Macdonell Avenue, in Parkdale, is a bit of a strange street. When it starts, at Queen, traffic goes in both directions on a road wide enough to suit TTC buses, which stop on the east side of the street on their slow way towards Yorkdale Station or St. Clair Avenue West. When Macdonell hits Seaforth, though, it instantly narrows to a one-way street where only southbound traffic is allowed. When it rubs up against the railroad tracks a few blocks north, Macdonell doesn’t stop so much as it vanishes, turning into Wabash Avenue on a curve, becoming a two-way street again with grassy medians splitting the east- and westbound traffic.
It’s on the stretch of Macdonell that’s one-way-only that the Urban Repair Squad started painting two-way bike sharrows earlier in October. Now, two weeks and ten sharrows later, they’re all gone—each and every one has been meticulously painted over by the City with black road paint.
J. Eric Brown, who owns Not My Dog, a bar on Queen just west of Macdonell, says he drives his car south on Macdonell a few times every day.
“What did I think of the sharrows? I really liked the[m], and Macdonell was a great pick for them. It’s mostly one-way, only has parking on one side, and is plenty wide enough to accommodate a bike and car traveling side-by-side. That being said, the two-way chevrons were a tad less umm… I dunno, Cool?”
Brown, who noticed last weekend that the two-way sharrows had gone missing, says that he’s not sure that Macdonell is wide enough to squeeze two-way bike traffic beside one-way car traffic. He drives a Honda Fit, a “pretty small car,” and has had at least one “scary situation” since the sharrows popped up, where he was driving south as two cyclists headed in the opposite direction of one-another on the street. “We all met at the same point in travel in a shiver-inducing moment,” he says. “Macdonell is wide but not that wide.”
It’s easy to see what Brown means if you bike up or down Macdonell. One cyclist and one regular-sized car fit okay, but it gets uncomfortable fast if there’s anything more or anything bigger than that.
Martin Reis, the Urban Repair Squad’s go-to spokesperson, told Torontoist earlier this month that the sharrows were “just a warning signal” that “force people to look at each other—you know, cyclists and motorists have to make eye contact if they’re going this way, and it slows down traffic. And I think that’s a good thing for everybody.”
For the City, though, the Urban Repair Squad’s latest project is just a nuisance. Daniel Egan, the manager of Cycling Infrastructure & Programs, says that “as soon as they get painted, we get complaints.” If the City doesn’t respond to those complaints quickly, Egan explains, they might open themselves up to legal action should something bad happen.
The Urban Repair Squad doesn’t seem too concerned that anything would. Their stated reason for doing the sharrows in the first place was to make the road safer, since (the argument goes) cyclists are going to bike up one-way streets like Macdonell anyway; cyclists should be able to bike up one-way streets like Macdonell; and, whether they’re legal or not, the sharrows would benefit everyone using the road.
“Paint is cheap,” shrugs off Reis, when we told him that the ten sharrows have all been buffed by the City.
Egan’s less flippant. “What they’re doing is not achieving anything,” he says, annoyed. “It’s not a productive thing. It’s unfortunate they’ve got so much energy.”
Photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.