Sharrows on Bloor a sign of times a-changing

Just when I was beginning to despair that the City has done all it can for downtown cyclists, that it has built all the bike lanes it has planned in the bike plan, chriskayTO snapped a photo of sharrows being installed on Bloor Street. Some may say this is a half-ass measure, and they'd be right, but that doesn't mean it's worse than nothing at all.

Small improvements to downtown are still coming. Our access to the waterfront is improving as the City unveils bike lanes and wider sidewalks on Yonge to the waterfront, to complement the new Simcoe underpass. But we are slowly reaching the end of all that the current bike plan has in store for central Toronto.

Paths on the city's outer edge are most lacking. Lanes planned for the downtown core have largely been installed, but the outer 416 is missing most of its promised lanes and trails.

It's great the outer 416 has the opportunity to get better lanes and trails, such as the $28.8 million to be spent on paths for the Finch and Gatineau corridors. But the needs of downtown cyclists are not being met with the loose network of installed lanes. If this is all there is in the plan, then we need a new plan. Luckily, City staff are thinking along the same lines. Back in May they introduced to Public Works a report on strategic directions. Part of that plan is to launch a public bikesharing system by next spring and to expand the downtown bikeways to support the bikesharing system.

The original bike plan chose routes that were about 2km apart, allowing equal access to bike routes throughout the city. Now that the downtown is almost done, that means almost all remaining routes to be built are in the suburbs where cycling is lowest. To keep building suburban bike lanes exclusively is surely to raise the ire of anti-bike councillors such as Doug Holiday. It makes political and practical sense to find new ways to improve downtown. The new strategic focus for downtown, according to the staff report, includes:

  • significantly expand the Bikeway Network in the Toronto East York District, with new bikeways not identified in the Bike Plan, to support the Public Bicycle System;
  • conduct pilot projects to implement and evaluate new bikeway design treatments, including: physically separated or buffered bicycle lanes, bike boxes, shared-use lane marking (sharrows), conflict zone markings, time-of-day bicycle lanes and intersection markings, with a goal of more widespread use of special markings and designs;

The best options for downtown bike routes include University / Queen's Park and Bloor / Danforth. Richmond and Adelaide are already in the bike plan, and will hopefully incorporate some sort of "bicycle highway" (some cyclists hope they will remain one-way so a protected bike highway can be installed).

As an aside, people don't realize how much work was accomplished within City Hall to streamline the process of implementing bicycle infrastructure. Staff can now group bike lane proposals and put them before Public Works instead of individually to the Community Councils where individual councillors would inevitably shoot them down. Much more funding was allocated, and more staff were assigned. Since then the City has been making progress in a number of areas, albeit mostly behind the scenes at this point.


The first sentence in this article is bs. The downtown bike network is nowhere near complete, even by the standards of the anaemic bike plan documents.

I would happily trade all bike infrastructure for more smooth pavement on regular roads, but among the popular bike planner tools, I like sharrows best. No lines that confuse or confine, no silly idea that cars and bikes must be kept seperate, a message sent. That's good enough for me.

some say the path to hell is paved with them. To me the sharrow is just that, a dangerous good intention, it doesn't help anybody more than putting signs everywhere which say "Share the road". What is worse is that now that the city has used valuable momentum to paint these worthless things nothing is going to happen on bloor st for a very long time. I suspect that what is possibly shown here, by the sharrows, is how the city never planned to put bicycle lanes in despite all of the communities requests... After all, if there was a plan todo that the city wouldn't be using these appeasement techniques to quell the current outrage they would just expedite their plan. So, now we'll have to read public complaints from all the anti-bike councilmen and businesses about how cyclists won't stop their war on cars, after all they gave us the prized sharrows, how greedy can cyclists be!

The internal workings of city hall don't impress me, either our leaders will deliver on the promises made in the plan or we should withhold support for them.

A sign of the times, sure, but that means different things to different people.

When it comes to all of this stuff, there's a guy I read that is very hard for me to argue with. Read This.

Sharrows are best when the lane is actually wide enough to be shared.

.. they are placed properly. Ie. Not in the curbgutters as installed on Bloor St. Sharerows are supposed to have their curbmost edge a safe distance from the curb. Not on the edge of the curbgutter. They should be communicating to motorists bicyclists are entitled to the lane as opposed to "feel free to squeeze bicyclists here".
Why Toronto insists on installing them improperly putting the safety of bicyclists at risk speaks for the carheadedness of Toronto Transportation.

The sharrows could use the addition of a 3-ft pendicular arrow to show cars the minimum distance they need to leave between themselves and a cyclist they want to pass...

I would trade even the good pavement, and all the rest, for some proper traffic enforcement in this town. The most dangerous conveyances get a number and severity of consequences in proportion to the harm they cause: cars then 95.5% of tickets, and bikes and peds share .5%. Nobody in Toronto gives a $#!+ about anything until they have to pay.

Thanks Luke. You kiss your mother with that mouth? Lighten up and smell the coffee.

Considering the fact that a person died there a month ago in a very high profile accident, I think the drivers will be giving us a little extra space in Yorkville for a while. Notice the bike in the sharrow is painted white? The sharrow is a strong, permanent reminder.

