Motorists and cyclists alike might have noticed the appearance of new white markings on select roads across town, indicating that the roads are meant to be shared by two- and four-wheeled vehicles.
But there is a difference between the designated bike lanes and the shared-lane markings, or sharrows, that are being painted on some city streets.
Sarah Thomas, co-founder of Cycle Alberni, said the sharrows are there to help raise awareness, and to help determine cyclists’ positions on the road.
“The sharrows are indicating a shared roadway,” said Thomas. “It’s no different than if they weren’t there. They make the motorists aware of cyclists on the road. When you see them you’re being mindful, you’re going to have to wait.”
Thomas said that some roads in the city are wide enough for bikes and other vehicles to ride side-by-side, but in other places there will be what she calls “pinch points,” or areas where the road is narrower, and vehicles will have to wait for traffic to clear in the other lane before they can pass a cyclist in their own lane.
“It also indicates for cyclists different routes that connect to the bike lanes,” said Thomas. “It’s helping to make connectivity across the city.”
Bike lanes, as opposed to sharrows, are designated areas specifically for bikes. “Cars stick to the road way,” said Thomas. “If a car is turning and there’s a bike in the bike lane, they need to stop and wait. At no time should cars be stopped or parked in the bike lanes.”
A white diamond marks a dedicated bike lane, as opposed to a shared lane.
The City of Port Alberni has been painting these bike lanes and sharrows, although Cycle Alberni has been helping in the education process and sourcing funding.
These street markings are funded by the leftovers from a 2016 city project, half of which was provided by a Bike BC grant. The other half of the funding has been matched by the city. The total project cost was $100,000.
“What we’re trying to get done is the scope of work from last year,” said city public works manager Wilf Taekema. “We had a late winter and wet spring so our crews are busy working, trying to fit this in.”
Taekema added that city crews also plan to paint over bike lane markings from last year that have started to fade.
Thomas said between the bike lanes and the sharrows, the bike lanes are safer for both kinds of traffic.
“Certainly the bike lanes are safer and provide a space for cyclists,” said Thomas. “But the sharrows are still useful and provide awareness. But for now it’s step-by-step.
“It’s nice to see different modes of transportation feel like a part of the traffic and a part of the community,” she added.
Cycle Alberni is currently working on producing a cycling map with labelled bike lanes, sharrows and preferred cycling routes.
They are still looking for sponsorship to finish the design work and publish the map.