Staying in their lane

Marshall City Council says no to shared lanes for cars, bikes

MARSHALL — Bike lane or shared lane?

It was a big question, one that would affect both drivers and cyclists in Marshall. And it also kicked off some discussion for members of the Marshall City Council on Tuesday.

Council members talked over the ways that Marshall’s on-street bike lanes are used, whether the bike lanes should be shared lanes, and what painted street symbols should communicate that information. But in the end, council members opted to keep the bike lanes and signage the way they are now.

Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson brought up the issue of Marshall’s on-street bike lanes on Tuesday, partly because the street department will be re-striping the bike lanes this spring. As part of the preparations for striping, Olson said the street department was looking at the parking lanes, bike lanes and “sharrows,” or shared bike and traffic lanes, around town. The sharrow gets its name from the pavement symbol for a shared lane — a bicycle underneath two chevrons. The symbol for a designated bike lane uses an arrow instead of chevrons.

“The only thing we were taking a look at was changing what we call the ‘sharrow’ arrows, that look like chevron stripes in the bike lanes, from chevrons to arrows and restriping all the lines,” Olson said. “Because if you have a designated bike lane, that’s the designation it should be.”

However, at a meeting of the city’s Public Improvement and Transportation Committee, the discussion expanded to look at whether Marshall should switch to having shared lanes.

There are parts of town where the street isn’t wide enough to accommodate a bike lane and parking on both sides of the street, Olson said. One possible solution, he said, would be to eliminate parking on one side of the street. But the committee looked at different possibilities.

“The committee said, if we don’t want to eliminate some of the parking, why not have shared bike path operations?” Olson said. “And that’s what’s really coming from the committee, is to eventually eliminate the one stripe (for the bike lane) and put sharrows in, that are indicated further out in the driving lane.”

The sharrows would be a reminder for motorists that there may be bicycles in their lane, Olson said.

Council member Craig Schafer said he was a committee member who thought Marshall should switch to shared lanes instead of bike lanes. But now, he said, “I’m not so convinced again. I don’t know that I support what our recommendation was.”

“Those (bike) paths get used a lot, and people understand them,” Schafer said. He thought the city should keep its bike paths the way they are.

The current bike lane symbols might not need to be changed, even if they are technically for a shared lane, said Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes.

“I think the signage is OK,” Byrnes said. “The sharrow may be a sign that’s understood by engineers or MnDOT experts, but our public understands the bicycle in the bike lane.”

Council member James Lozinski replied that with the width of some of Marshall’s streets, traffic is already sharing the road with bicycles. He added that he often sees cyclists traveling in the parking lane instead of the bike lane.

“I have a lot of people ask, why are we painting those lines on the road? Because they’re not used,” Lozinski said.

Schafer moved for Marshall to leave its bike lanes as they were, and keep making improvements to the bike lane and trail system where needed.

The council voted 4-2 to keep the bike lanes the same, with Lozinski and Glenn Bayerkohler casting the votes against.