WASHINGTON — Large gray, black and white markings with an arrow and bicycle symbol have popped up on the sides of the road on West Jefferson Street near Washington Community High School.
They're shared-lane markings, also known as "sharrows," and they'll eventually be on West Jefferson between North Wilmor Road and North Main Street after city public works crews finish painting all of them.
A repaving project on that busy stretch of West Jefferson was recently completed, making it an opportune time to add the markings.
It's a busy stretch because of traffic from Five Points Washington and the high school, and there's a lengthy residential area.
Sharrows are painted on a road without a bicycle path to show bicyclists where to ride and alert motorists that bicyclists could be on the road with them.
They're a "nationally adopted standard" in the U.S. Department of Transportation's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, according to Washington Public Works Director Ed Andrews.
Andrews said West Jefferson eventually will have sharrows every 25 feet across from each other on both sides of the road and staggered at intersections where motorists and bicyclists turn onto West Jefferson.
Four sharrows were painted on West Jefferson last week before rain halted the work. Andrews said he hopes the rest of the sharrows will be painted this fall, "depending upon the challenges Mother Nature throws us."
Adding the sharrows is another step being taken by Washington to earn a Bicycle Friendly Community designation from the League of American Bicyclists, said Jon Oliphant, the city's planning and development director.
The league defines a Bicycle Friendly Community as a place where bicyclists have safe accommodations and people are encouraged to bike for transportation and recreation.
Communities are judged based on the league's five "E"s — education, engineering, enforcement, encouraged and evaluation/planning.
"Simple steps to make bicycling safe and comfortable pay huge dividends in civic, community and economic development," according to the league on its website.
"Given the opportunity to ride, residents enjoy dramatic health benefits, reduced congestion, increased property values and more money in their pockets to spend in the local economy."
More than 1,500 applications have been processed by league staff since the Bicycle Friendly Community program was created in 1995. There are 416 Bicycle Friendly Communities and more than 100 with honorable mention status.
Washington earned honorable mention from an application it submitted about a year ago. After receiving suggestions from the league, Oliphant said, the city submitted another application in August in hopes of gaining bronze status.
More prominent platinum, gold and silver status also can be earned.
There is no cost to submit an application to be a Bicycle Friendly Community and a status is valid for four years.
Washington has an extensive recreation trail used by bicyclists. The sharrows are being added to West Jefferson to make it easier for bicyclists to use the road, Oliphant said.
Andrews said Peoria and Bloomington-Normal roads have sharrows, but he's not aware of any others in Tazewell County.
Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.