Tuesday, July 21, 2009

O.U.R.S. Victoria, B.C. & The BIG Sharrows Caper

Other Urban Repair Squad¹ (O.U.R.S.) Hits Victoria:
Cycling Activists Take to Streets Over Slow Expansion of Bike Lanes

Monday, July 6/09 ­ Hot on the heels of the public launch of the CRD¹s Regional Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan initiative on June 16th, a group of cycling activists are ³painting the streets white² with a series of guerrilla bicycle lanes. Last weekend, the Other Urban Repair Squad (O.U.R.S) Victoria painted ³sharrows² along Hillside Avenue between Quadra and Cook. Sharrows - short for ³Shared Use Arrow² - are a bicycle-and-chevron marking indicating a shared use lane. The markings are used in cities across North America and Europe along roadways that are too narrow to incorporate a full bike lane.

The group¹s spokesperson Yukon Duit says that ³Sharrows are like coming in 4th place in the Olympics - they¹re not a replacement for bike lanes, but they¹re a pedal in the right direction.²

The group installed sharrows rather than bike lanes to draw attention to the range of markings that can be used to encourage both motorists and cyclists to position themselves safely on the road. Sharrows were recently adopted by the Transportation Association of Canada, the body that approves standards and guidelines for road design and markings across Canada.

The CRD has hired Alta Planning and Design, one of the leading alternative transportation consultants in North America, to headthe Regional Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan project. The Plan involves a significant public consultation component and will be finalized in 2010. This is the first time all 13 municipalities will work together to develop an alternative transportation plan. Victoria has the highest share of commuter cyclists in Canada and among the highest across North America. Nearly 8 percent of Victoria commuter traffic during rush hour is made up of cyclists.

"The CRD Plan is a great initiative,² said Duit, ³But only if it is met with actual dollars when it¹s launched in 2010.² Overlapping jurisdictions and bureaucratic inertia have meant that the region as a whole has been slow to implement sustainable solutions to encourage widespread commuter cycling. For example, commitments outlined in the 1995 City of Victoria Master Bike Plan will likely not be met by that plan¹s deadline next year.

As of Monday afternoon city crews had covered the markings with grey paint. ³It¹s a shame that the City couldn¹t wait a few days to see how people reacted to the markings,² says Duit, adding that sharrows do not disrupt the flow of traffic but instead remind motorists and cyclists to safely share the road. The group plans to install more sharrows throughout the summer.

O.U.R.S Victoria is part of a larger international network of Urban Repair Squads across North America, Europe and South America that encourages citizens to reclaim ownership and stewardship of urban space and actively construct a positive future of urban infrastructure through direct action.

Portland recently installed two-lane bike lanes in some areas of that city to accommodate the multitude of cyclists. ³This is what the future of urban transportation infrastructure in the CRD should look like,² says Duit. ³The creation of bike friendly roads to encourage and support cycling.²

For more images of Hillside sharrows email oursvictoria@graffiti.net
Sharrows: San Francisco¹s Share Lane Pavement Markings: Improving Bicycle Safety
(first report on sharrow use in North America)
O.U.R.S. Victoria

Newspaper Articles

Letters to the Editor
Sharrows improve cyclists' safety
Times Colonist, July 19, 2009
Re: "Sharrows need official OK," July 14.
I was disappointed to read a statement in Tuesday's Times Colonist that the cyclist activists who painted "guerrilla sharrows" on Hillside have "little regard for the rights of others." Whose rights are violated by painting sharrows on a street? And whose rights need to be protected on busy roads like Hillside?

Urban planners know that sharrows are an effective reminder to drivers that cyclists have a right to be on the road. Sharrows have been adopted by the Transportation Association of Canada and used on other roads in the Capital Regional District such as Finlayson and Royal Oak Drive. There is no reason why drivers would understand the meaning of an "official" sharrow on Finlayson or Royal Oak, but not an identical-looking "guerrilla" sharrow on Hillside.

As a cyclist who commutes along Hillside several times a week, I am frustrated with waiting for the city to make my safety a priority. I would like to thank the midnight painters for sending a clear message to the city that the time for making our roads safe for cyclists is now.

Tamara Herman, Victoria

Sharrows simply a useful reminder
A recent editorial criticized activists for painting sharrows on Hillside Avenue. It mentioned that the activists have “little regard for the rights of others.” What rights are being infringed — the right not to be reminded that drivers must equitably share the road with cyclists?

OURS is protecting the rights of cyclists in situations where the city refuses to do so. Cyclists are allowed to bike on Hillside, and yet are often put in mortal danger by inconsiderate drivers. Cyclists’ rights to security of person as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights of Freedoms are being undermined by lack of action by the city.

OURS is rightfully (and legally) taking matters into its own hands. Sharrows are a reminder that drivers need to share the street with bicyclists. Should the city also perhaps crack down on people placing “slow down” signs on the boulevard in front of their house — these too are unsanctioned reminders that drivers should obey the law.

Patrick Hayes, Victoria

City of Victoria councillors should see this action of painting "sharrows" for what it is: Pushing the agenda for more safe bike lanes and shared lanes in Victoria. The efforts of the OURS group should be applauded, especially by cycling advocate and councillor John Luton, who instead suggested these activists may be "anarchists who ride bikes." That's absurd.

OURS and the city are on the same side. Don't make this a battle. See it as a push to speed up the process of making this beautiful city safer for cyclists.

Ellen Reynolds, Victoria

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