Group calls for changes to Wallace Drive ‘sharrow’ plans to increase safety

Group calls for changes to Wallace Drive 'sharrow' plans to increase safety
Cyclists gathered at HEL,HILEČ» ahead of a group ride to call on Central Saanich to improve plans for bike infrastructure on Wallace Drive.

A group of cyclists is calling on Central Saanich to improve its planned biking infrastructure along Wallace Drive.

Central Saanich is currently replacing its sewer system along Wallace Drive, and as part of that work plans to install bike infrastructure on the road.

However, designs for the project show that for a majority of the road, the plan is to have “sharrows,” or shared-use lanes, which are symbols painted on the road indicating that bikes are to share the roadway, which has caused concern for some locals.

“What the research shows, and what’s kind of generally known now is that [sharrows] aren’t really safer for active transportation users, and in fact, sometimes they can be even more dangerous than no infrastructure at all,” Sarah Frumento, a resident of Central Saanich, said.

“And so we know that this [plan] isn’t going to encourage more people to take active transportation or to use bikes to get around in our community and so we’re hoping that we can get central Saanich to reconsider.”

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Sharrows are a painted symbol on the road, indicating that cyclists are able to use the road. (ICBC/Facebook)

On July 6, Frumento and a group of 53 cyclists held a ride to try and call on Central Saanich to change their plans.

Frumento also noted the stretch of Wallace Drive with planned sharrows is where a Central Saanich Police officer recently hit a cyclist, which is under investigation by the Independent Investigation Office of B.C., though the circumstances in that crash are still unknown.

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A 2019 study by Nicholas Ferenchak with the University of New Mexico and Wesley Marshall with the University of Colorado Denver showed that sharrows do not increase safety for cyclists, and in fact, may come with an increase in injury.

The study found more research into the matter is needed, but noted there was an increase in cyclist injuries after sharrows were installed on roads. The number of cyclist injuries on roads with sharrows increased from 8.97 to 18.28 per 100 bike commuters. The study also looked at roads with no cycling infrastructure, which saw a change from 8.7 to 9.75. Roads with bike lanes saw an increase from 16.63 to 18.32.

The researchers noted this could be because roads with sharrows saw a 50 per cent increase in bike commuters, and believe the false sense of security may have resulted in the cyclists altering their behaviour due to the perceived reduction in risk.

Christine Culham, the chief administrative officer of Central Saanich, says the reason sharrows were chosen for this stretch of road was the challenges posed by the landscape.

“Physical restraints also impacted the design. So essentially, we have hydro towers, a narrow road right of way that’s constrained by Hagan and Graham Creek and its crossing of the road, as well as existing drainage and two-way vehicle traffic and with all of those constraints for that one-kilometre stretch, we are using a bicycle network that is shared,” Culham said.

Additionally, Culham notes this is just the start of the active transportation projects the district plans to build over the next five years.

“Some other work that we’re doing currently at the district is that we’re looking at all of our road networks using the Vision Zero principles, and so we do know that, based on those principles, that this part of the road, as it’s a collector road, would be 40 kilometres per hour, and that’s just at a start,” she said.

“And due to other conditions in the road that we would be evaluating, like a shared lane, it might even be reduced further. It’s not just about the infrastructure, it’s also about education, it’s also about speed and how do we look at all factors within the constraints of our community so that we can make it safe for all users.”

Frumento acknowledges the challenges posed by the landscape, and says she hopes the district will consider some creative solutions, including a multi-use pathway that is separate from the road.

She says part of the reason she is calling for safety improvements is because she has already had a number of close calls on this road and avoids cycling on it, so she hopes improvements can be made so everyone feels confident biking on Wallace Drive.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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