I didn't really look at the placement, and you are dead right. Sharrows are supposed to be about riding IN the main flow of traffic, not BESIDE the main flow of traffic.

I agree with Luke that the downtown network is a patchwork - and Bloor is one of the main roads that would help us all out.
The sharrows are better, and it was a surprise - yes a pleasant one - to see them go in. The spacing is far too distant though - maybe like Wellesley, there will be more added in time. It is helping keep cars away from the currb and leaving space, and there are a lot of courteous and careful drivers out there, though I was surprised in "rush" hour traffic yesterday, just how empty a lot of Bloor actually was of cars, though there was a lot of bike traffic. Yes!!
As to the City somewhat abruptly putting them in, I wonder why the City didn't say they were going to install these sharrows at the last TCAC meeting where there were some pointed discussions about Bloor St. and biking in this area, and even some motions that are coming up to the Oct. 6 PWIC meeting. Apparently, it may have been such a surprise and just do it sorta thing that even the cycling staff weren't so aware of installation.
So it may be optics, and it's welcome, but still no substitute for planning well in advance. It is a bit frustrating to not be told clearly in advance that sharrows are going in, but that might mean the staff etc. would have to admit that they kinda lied to people when they said bike lanes could go in later.
And to be fairer and less confrontational than that "lied" word, of course bike lanes could go in when i's all smooth and done, just one lane of car traffic would have to be removed in order for that to happen as the curb to curb width of 14M isn't wide enough to allow for bike lane and two car travel lanes in one direction - that extra space is between the planter and the curb.
So it does seem that the City cares more about not having car doors get damaged when they open into the planters rather than real bike safety, which is more European style than a line of white paint,
It's still better, and more sharrows would improve it further.

Although they aren't perfect - sharrows are significantly better than nothing at all. I find there are many drivers out there who think cyclists are only entitled to a foot or a foot and a half of the road and they have every right to squeeze you to hug the curb. It may seem simple, but painting a picture of a cyclist will start to change drivers' resistance to share the lane because the sharrow implicitly shows that cyclists shouldn't be squeezed into the curb.

In my vast cycling experience, I've actually found that drivers give me more space on roads with sharrows. It's probably a subconscious thing and many drivers probably feel they own the lane (subconsciously) when there are no sharrows.

I also see it as a marketing strategy. If you constantly repeat a consistent message, your ad will stick in people's minds. I think drivers will start to be more accepting of cyclists eventually - and this just reminds them that bikes aren't going away anytime soon.

Thanks for posting this Herb!

Progress is being made.

Albeit far too slowly.

While we really need the work on big streets like Bloor/Danforth; I can understand (but not respect) the City ducking this fight for the time being. Just look at the hassle over Jarvis.

We don't want lanes going in that get reversed, or all political capital used on one project.

What really irks me is the 'low-hanging fruit' that remains. The bike lanes no one would object to, but would bring us closer to critical mass.


Elizabeth St: Gerrard to Dundas. Easy to do, no change in traffic lanes, makes and important connection, done with the same fancy sidewalks as north-of-Gerrard, area workers and residents would be thrilled.

Simcoe: Front to Queen. North of King this road is dead 99% of the time. The only squeeze (where one lane might be lost that might hurt traffic is Front to Wellington. Its manageable, and there's a handy vacant parking lot site from which space can be snuck!

East End:

Donlands: Yes, yes, I know Case Ootes hates bikes, but the road doesn't even need to lose a lane from Danforth to O'Connor, and north of that its mostly intermittent street parking, no one would notice or care, except those of us who Cycle.

Laird Drive: North of Millwood this road is not all that busy, and parking is permitted in the curb lanes, but not used very much. Easy take.


Davisville Avenue: Again, quiet road, not that much traffic, parking in curb lanes, easy take.


Comstock: No lanes need to be lost except Lebovic to Warden, maybe, and no one would notice. (excellent connection to industry and retail running parallel to and south of Eglinton from Pharmacy to Birchmount)

Gerrard: East of Victoria Park, quite partial 4-lane, no on-street parking, easy sell. ****

There are a bunch more.

But if we got these and a few others, and some new bike facilities and paths, I think we could easily double the cycling community in Toronto in 4 years. Ultimately its that growth that will drive the big projects to completion and make them politically palatable.

I noticed that the Sharrows were placed with the standard 50-75 metre spacing, suitable on a 50 kmh roadway, but not many cars are moving that fast on Bloor. Dare I say that more Sharrows should be added to provide sufficient awareness? And not to diminish those 'FABULOUS' sidewalks, but a sign or two would help inform drivers to share the road.

See the Torontoist for more photos of the sharrows.

Here's to advertising our presence: we're here!! We're geared!

Could it be these improperly placed sharerows were installed as part of the Bryant defense? That these were at the direction of Navigator and will be used to direct the court where Navigator has deemed bicyclists belong, ie, the curbgutter? And that Alan's not being there will be used to justify Bryant's assault and subsequent murder of him?
Navigator is likely banking on getting a judge ignorant of bicycling issues and the need of bicyclists for a safe buffer zone. These sharerows have a rank and opportunistic smell to them.

