Sharrows for the new Lasalle/Notre Dame intersection? Seriously? We challenge the City to fix this design and make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
On Monday, November 25, 2013, David Shelsted, Director of Roads, mentioned in an interview with CBC’s Morning North radio show that the City was going to install sharrow markings at the $9M reconstruction of the Lasalle/Notre Dame intersection. In the spring of 2013, he had informed the Sustainable Mobility Advisory Panel (SMAP) that no cycling infrastructure was going to be included in the reconstruction of this intersection. According to Shelsted, sharrows are apparently due to be painted in the spring.
This obviously marks a reversal on the part of the City, perhaps because of how cycling infrastructure has become a hot topic here in Sudbury.
But it seems to us that it’s back-pedaling. The city has missed a golden opportunity to implement something that would be of maximum benefit to cyclists and to pedestrians. Implementing sharrows at this intersection is not the right way to go. Sometime in the future, we will have to retrofit this intersection because it wasn’t correctly designed. Which will cost us a lot more money than if it had been done right in the first place.
Background on sharrows
Sharrows have been in use worldwide for many years now.
Two years ago, Sudbury received its first sharrows on Regent Street. Impact on the safety of cyclists was debatable as they were only installed on a portion of the street, and did not connect to any other cycling infrastructure.
In May, 2013, the Ministry of Transportation released its Draft Report V4 of the Ontario Traffic Manual, Book 18: Bicycling Facilities. Mr. Shelsted was on the Technical Committee that advised MMM Group, who led the project.
On page 14 of the manual: “Sharrows are intended to indicate to both motorists and cyclists the appropriate line of travel for cyclists. Where shared lanes are sufficiently wide for cyclists to ride alongside motorists, sharrows are applied near the curb. Where shared lanes are too narrow for this, the sharrows are placed in the centre of the lane.”
On page 38 of the manual, Table 4.1 identifies that the desired lane width for shared roadways is 4.5 m, with a minimum width of 4.0 m. However, the 4.0 m choice is “Only suitable for lanes without sharrows or where the designer considers traffic volumes to be low and the speed differential between motor vehicles and bicycles to be minimal. Otherwise, a minimum lane width of 4.3m is suggested.”
On page 42 of the manual, it is stated: “They are used on streets where dedicated bicycle lanes are desirable but are not feasible due to physical or other constraints. The maximum suitable traffic speed is 50 km/h for single file, or 60 km/h for side-by-side travel.”
At the last Public Information Centre for the Transportation Study in June 2013, the City provided an On-Road Bicycle Facilities chart which listed choices for on-road cycling infrastructure. The section on Shared Roadway/ Signed Bike Route with Wide Travelled Lane showed that the preferred design specifications are:
- 4.5 m travel lane width
- less than 3,000 ADT/lane
- less than 60 km/h
- less than 6% trucks
This intersection certainly sees a lot more than 3,000 average daily traffic. While the posted speed limit for Lasalle is 50 km/h, Notre Dame is 60 km/h, and traffic on Lasalle doesn’t tend to honour the 50 km/h speed limit. It’s also debatable as to whether there’s less than 6% trucks traffic here.
Are sharrows suitable here?
So are sharrows really the best choice for this intersection? Why were bike lanes or a cycle track not added?
Mr. Shelsted indicated in the interview that wide curb lanes had been constructed. If they’re wide enough for sharrows, why were bicycles lanes not installed instead of sharrows? The minimum recommended width for a bike lane is 1.5 m. Assuming the wide curb lane is 4.5 m, was it really impossible to add less than a meter on each side of the road to accommodate a bike lane?
As per Book 18, sharrows are used on streets where dedicated bicycle lanes are desirable but are not feasible due to physical or other constraints.
We certainly had the “physical ability” to put in bike lanes when we spent $9M on redesigning this intersection!
Bike lanes or cycle tracks?
While bike lanes would be the first application that comes to mind for the intersection, the City’s proposed Active Transportation Network shows that it is planning to install cycle tracks on Notre Dame and Lasalle. While not yet approved, it would probably be safe to assume that those choices will eventually be implemented. According to conversations we’ve had with Mr. Shelsted in the past, the cycle tracks would be created by retrofitting the existing boulevards on these streets (boulevards are the raised paved section of the roadway in between the sidewalk and the curb).
Snapshot of from “Active Transportation Facility Options: What kind of facilities are possible?”, City of Sudbury Public Information Center display boards, June 2013.
If the intent is to retrofit the boulevards to create cycle tracks, why were cycle tracks not built into this design?
Is the intersection safe?
So the question is how exactly will this intersection work? How will cyclists do left-hand turns? The shear number of lane crossings that are needed for a cyclist to do a left-hand turn will scare any cyclist but those most experienced in navigating heavy traffic situations. Is the city planning on installing bike boxes?
No one in the cycling community has seen the final design of the intersection showing the sharrows implementation, nor have any discussions been done with anyone re how the final implementation will ensure the safety of cyclists now that sharrows have been added into the design. Not even SMAP.
We could have been bold and visionary
The Dutch are using the most advanced cycling infrastructure designs in the world – they’ve been at it longest and have experimented with all kinds of intersection versions. We could have been bold and visionary if we had implemented a design like the one below.This design takes the exact same amount of space as a standard design, yet maximizes the safety of the cyclists and pedestrians. And as the note indicates, with a clever timing of green phases, left turns for cyclists is often possible in one go.
For a video of how this works, click here: Youtube Video
We’ve been told that this intersection’s reconstruction is the project of the decade. We’re also told that the intersection construction is not yet done and that more will happen next year. Perhaps there’s still time for a retrofit?
We are supposed to be designing cycling infrastructure that can be used by cyclists of all ages and all abilities. Would you let your 8-year old child bike through this intersection equipped with sharrows? We challenge the City to fix this design and make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians.