Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The View From The West Coast

OURS strikes for their one year anniversary
by the Other Urban Repair Squad
Coast Salish Territories - Victoria's Other Urban Repair Squad (O.U.R.S) struck once again on Monday July 19, painting sharrows on one of the most unsafe cycling roads in Victoria on Cook Street between Fairfield and Southgate.

"Sharrows" aim to increase driver awareness of bicycles

One year ago, they came out for the first time painting sharrows on Hillside Avenue, a heavy traffic corridor with no bike lane and used by both cyclists and cars. Monday July 19th was OURS fourth attempt to increase the cycling security and bike friendliness of greater Victoria.

OURS, a collective of bike advocates, commuter cyclists and active community members, argue that sharrows are an excellent way to increase bike visibility and promote sharing the road. Facing the reality of many unsafe biking areas in Victoria and the slow bureaucratic system in place, OURS has decided to help the community by painting sharrows themselves based on the recommended design and dimension standards.

Sharrows are not a replacement for lanes but they indicate major bike routes and are accepted by the Transportation Association of Canada as a minimum safety standard.

"They are perfect for Victoria with its narrow roads and tight budget," says OURS spokeperson, Yukon Duit. Sharrows are short for "Shared Use Arrow". They are bicycle-and-chevron markings indicating a shared use lane. The markings are used in cities across North America and Europe on roadways that cannot incorporate a full bike lane.
"Our sharrows [on cook] got painted over by the city of Victoria crew before morning traffic could enjoy the safety of a real bike friendly city!" says Duit. Saanich municipality, on the other hand, has left the sharrows done by OURS over a month ago, which is greatly appreciated by the cyclist community. "I was always afraid to bike to school before, but seeing the sharrows on the road has helped me know that cars pay attention to me on my bike" says Eva Moores-Afetly yesterday when OURS interviewed random cyclists that biked using the sharrows on their way past Camosun College.

Sharrows are used by cities in Australia, France, Germany, Switizerland, UK and the US. The Toronto Urban Repair Squad (URS) has been more creative even than OURS Victoria, using pink paint and drawing their own bike symbols with square wheels and funky bike designs. Toronto has also left the sharrows up. "The point is visibility and sending the message to drivers that the streets are to be shared," Carey Tive of URS said, reminding us that Canadian citizens have a strong history of being active

These actions are being taken because of the slow response to make cycling in the city safer and more friendly. Montreal boasts 2400 + kms of trails and a budget of more than $134 million dedicated for bike infrastructure. With 27k of Lochside trail and 55k of Galloping Goose trail, Victoria, is left in the dust even with their tilte of Cycling Capital of Canada. "The greater Victoria has been creating positive changes for the cycling community over the last decade and it is important to acknowledge what's been done, but OURS wants more and the cycling community deserved sharrows and inner-urban areas to be on the agenda too." says Duit. "The focus needs to change from costly road expansions like bike lanes to effective alternatives such as sharrows".

OURS is not only putting words into action but is also doing it quickly and cheap. "Cook Street got done in fifteen minutes and with about ten dollars worth of paint," says Duit. With that type of efficiency, Victoria might even want to consider contracting OURS for their future cycling safety marking!

So far OURS 4-City 0...the match is still on!

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