While downtown is the heart of Northfield, riding bicycles there can be a challenge for many people who are not comfortable riding with traffic in the middle of the street, especially on Division St, the 4th St. bridge, and Water St. on the west side of the Cannon River.
The legal alternative – riding close to parallel or diagonally parked on the narrow streets—can be scary for many, as it’s difficult to anticipate when a door might be opened in your path or when a car that’s backing out of its parking spot might force you to swerve out into traffic. The illegal alternative—riding on the sidewalks, is dangerous for pedestrians.
One possible solution is to paint sharrows on these streets and then conduct public awareness events and campaigns to get both drivers and bicyclists acclimated.
A shared-lane marking or sharrow is a street marking… placed in the center of a travel lane to indicate that a bicyclist may use the full lane…
[the symbol consists] of a bicycle symbol with two chevron markings above the bicycle ['share' plus 'arrow' = sharrow].
Update 03/29/13: A sharrows cartoon from Bikeyface.com: