Drivers and cyclists clash amid confusion over Wellington's 'sharrow' road markings video


Stephen Minchin's video of his confrontation with a rubbish truck in Awarua St, Ngaio, while Minchin was riding in a shared road, or "sharrow", lane.

New markings encouraging cyclists to take up the whole lane on some Wellington roads have been confusing – and occasionally infuriating – drivers.

The "sharrow" signs, painted in the centre of road lanes in 30 locations across the city in April, are meant to indicate to drivers that cyclists have access to the entire lane if necessary, to avoid car doors opening and other hazards.

But a video taken by a cyclist in Ngaio on Tuesday afternoon shows the message is not hitting home, and Wellington City Council admits there is some "ignorance" as to what the signs actually mean.

The new "sharrow" road markings, in Hataitai.

The new "sharrow" road markings, in Hataitai.

The video, taken by Johnsonville resident Stephen Minchin and shared on the Cycle Aware Wellington Facebook page, shows a rubbish truck  passing him just after a sharrow sign in Awarua St, and a worker on the truck waving and yelling at Minchin to keep left.

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"It happens all the time," Minchin said. "I've had a bunch of people yelling at me and honking, telling me to get out of the way."

Wellington city councillor Sarah Free says the new markings are not getting through to drivers. "I think it's basically ...

Wellington city councillor Sarah Free says the new markings are not getting through to drivers. "I think it's basically an education thing."

​"Sharrow" is a combination of "share" and "arrow", coined in San Francisco in 2004 when it started experimenting with shared lane markings.

Minchin said even he did not know what the signs meant until he was told by other cyclists, and believed more signs needed to be put up to tell road users what they meant.

"My understanding is that, if you're on a bike, you're allowed to use the full lane. You try and stick to the left to some extent as a courtesy, but you need to be out of the way of parked cars and doors opening.

"I can see drivers' point: bikes are going to be going slower than them. But my point is, if they just hang back for 10 or 20 seconds, cyclists will get out of the way and then they can keep going."

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The sharrow sings are painted at approaches to single-lane roundabouts and at 30kmh suburban shopping areas across Wellington.

They are used to show where people on bikes should ride to be most visible and avoid hazards such as car doors, and also to remind drivers to look out for cyclists and to share the road.

Council public transport, cycling and walking portfolio leader Sarah Free said she was aware the signs were causing some confusion.

"There is a little bit of ignorance out there as to what they actually mean. People have been saying, 'These are all great, but the public need to know what they mean'."

At roundabouts, the safest thing for cyclists to do was take the whole lane, and drivers were encouraged to give them space, she said.

The council issued a press release when the markings were painted, and did not consider putting up any extra signage, or further advertising the changes.

"I think it's basically an education thing," Free said. "We don't want to over-clutter our road environment.

"We've been giving it time. If we thought, after a few more months, the message really isn't getting out there, then we probably would have to spend a bit more money [on advertising].

"It does sometimes take time for messages to get on board."

 - Stuff

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