Kitchener-Waterloo

Kitchener council votes to add more bicycle sharrows in downtown

A Kitchener council committee voted to make improvements to the city's bicycling infrastructure Monday, including adding more sharrows and signage on downtown streets.
A Kitchener council committee voted to add more sharrows, shown here on King Street in downtown Kitchener, to a number of thoroughfares, including portions of Queen Street, Courtland Avenue, Jubilee Drive and Joseph Street. (Jane van Koeverden/CBC)

Kitchener council's community and infrastructure services committee voted unanimously to improve bicycling infrastructure in the city's core Monday, by adding more sharrows and signage on downtown streets.

City staff want to take a three-pronged approach to improving cycling conditions, including educating drivers and cyclists, enforcing rules and engineering, or building and improving infrastructure, said Josh Joseph, the city's transportation demand management coordinator, 

"We've pretty much been a car-centric society for so long and now we're switching to this biking, people-first, LRT focus and that shift isn't going to happen overnight," said Joseph. 

That means expanding what the city calls "bikeways", or routes that have signage, bike lanes or sharrows, and improved bike parking.

Sharrows, green and white painted markings that depict a cyclist with two chevrons, are placed on the road pavement to encourage motorists and cyclists to share the road space, and to indicate cyclists are able to take the entire lane if the lane is too narrow to ride beside a vehicle. 

"Sharrows are basically proposed in the middle of the lane in downtown because the roads are narrow and because that's the safest place for a cyclist to be. It's the most visible spot," said Joseph. 

Queen Street, between Lancaster St. and Courtland Ave. is one of several downtown routes that could see sharrows and bike route signage installed. An existing bike lane that runs on Queen Street between Courtland and St. George would be removed, because the segment is too short and the city has received complaints from the public. 

But City Councillor Dan Glenn-Graham has reservations about the new additions to Queen Street. 

"There's one particular area where we're looking to put a sharrow on Queen Street where there's a hill," said Glenn-Graham.  

"The concern is that if the cyclist takes the whole lane they're going to build some frustration up behind them in terms of the traffic and so we don't want to set this up for failure. So is this the right spot for a sharrow?"

Other major thoroughfares that would see the addition of bike route signage and sharrows include portions of Courtland Avenue West, Jubilee Drive, Park Street, Duke Street, Joseph Street and Gaukel Street. 

In addition to sharrows, the committee discussed plans to create contraflow bike lanes on some city streets, which allow cyclists to travel both directions on a one-way street. A vote on the contraflow bike lanes was deferred until next month. 

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