Saskatoon is painting bicycle symbols on all its downtown roads. On narrow streets, depicted here, vehicles and bikes are asked to travel in single file. ((City of Saskatoon))

The City of Saskatoon is putting paint to pavement this week in an effort to make the downtown more bicycle friendly.

Workers will be painting white symbols on all downtown streets depicting bicycles with two arrows above indicating that certain lanes downtown are meant just for cyclists.

"We're going to try to educate motorists that ... everywhere we want to ride in Saskatoon is going to be a bike-friendly place to ride," said Jamison Gillert, co-ordinator of the city project.

As of 2006, Saskatoon had the second-highest number of bicycle commuters per capita of any city in Canada and more than double the average in Regina, the city said. (Victoria has the highest commuter rate in the country.)

The city says more than 5,000 people commute to work every day — about 2.5 per cent of the total population.

But driver attitudes toward cyclists need to shift, according to Tracy Humphrey, an avid cyclist and member of the city's cycling advisory group.

Humphrey said she was once forced off the road by a student driver, and the driving instructor argued that she was in the wrong.

"Cycling should be huge here," said Humphrey.

Educating drivers

Gillert told CBC News the $30,000 downtown bike lane initiative should help make experiences like Humphrey's a thing of the past by educating drivers to make room for cyclists.

On downtown streets with one lane in each direction, the bicycle symbol, known as a "sharrow," will be painted in the centre of the lane, indicating that cyclists and vehicles should share the lane and travel in single file.

On wider roads, cyclists will travel next to vehicles; on 4th Avenue, cyclists will have their own lane.

"We have quite a few roadways that can accommodate cyclists without having to change sidewalks or take out parking," said Saskatoon City Coun. Charlie Clark.

"I think we can make a lot of progress quite quickly now."

Gillert said the project is a small part of a multi-year plan to "make Saskatoon a better biking place."

Dubbed the Bicycle Facility Network, the plan will include building exclusive bicycle lanes, such as a route from the University of Saskatchewan to the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology, widening roads to accommodate bike lanes and connecting existing bike paths to roads.

Gillert said all that will cost about $7 million — $2 million of which will be spent next year, with money coming from the city and the federal government.

Regina's plan

Although not as ambitious as Saskatoon, Regina has developed a five-year plan to improve accessibility for cyclists. The city intends to spend between $100,000 and $120,000 a year on painting bicycle lanes and patching up holes and cracks on existing ones.

Scott Thomas, who is responsible for the City of Regina's program, told CBC News on Tuesday there are plans to create a two-way bicycle lane on 15th Avenue between Pasqua and Broad Streets. The plan will require 15th Avenue to be changed from a one-way street to a two-way street between Albert and Broad Streets, subject to city council approval.

Thomas said he hopes that bike lane will be completed in September.

Another idea involves narrowing existing vehicle and bicycle lanes on Lorne and Smith Streets downtown, and converting parking on those streets from parallel to angle. Thomas said that change should cut down on the number of motorists driving in the bicycle lane, which is not permitted.