Published in the September 22, 2015 edition

WAKEFIELD — The town now has a case of the “sharrows.”

Short for “shared lane pavement markings,” they combine an image of a bicycle with a series of chevrons to indicate that motorists and cyclists are to share the travel lane. This marking is placed in the travel lane to indicate that a bicyclist may use the full lane.

According to Massachusetts General Law, bicycles do not have to stay all the way to the right and can take the full lane to avoid car doors, debris, bad pavement or other hazards.

Why not just stripe bicycle lanes?

The town will be using the sharrows on streets that are not wide enough for bicycle lanes, where there is a high demand for on-street parking or on streets where existing travel lanes are narrow. Although separate bike lanes may be the ideal situation, sharrows are an effective, flexible alternative to striped bike lanes and can be used to improve cyclist safety.

What is the purpose of placing these markings on the street?

The principle behind sharrows is to reinforce the existing rules of the road to create safer conditions for bicycling. Sharrows are legal highway signs for cyclist and motorist – both motorist and cyclist can legally operate in the same lane and must obey the same rules. Simply remember: Same Roads; Same Rules. Visit for more information.

As a cyclist, what should I do in the presence of sharrows?

Cyclists should ride through the center of the sharrow, in the same direction as car traffic. Always stop before entering the road and look both ways. Stop at all red lights and stop signs. Look back and signal before turning. Stop for people walking.

As a motorist, what should I do in the presence of sharrows?

Slow down and drive carefully. Because the travel lane is either too narrow or too busy for safe side-by-side travel by motorists and cyclists, motorists should slow down and either wait for the cyclist to turn off the roadway or wait until there is sufficient room to pass safely. Gunning it past a cyclist to save 30 seconds on your travel isn’t worth the risk of creating an accident with the cyclist or oncoming vehicle.

What does the Town hope to accomplish with the sharrows?

The town wants to create safer conditions for bicyclists and motorists on busy streets where bicycle lanes are not possible due to roadway conditions. The number of people riding bikes in Massachusetts has more than doubled in the last decade. In Wakefield in particular, easy access to the T and commuter rail, along with our compact downtown area make biking a fast, healthy and inexpensive transportation option. With the increasing number of cyclists, visual reminders of the multi-modal nature of our roads are helpful safety measures.

The newly formed Wakefield Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee works to improve conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists and promote walking and bicycling as means of transportation. They work with Town departments and residents to provide input on upcoming construction projects, campaigns like Bike Wakefield ( and pedestrian safety information for residents.