There have been wide shoulders on 21st for many years, which bicyclists used to travel along this arterial road (essentially using them as bike lanes). When the intersection was rebuilt, in late 2012, the shoulders were dropped within the intersection, leaving cyclists with no choices except to merge with potentially heavy and high-speed traffic, or to continue straight through a right-turn-only lane. Neither option was ideal.
Representatives from Bike Walk Wichita and WAMPO (the Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) contacted the city about the issue, and a compromise was reached, in which sharrows — shared lane arrows — would be added to the right-turn lanes, along with appropriate signage, to indicate to bicyclists and motorists that bicycle traffic may use the right-turn lane to continue straight (or to turn). Bicyclists still have the option of moving into the main through shared lane, if they prefer.
Wichita Sharrow Photos
The following photos (and captions) of the new intersection were taken by Bike Walk Wichita, and republished here with permission:
Thank you, Bike Walk Wichita, for these photos!
First In Kansas
This is, as far as I’m aware, the first such implementation — a sharrow within a right-turn lane — in the state of Kansas.
It’s perhaps not an optimal configuration — an installation such as this one (on Lone Elm Road in Olathe is probably considered more “standard”, and less confusing — but it’s a reasonable compromise for lack of planning and coordination.
Given the “Yield to Bikes” sign, the through bicycle traffic will have priority over traffic merging from the shared-use travel lane to the right-turn lane. This should be relatively safe, as long as bicyclists and motorists are aware and considerate of each other. (But bicyclists, watch out for any oblivious motorists who may fail to yield the right-of-way! A rear-view mirror or head turn is strongly advised as you enter this area, to ensure that no motor vehicle is attempted to merge into your lane.)
I do not know if the entire length of the “wide shoulders” on 21st have now been officially designated as a “bike lane”, or if only the sections nearest the intersection now have the appropriate pavement markings and signage. (I assume the latter.)
It’s great to see the city of Wichita being willing to experiment with a new configuration, and responsive to the concerns of bicyclists!
Kansas.com covered the sharrows installation: New lane markings arrive to assist Wichita’s bicyclists (though, oddly, their photograph doesn’t appear to be from 21st and 135th; not sure what location it is depicting, and why they chose a photo showing a cyclist using a sidewalk instead of the sharrow’d street).