BELLINGHAM - When there's not enough room on the road for a bike lane, a "sharrow" will suffice.
The city got its first sharrows, or shared lane markings - a bicycle symbol with two chevrons above it - last month on Indian Street, in an especially dangerous area for bicyclists near Western Washington University campus.
The symbol does not mark a lane exclusive to bicycles. Rather, it shows bicyclists where on the road to ride - typically away from the doors of parked cars - and reminds drivers to be aware of bicycle traffic.
"On a downhill like Indian Street, most bicyclists can go very close to the speed if not the speed of motorists, which is why (the sharrow) is right out in the center of the lane," said Kim Brown, the city's transportation options coordinator.
In addition to installing the shared lane markings, crews have been repaving, improving pedestrian ramps and adding lighting on Indian between Chestnut and Ivy streets.
The city received a $193,000 bicycle and pedestrian safety grant for the project. The full project cost was $407,657, said city project engineer Craig Mueller.
The state Department of Transportation found that stretch of Indian to be so dangerous, that it invited Bellingham to apply for the grant.
Nine vehicle-bicycle collisions were documented on the stretch from 2007 to 2009, according to the city. Five of those were at Indian and Maple Street. A Western professor who regularly bikes that route was involved in two collisions, Brown said.
Indian Street isn't the only dangerous road for Bellingham cyclists, Brown said. Data from 2011 and earlier show high collision rates involving bicycles on Meridian Street, Holly Street, Lakeway Drive, James Street and Northwest Avenue.
Northwest Avenue got bicycle lanes this summer, along with Elm and Dupont streets. No other bicycle safety improvements are planned for now in the city, Brown said, but more are expected to come out of a new bicycle master plan to be developed this year.