Should we ask for sharrows on Jarvis?

The Jarvis bike lanes have been scrubbed off. Mayor Ford "won" this round, though it's unclear what's been gained. Long-term I'm sure City Council will again decide what to do with the nastiness on Jarvis. I've got an idea for the short-term. I've suggested this before, and this is definitely not a replacement for bike lanes, but I'm just wondering if we could get a consolation prize of sharrows on Jarvis. I particularly like the "green-backed" sharrow pioneered in San Francisco.

We might have lost the bike lanes, but Transportation Services doesn't need council approval to install sharrows.

It's not clear if a future City Council will even want to bring up bike lanes on Jarvis again. There is a common perception that the bike lanes were "imposed" on the community without consultation, though the bike lanes were always part of the Environmental Assessment. The local councillor, Kristyn Wong-Tam, was only a reluctant supporter of the bike lanes; she preferred the wider sidewalks but definitely didn't want the status quo of five car lanes. So perhaps "complete streets" on Jarvis will mean only wider sidewalks. The same problem for cyclists will exist even with wider sidewalks: Jarvis will be a nasty place for people on bikes. I hope the future us can get separated bike lanes on Jarvis, but sharrows will be better than nothing.

The risk with sharrows is that it might convince politicians that the problem has been solved. But the reverse might also be true: that it will help increase the number of cyclists who will in turn demand better infrastructure.

*Special Notice* Tonight's Sharrow Meeting Cancelled

Thanks to the speedy ways of the Internet, we broadcast this important message from TCAT. No this is not from your British Cat, but from Toronto something something for Active Transportaion.

Because of an error discovered in the Rush-Hour Sharrow Evaluation data analysis, tonight's public meeting has been CANCELLED.

The City of Toronto does not wish to misrepresent the data collected as part of this project, and so the data collected must be re-evaluated in full before any findings may be presented publicly.

THERE WILL BE NO MEETING TONIGHT: Thursday January 20th, 2011

We apologise for any inconvenience to those who had planned to attend tonight's meeting. ****

Bike boxes and sharrows on Harbord

The rest of the bike boxes and sharrows to fill in the blocks with missing bike lanes have been installed on Harbord. Thanks to Tino for photos. The consensus among some of us: an improvement but inadequate. It all helps, but it would be better to have coloured bike boxes, an advanced green for cyclists, and proper bike lanes instead of a sharrow while still being squeezed between cars.

Back to micro baby-steps: new Sharrows on Harbord

New sharrows have appeared on Harbord to try to fill in the missing gaps in the bike lane. Effective? Better than nothing?

These new lines are covering the URS' bike questions. Funny how they didn't remove these symbols. Perhaps because they can't be mistaken for official road markings, unlike the "two-way sharrows" on McDonnell which have been painted over with tar.

By the way, what's the purpose of this line? To demarcate the parking or will it add a short section of bike lane? It looks like the latter since at the end you can see the sharrows moving out to the left, suggesting the cyclist will start out to the right of this line.

Two-way sharrows in Toronto - another innovation by Urban Repair Squad

(Photos by Tino)

From the Urban Repair Squad folks a two-way sharrow on Macdonnel St in Parkdale. The Torontoist has a good post and interesting comments:

Longtime Urban Repair Squad documentarian Martin Reis says he first spotted the symbols over the weekend. "Toronto has so few real good north-south connections, especially in the west end," Reis explained to Torontoist. "I mean, the west end is a giant black hole of no bike infrastructure." Add that to the experience of biking north on a street, facing-down cars travelling south, and "it's a bit nerve-wracking," Reis says.

The official City inventory of bike infrastructure includes one-way sharrows and also contra-flow lanes to allow cyclists to go both ways on one-way streets for cars. The URS "innovation" is interesting, even if there are bound to be reservations about encouraging cyclists to travel over the same sharrows in both directions. If there was some reasonableness in this idea, perhaps there should be sharrows on both sides of the streets so cyclists can bike on the side they'd normally be expected to bike. But that isn't entirely the point, likely. A two-way sharrow catches the eye and makes one think "Why not?"

The comments includes the precautionary ones:

City aims to familiarize people about sharrows with online ads

The cycling department at the City is putting some effort into educating the public on sharrows and how to use them. I recall this being a request put forward by some in the cycling community, that if we're going to have sharrows, we need to raise awareness of what they mean and how to use them.

Despite that, I believe that the mere existence of sharrows without education still influences the behaviours of drivers and cyclists. Cyclists are more likely to feel they can use more of the lane and drivers are more likely to give way to cyclists. (Not all, but many).

The ads will be appearing on various online newspapers over the next couple months.

If you can't see the Flash goodness above, here's a static graphic of it:

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?

Rush hour sharrows installed and testing on College

Parking on sharrows: Courtesy of Peter of Why are We Alive?

Peter of Why are We Alive? let me know the City is installing rush hour sharrows on College between Lansdowne and Manning.

The City is experimenting with sharrows along this difficult stretch. Without a political shift towards bikes, the staff have to make do with trying to accommodate streetcars, non-rush hour parking and bikes. They are conducting a survey of College bike commuters to gauge their perceptions before and after the sharrows are installed. Do people feel like the sharrows make them feel more comfortable? Do drivers give you more room? Or are they just confusing?

I'll give the transportation staff for trying something new - it might not be ideal and it may evolve into something better, but given the circumstances they're on the right track.

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