharrows were only reminders, too, that the road is for motorized vehicles and bikes, too.
But this latest batch of sharrows scattered about on several streets in Crookston? That white paint in some cases is practically painted down the middle of the street, or in the middle of a traffic lane. If you’re still up in arms because you think you have to pull to the side of the street in order to let bicyclists have a reserved lane near the middle of the road, well, you’re probably anti-bicycle in general and simply looking to get riled up about something.
And that’s the rub. That’s where this conversation is currently about in Crookston. All that talk about adding a bicycle lane on Main and Broadway downtown appears to have cooled, and there are still two distinct camps: Those who think many more people would ride bikes in Crookston if the community was safer and more bike-friendly in general, and those who think that assumption is a lot of empty hype, that there simply aren’t a lot of bicyclists in Crookston, period, no matter how safe or unsafe the local streets are for them.
Let that debate continue, as it surely will in the coming year. Make no mistake, pro- bicycling initiatives are not going to go away. In fact, they may just grow in prevalence.
But, in the mean- time, these sharrows are harmless, and may actually do some good.