Photos by Martin Reis. More shots are here.
In what must be a Toronto first, two-way sharrows have plopped down onto Macdonell Avenue, a one-way street that runs parallel to Lansdowne for several blocks in Parkdale. Unlike the other new pieces of bike infrastructure that have arrived recently though, these aren’t the work of the City—they’re by the Urban Repair Squad. (You know, these guys.)
Longtime Urban Repair Squad documentarian Martin Reis says he first spotted the symbols over the weekend. “Toronto has so few real good north-south connections, especially in the west end,” Reis explained to Torontoist. “I mean, the west end is a giant black hole of no bike infrastructure.” Add that to the experience of biking north on a street, facing-down cars travelling south, and “it’s a bit nerve-wracking,” Reis says.
The two-way sharrows, then, are “just a warning signal…I think it can work, in terms of both cyclists and drivers passing safely.” What they do, Reis explains, is “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.”
The sharrows are also, of course, illegal, and cyclists who follow them are breaking the law too, since they aren’t permitted to go against traffic on a one-way street. Reis doesn’t see a problem with that, though. “The one-way design—that’s built for cars. It has nothing to do with bikes. They’re not making the streets one-way because of bicycle traffic.” Especially on small streets, he argues, bikes should be allowed.
While two-way sharrows haven’t appeared here before, authorized or unauthorized, the City is working on installing what are called “contra-flow bike lanes”—essentially bike lanes that go in the opposite direction of car traffic. One is already on a stretch of Montrose, another’s on Logan, and more than a dozen more short lanes are planned.
Reis, for one, is impatient, and wants more biking infrastructure, faster. “People are using the roads the way they should be used, rather than the way the City intends,” he says. And what about the Urban Repair Squad’s renegade sharrows? “I can see this being extended, because there’s a lot of one-ways in that neighbourhood. So there’s probably more coming. I can fully imagine that this is just the beginning of what’s going to happen.” And then a quick pause, and a careful addition from the man who is the only public voice of the Urban Repair Squad: “But it’s hard for me to say.”
This article originally mistakenly said that Harbord has a contra-flow bike lane; in fact, it’s Montrose that does.