They're called “sharrows,” and area drivers soon will be seeing them along Loockerman Street and possibly elsewhere in the city of Dover.

They're called "sharrows," and area drivers soon will be seeing them along Loockerman Street and possibly elsewhere in the city of Dover.

"They're there to signal that bicycles and automobiles should share the road," said Anthony Aglio, bicycle coordinator for the state Department of Transportation. "They show motorists that bicyclists are sharing a lane and where to expect them."

The new symbol combines the familiar outline of a bicycle with a pair of directional arrows painted onto the roadway, and helps make drivers aware bicycle riders may be coming up from behind them. The symbols also remind riders they're supposed to travel with, not against, the flow of traffic.

In addition, sharrows remind cyclists to try to stay at least 3 feet away from the side of a parked car, so they won't get hit if a vehicle door suddenly opens up in front of them.

More than 200 cities in the United States have been using sharrows, with Dover slated to become the latest in the First State to employ them. The sharrow symbol already has cropped up on roads in Newark, Wilmington and in the Lewes/Rehoboth area.

Although they mostly can be found in more metropolitan areas, sharrows have been adopted for use along all sorts of roadways. The main idea is to help keep people safe.

"It's a part of the whole effort of the share-the-road concept and to just make the city more bicycle friendly," said Dover's City Planning Director Ann Marie Townshend.

The idea is part of Kent County's regional bike plan for roads that aren't wide enough to accommodate a separate bicycle lane, she said.

"If you put the shared use markings on the road, they do help raise awareness of bicycles," Townshend said, adding that she's noticed sharrows proliferating when visiting inner city Baltimore.

Sharrows were introduced to Newark roadways in May 2013, and they've already had an effect, said Michael Fortner, development supervisor for the New Castle County city.

"They've worked really well," Fortner said. "The bicyclists report they feel a lot better about riding on our Main Street.

"It makes a big difference to them by reminding motorists there are bicyclists in the lane and that they've got a right to be there."

The new symbols have been so successful Newark officials are planning to use them on other city roads, Fortner said.

Because the sharrow symbols are there to just remind people about bicyclists in the area, there is no penalty for drivers or bikers who don't pay attention to them. Any consequence coming from an accident would be handled under normal traffic law.