WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – New bike symbols have popped up in downtown Wichita, but do drivers and bicyclists know what they mean?
The city installed several sharrows around downtown and Old Town in early September as part of the Bicycle Master Plan.
“The sharrow markings were installed to help implement the Bicycle Master Plan which is a plan that was created by the community over the course of 40 meetings, two years and more than 4,000 people participated. What the plan recommends is different ways we can make getting around easier and more convenient and safer for people on bicycles,” said City of Wichita Interim Director of Transit Scott Wadle.
Wadle said the sharrows are meant to communicate to people that drivers and bicyclists can both use the designated lane. The city said the sharrows provide an extra safety element for bicyclists, however some area bicycle enthusiasts said they could do more harm than good.
“You have to ride defensively or you’re not going to make it,” said Christina Calhoun
Calhoun rides her bike to and from work nearly everyday. She said riding on the open road makes her feel strong, but it also makes her feel anxious.
“It’s really fun. It’s really freeing. It makes me feel strong and alive, but it’s also really scary,” Calhoun said.
In July, Calhoun said she was riding her bicycle in a designated downtown bike lane when a driver rammed into her.
“The bike lane at 1st and Washington, a car decided to make a right turn, failed to yield the right of way and ran over me as I tried to go straight,” she said.
Calhoun was not hurt, but she said the crash made her start thinking about overall bike safety. KSN asked her what she thought about the new sharrows on Wichita streets.
“There is nothing else just poof out of the void, a new symbol for us to attempt to understand together while moving at 35 mph,” Calhoun said. “I’m laughing because some new painted stripes appeared on the street. I know what they are, but they don’t protect me from anything.”
Calhoun said she is encouraged the city is working to improve the bikeablity around town, however she is concerned there is a lack of education about the current bike lanes and now the new sharrows.
“The infrastructure is set up multiple different ways. We are not learning one system of interaction. There are so many variables up in the air without education. I don’t know how we are supposed to understand,” Calhoun said.
Wadle said the city does have education tools on the city’s website, pointing to bike safety brochures and videos on how to share the road with bicyclists as well as how to pass them.
However, Calhoun said it’s not enough. She would like to see more done to educate drivers and bicyclists about road safety.
“There need to be more easily digestible, easily sourced resources, signs on the street, pamphlets in a little free library. I don’t know, a social media campaign,” she said. “I’m not waiting for a body on the ground for you to get excited about bike safety, but if that’s what it takes, we are going to get there.”
There are other sharrows around the City of Wichita. Some are located in the Delano district and were installed in 2016. There are also signs near the sharrows telling drivers to share the road. Wadle said the city is currently working on a social media campaign focused on bicycle safety. He said however, the campaign does not specifically discuss sharrows.