Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Can we talk (again) about Billings Bridge?

Billings Bridge is rotten, although it's far from the biggest trouble spot on my commute (that honour will forever belong to Heron Road). Really, as long as I can take the lane sometime before I cross Riverside on my way north, and have the guts to hold it until I can duck onto Riverdale, it's just about tolerable. But it's precisely that lane-taking that led me to a realization.

There are sharrows painted on both outer lanes on that bridge. I don't know, maybe they give drivers some notice that bikes are allowed to take up space. It could happen. (Though, today's news that OC Transpo is investigating a bus driver who crowded a cyclist, opened his door, and said, "You got your one metre, now get out of the middle of the road," is not really encouraging on that point.)


In my experience, though, as I defiantly take the lane across this bridge, I can't just ride along where the sharrows are. If you ride, as I suppose you're expected to, through the middle of the "sharrow space," there is still just enough room for a driver to try to squeeze past you without crossing the dotted line.

And they will try. It happens all the time.

So, I actually ride even further to the left of the sharrows, right down the middle of the lane, because it's the only way to stop some idiot driver trying to squeeze between me and a car in the inside lane.

And that's when I realized. If there is room for me to ride along the outside of the "sharrow space" and still have there be enough space that a driver thinks they can pull off a pass, then there is more than enough room to hack a foot - or maybe a little less - of width off each of those lanes, and carve out an actual, painted bike lane. It would slow traffic to a (legal) 50 kmh instead of the 70 most cars are doing. It would give cyclists a little more breathing room across an unavoidable bridge. It wouldn't require any major reconstruction of a "heritage" structure.

Do this, and you'd be making a bridge many cyclists outright avoid (meaning they don't cross the river to Billings Bridge Mall or points south, opting for their safety over, say, shopping) a bridge that would actually feel less suicidal to cross. It would extend the established bike lane on Bank in front of the mall to connect with a popular downtown-bound bike route (Riverdale, leading to Echo and the Canal). It only makes sense. Why hasn't anyone done this yet?

Oh, right. This city thinks sharrows are adequate infrastructure.

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