Sharrows must be understood in the context of marketing, not just to make drivers more aware of cyclists but also to market cycling as transportation to people who would otherwise not bike (John Luton).

Sharrows can also help keep drivers to the left side of the intersection allowing cyclists room to proceed on the right of queued cars. The ease of cycling is an important factor that many advocates forget in their focus on safety:

Most drivers seems to stay to the left part of a lane when approaching an intersection and queuing up for a red light.

However, about 10% to 20% of the drivers tend to stay towards the right side of the lane towards the curb or closer to parked cars.

These drivers interfere with cyclists' efficient movement towards and through intersections. Cycling trip time is an important factor in inducing people to use cycling for transportation. (Cycling in the Cities Survey findings)

Cyclists sometimes find themselves queuing up behind a number of cars on a green light with progress blocked by a car waiting to make a right turn.

Without a bike lane on a road, the use of sharrows before an intersection is an approach to channel cars to the left side of the lane thus allow cyclists to proceed up to and through the intersection.

And from the Pittsburgh planning department:

Why are these markings on the street, what is their purpose?
The principle behind sharrows is simple: to reinforce the existing rules of the road in order to create safer conditions for bicycling. In the absence of bicycle lanes on busy streets cyclists often ride too closely to parked cars. If somebody were to open a car door as a cyclist passed the cyclist could get “doored” and possibly get injured, perhaps seriously-especially if there was passing automobile traffic. Also, when cyclists stay far right in narrow travel lanes, passing motorists often don’t see cyclists or pass too closely to them. This is not only unnerving for the cyclist, but it also leaves little margin for error.

Why not just stripe bicycle lanes?
We’re using the sharrows in areas where there isn’t enough room on the street for bicycle lanes. This is typically due to a high demand for on-street parking (as in the case of Liberty Ave.), the inability to narrow the existing travel lanes, or a combination of the two. Sharrows are an effective, flexible alternative to striped bike lanes and can be used to improve cyclist safety and make needed connections in the bicycle route system.

A study in San Francisco found that sharrows actually do work: cyclists ride further out from parked cars, and drivers pass with more space.

Something tells me that wouldn't work... but why not? Perhaps the answer lies in the question, what did we trade when we received the sharrow or how is the sharrow successful?

If we don't have sharrows on a particular roadway, what does that say? It says there is now in fact a lower requirement to share that road with cyclists. This is implicitly stated anywhere a sharrow is used because it has created a new type of roadway, one where sharing with cyclists is beyond the norm. The sharrow while making it safer for cyclists on the immediate roadway runs the risk of decreasing sharing outside those roadways. It decreases the amount of sharing because without a white sharrow sharing isn't the required road behavior anymore.

So why isn't the sharrow being put up everywhere, well my answer is they were "up" everywhere before, but now we're taking all those invisible signs down and putting up real sharrow signs but only on our new type of sharrowed roadways.

Anyways, thanks for writing up this article... despite my reservations I also hope the sharrows on Bloor can make a positive difference.

Would someone please define "sharrow"?

I do agree that these markings make the road feel and operate better, and more of them are needed to really make it effective.
But it's still a shame that the "green" City of Toronto is reworking such a wide street, where the bike lanes could be readily installed, and were recommended nearly 18 years ago as the best place for an east-west route, and they haven't found the room!
It's even more appalling when there is the room for easy bike lanes in between the new curb and the new planters a full .8m. The new road is 14m curb-to-curb, and to get good whiteline bike lanes as we do them here needs 15M - so merely expanding the road a little bit would give us bike lanes,
It's sad that we are fighting so much over so little, when it would be an obvious thing to install bike lanes in a rebuilding project for this greenhouse century in most parts of Northern Europe. I don't have any respect for our "progressives" who blah-blah about bike lanes and biking, and fighting climate change etc. with this BS example, where the City has put greater priority on the safe opening of car doors into planters in a no stopping zone (though these planters aren't continuous with lots of space in between them to let out passengers) and the safety of cyclists by providing bike lanes.
And Kyle Rae promised!! Bloor St. bike lanes in that last election...And City staff said for sure we could do bike lanes after it was all done....

We could have easily had bike lanes with a few more inches. It's the most sensible place for a cross town route.
They could have been right up against the planters, we wouldn't have needed door space.

I think we need a few more demonstrations on Bloor to show our concern, maybe every week.

I agree, enforcement sucks.. I had to go around a parked car in the bike lane on Birmingham this morning. This is right in front of the new police college.

I agree with others too. There needs to be some action on cycling issues. It goes deeper than just bike lanes.

Here is an opportunity to bring your points out in South Etobicoke. The Lakeshore Planning Council is setting up a cycling working group for the area. It is Thursday October 8 between 7- 9 PM at LAMP. 185 5th St. Etobicoke. That is just north of the Lakeshore and 2 blocks west of Islington.

Come out and help get change on cycling issues. Even if you are not from the ward, come anyways. It is an opportunity to get some change made.