Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Sharrow pilot on Wellington

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Residents are used to seeing sharrows - the chevron/bike symbol - on roads across the city, but the most recent markings on Wellington between Parkdale and Holland have raised some eyebrows. What are they?

As I wrote a few newsletters ago, this corridor is the subject of a pilot to test new markings intended to improve cycling safety. New "bike priority" signage and "watch for bikes" went up a while ago, and with the addition of "dooring zone" markings on the road, the final elements are in place.

For the past month, month-and-a-half, a team from Carleton University has been filming cycling/driving behaviour through several phases of new markings, including from when last year's sharrows were no longer really visible. They'll be analyzing the film over many months to draw conclusions about their effectiveness.

Ideally, the new markings will encourage riders to get out of the dooring zone, where suddenly-opened car doors pose a real danger to cyclists travelling between the traffic lane and parking. Drivers will be alerted to cyclists taking the lane by the sharrows, and stay back. Where pissed-off drivers become aggressive when forced to follow a cyclist, we've got police enforcement planned to help modify that behaviour. Really, following a cyclist should only add a minute or so to a car trip through these three blocks: there is no excuse for impatience.

Ultimately, it may work or not. Certainly, the Carleton study will provide us with some Ottawa-specific academic research to contribute to the growing body of work on cycling safety. Lessons learned from this pilot will help the City adjust future markings where segregated infrastructure (especially bike lanes) are slow in coming. But we'll see whether the markings encourage more riders to take the lane, curb aggressive behaviour or slow traffic.

For my part, I'm pleased that for the first time the City is paying attention to this corridor. Initial proposals for signage were universally panned at a recent meeting I hosted, and the City has stepped up with this much more interesting pilot. This is a dangerous stretch - I'll keep working with the City over the long haul to make every improvement we can to it.

Posted July 14, 2015