Friday, May 4, 2012

A Solution for Scary Bridges?

There are a lot of bridges in Ottawa, and bridges are uncomfortable places for cyclists. Why bridges are uncomfortable is a complicated question. One factor that comes up frequently is there is not enough room, cyclists can feel squeezed and trapped, they try to share the lane but the lane is often narrow.  Drivers, for their part may not realize how wide the lanes really are. By trying to drive in the same lane as the cyclist, they reinforce the cyclists feeling of being pushed to the curb. A local Councillor has proposed a simple change to traffic signs on two of Ottawa's bridges (City to Install Cycling Markers on Two Bridges). The proposed changes are simple, really just a clarification, new signs will mark the outside lanes as no passing lanes. I believe this will be a improvement over the current share the road signs, pictured below:
Bank St. Bridge over the Rideau River.
The cluttered signage is confusing and contradictory

Bank St. Bridge over the Rideau Canal

The existing signs on the Rideau River bridge are confusing with a share the road sign directly above a "No Cyclists" sign. The signage over the Canal is less cluttered but not as very prominent maybe to the point of being invisible. Cluttered, confusing or invisible the result is the same, the signs are ignored and cyclists  take to the sidewalk.

Cyclists riding the sidewalk cross the Rideau River bridge

I don't like to be a finger wagging scold, I understand that there are several reasons why this couple chose to ride the sidewalk. Road condition is probably not even the main reason in this case, access from and to the multi-use paths is probably the main consideration in this case. Still cyclists do not belong on the sidewalk. This is even more important and more clear on bridges, not only is sidewalk riding a danger to others it is dangerous to the cyclists themselves, so anything that might help encourage cyclists to stay off these sidewalks is worth a try.
Not everyone agrees of-course, many people will agree with James McLaren, president of the Heron Park Community Association. Mr. McLaren doesn't see this a workable solution, he is worried that it is unrealistic and will be a burden on cars to ask them to change lanes to pass a cyclist on the bridge. Some of these people will see this as a silly extension of the "War on the Car", holding up traffic and causing congestion. My experience says different, I ride across these bridges frequently, the Rideau Canal bridge daily. I ride far from the curb and on these narrower lanes most cars change lanes to pass any way, formalizing this behaviour will help all road users, and if it helps join communities and encourage active transportation all the better. After all this proposed change is just communicating the rules of the road as they are: Cyclists need to be passed safely and to pass safely on a narrow lane a car must change lanes.

No comments:

Post a Comment