A look at College sharrows - makes for better sharing?

Have the new sharrows had any affect on cyclist and driver behaviour? I decided to see for myself now that the sharrows have been painted on College. I snapped some photos during rush hour when the lanes were free of parked cars. While taking to heart Mez's note of caution that the meaning of the sharrows is being diluted and subverted by allowing drivers to park on them outside of rush hour, it's still interesting to see how there be some benefit to the new symbols. My quick observations showed that most cyclists on sharrows tended to ride further out than on a similar road without sharrows.

West of Ossington on College, I stood looking west on a stretch where I didn't see any parked cars in either direction. During a few minutes I saw a number of cyclists cruising quickly towards downtown. I might be wrong but it appeared as if most of the cyclists were riding much further out than they might on streets without sharrows, effectively taking the lane. Could it be that a small increase in cycling confidence is in evidence here?

At the same time I saw most drivers avoid the curb lane even though they were allowed and there were no cars parked on the curb within view. Could it be that drivers were a bit more careful because of the sharrows?

I compared this to rush hour on Queen West, which has no sharrows. In my unscientific, but perhaps still significant, observations, it appears as if the sharrows have had some effect in encouraging cyclists to take the lane, whereas the beleaguered Queen cyclists were still timidly hugging the curb and allowing cars to bully them.

Queen at EuclidQueen at Euclid

Hugging the curb on QueenHugging the curb on Queen

Squeezed by cars on QueenSqueezed by cars on Queen


Streets can be read almost like a text. They contain clear messages about the priorities of the people who made them. If there is a sidewalk, pedestrians are given some space, and therefore valued. Ditto with space for moving and parked cars. On most Toronto streets there is really nothing - no signage, infrastructure, anything - to show that bikes matter, or need to be given consideration or valued. And drivers feel justified in enforcing this value system by squeezing us out of the little space we are able to find, and often putting us at real risk.

Sharrows seem like a pretty minimal infrastructure improvement to me, but I think that the simple message 'you can expect bikes to be here' shows that there is a legitimacy to our presence. Which of course affects driver behavior and cyclist behavior.

But I don't find this heartening. It reminds me that on pretty much every other street, a message of not belonging on the roadway is being communicated. And after the Bryant charges being dropped this week, it feels really hostile out there. Even with the new sharrows for two hours a day on College.

We don't need sharrows, or bike lanes; we need political will to force the cops to do their ---- job and enforce the traffic code, so people in all modes of transportation are safer than presently.

I hear that, they won't even show up unless you're seriously injured... never mind the reporting rules they have regarding property damage over $1000... a $1000 bicycle crash??

Any car/bicycle crash needs to be treated seriously... it's not a car/car crash where the only things at risk are bumpers and deductibles. Cyclists don't have that advantage, and when a car hits one of us the police need to respond with appropriate gravity. A typical cycling accident where a cyclist can get away with bruises for a week could have easily been far far worse. The damage/speed equations aren't linear for us like they are for motorists behind safety cages and airbags.

If police want cyclists to stop grabbing onto hit and run driver's cars and getting killed, start to enforce laws against sentiment that the globe and mail editorial writer dispensed earlier this week - that if "the cyclist doesn't appear injured" it's fine to leave the scene without a word.

BTW what about that Quebec driver who killed 3 cyclists and injured 3 other.. still no charge against him.

I drive very rarely, maybe one trip a month (yay Autoshare) and so when I do I'm hyper-vigilant about what's going on around me, and I saw something similar on College during afternoon rush hour last week -- in sections with sharrows, bikes were basically taking a lane, except in places where cars needed to get over to turn or to pass cars turning left. I'm not thrilled with "sharrows under parked cars" but it was definitely getting bikes out into the lane when they were visible. ****

Think I said it elsewhere, but it bears saying again: people should have their licenses pulled for a decade if you are in an accident that kills, and five years if it maims, no matter who is 'at fault'. Criminal responsibility (not likely) and civil liability (still unlikely) can be determined later, but the **privilege **of driving a dangerous vehicle should be immediately lost. Imagine what 'kid gloves' people would drive with.

Vancouver uses sharrows and places them right in the middle of the lane, encouraging cyclists to take the whole lane on major streets.

And I hope the Spadina Sharrows will encourage lane-claiming by cyclists as well.

The City failed to include bike safety when rebuilding Spadina Ave., and the provincial NDP could have acted but didn't c. 1993. Now 17 years later, we're still rebuilding major roads without thinking much about bike safety eg. Bloor where we should be oh so happy the sharrows are being put on while they waste the space for bike lanes with a dead zone between new granite planter and new granite curb - the City was worried that those Escalades might have a hurt door when the door opened into the planter, as I guess they figgered that anyone driving an Escalade couldn't figger out that driving to the end of the planter meant the door could open fully.
Sharrows are better than nothing, but they are more of an indicator to me of ineptitude and a strong ability to talk about climate change and bike infrsastructure, than doing what needs to be done in good places and in good time.
I'm still waiting for the substandard and dangerous curve on the Wellesley lane to be repainted c. 1.5 years after installation...

As a (until very recently) regular rider of that bit of College, I have to say the sharrows actually make a nice difference. And I was a big skeptic of them before they came in. They really encourage cyclists to ride right at the tip of the arrow, which is definitely further away from the curb. It certainly give me confidence to do so. Good job city!

This is timely. I rode College back from CM. Had to chuckle to myself seeing all of those cars parked over the sharrows. I guess the sharrows have something in common with Toronto cyclists.

Ajax has some sharrows on Monarch that run beside the centre stripe. I asked a planner in Ajax why. She said that is the only place to put them so they are not covered up when cars park along the curb.

This 2004 sharrow study by the San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic looked at the effectiveness of sharrows in meeting these goals:

  • improve position of motorists and bicyclists on roadway
  • reduce wrong-way cycling
  • reduce sidewalk cycling
  • reduce aggressive motorist behaviour

They found that cyclists rode 8 inches further out from parked cars; increased the passing distance of motor vehicles; reduced sidewalk cycling and wrong-way cycling. They did not observe a reduction in aggressive motorist behaviour.

It's unclear if rush hour sharrows will have a similar effect. If the sharrows are below parked cars for a good part of the day then this may reduce the psychological impact. My photos appear to show that these sharrows have the same positive affect.

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