Toronto incident used to slam shared-lane markings

A podcast and Web page slam shared-lane markings as an inferior type of bicycle infrastructure. In it, an animated GIF shows a bicycle courier being forced off the street by a taxi driver.

Hey, about that animated GIF: the cyclist was NOT riding over the sharrow. Instead, he was riding in the taxi driver’s right rear blindspot. If he had ridden over the sharrow, staying in line behind the taxi, or passed it on the left in the next lane as any other driver would, no problem.

Here is the video in a more complete version  online:

It appears clear that this was a road rage incident, but also, knowledgeable cyclists have an expression for what this bicyclist was doing: “edge riding.” Many cyclists are inordinately fearful of being struck from behind, to the extent that they put themselves in situations like the one shown — and expose themselves to far greater hazards. In this case, the cyclist was actually going faster than the car! The sharrow reflects an attempt to direct bicyclists to the safest position, and to instruct motorists that this is legitimate — not that it makes all streets equally safe or pleasant, and indeed sometimes it is used when other measures might be better but are costly, or would bring on political opposition. On typical, narrow city streets and often also on others, the sharrow is entirely appropriate, and helps to avoid crashes of the type shown in the GIF, among others.

It appears that the cyclist, annoyed by the taxi driver’s close passing, struck the taxi with his hand and the driver swerved toward the cyclist. Every version of the video which I have seen starts late and does not show earlier encounters which are mentioned briefly in a verbal exchange. Roman Atwood, who was shooting the video out the back window of a car, has to have been aware that something was going on, or he would not have aimed his camera that way. A version of the video, showing a jump from an earlier scene and so suggesting that there is no earlier footage of the incident, is the second one from the top in this Toronto Today report. Attwood was in the process of shooting this prank video. He is a professional prankster but this does not appear to be a prank video: his response to the cyclist was compassionate. I have messaged him to ask what more he can tell me. Both the taxi driver and the cyclist were charged in the incident.

So, again, please, what does this example say about sharrows? And, further, what does all this say about the expertise about bicycling that went into this article and podcast? Or the depth of research, considering that I found  many news reports of the incident, with longer videos, through a simple Web search?

17 responses to “Toronto incident used to slam shared-lane markings

  1. Cheryl Longinotti

    Sharrows are only as good as their placement. The video shows that the sharrows marker is placed on the edge of the lane, not in the middle where a rider can control the lane. Frequently placement puts riders in greater danger. For example, in the door zone.

  2. The sharrow is a little more to the right than I would prefer but if the rider had been centered on the sharrow rather than edge-riding, this could have been avoided. Plus, this crash was, from the looks of it, intentional and says more about road rage than about the value of sharrows.

  3. Yes, this is a road rage incident. But from my observation as a visitor, Toronto cyclists consider edge riding the only way to ride. They often use this to work their way to the front of a line of cars at the lights. Some of them ride so close that their pedals are in danger of scraping the curb. I have photos of one using her right foot to scoot along the curb so she can squeeze past the cars – which in turn all passed her as soon as the light changed. It is a terrible habit that seems to be firmly ensconced; these sharrows seem to be a minimum effort to encourage better behaviour.

  4. You should follow some of the links provided on http://99percentinvisible.org/article/sharrows-shared-lane-markings-street-cyslists-may-hurt-help/ Speciffically this one: https://trid.trb.org/view/1393928
    Sharrows have not shown to be useful & evidence of this goes beyond one road rage incident.

    • That study looks good if you don’t examine its weaknesses. It has been thoroughly debunked. I am alerting Patricia Kovacs, who did the analysis of it and will be presenting about it at the upcoming International Cycle Safety Conference. And there are other studies which show sharrows to be effective. Aside from which, are you suggesting that the cyclist was riding safely by ignoring the sharrow and riding inches from the curb?

      • I am making no comment about the Toronto cyclist. The literature isn’t balanced on this issue & the large majority of it concludes that Sharrows are at best ineffective. The podcast was good & the article was well researched & balanced. The gif seems to have been removed from the site, as it was illustrative not key to the conclusion that sharrows have not lived up to their promise & are no substitute for actual infrastructure or even simply removing parking.

        • You are going to make broad assertions about the literature? Then kindly cite the literature, as Patricia Kovaks did. Otherwise you are just blowing hot air, as far as I am concerned.

          And, what, please, do you mean by “ineffective.” Let me offer you some guidance. I can think of five ways that sharrows might be ineffective. So, here is your invitation to write more on the topic, if you care to:

          • * Cyclists ignore them (as the Toronto cyclist did);
          • * Motorists fail to understand or respect the intention of sharrows to indicate that riding in the middle of a lane is OK;
          • * Safety is not improved where sharrows are installed;
          • * Sharrows are improperly placed, and so do not achieve their intended purpose;
          • *Another treatment might be more effective, and also feasible.

          The literature isn’t balanced? What do you mean, when you don’t say which way it is imbalanced? The article was well-researched and balanced, you say? Then why a GIF of a cyclist not riding over the sharrows as an example of a problem with riding as sharrows direct? And, GIF removed — looks as though my blog post got some traction and the authors withdrew some of their initial research. Also the article has photos of sharrows in unusually challenging locations, on major arterial streets which look like speedways. This is propagandistic, not balanced.

          Sharrows are on tool in a toolbox. They have appropriate and inappropriate uses, like any tool.

          I challenge you to try to refute what I have said, with appropriate citations and avoiding sweeping, unsupported statements.

          Also, please come out from under your rock and identify yourself by your full name.

          • brian (((McPherson)))

            My, you are a combative personality. Yes, all the reasons you give for the ineffectiveness of Sharrows seems to be true. Also, and not limited too: Sharrows do not appear to increase cycling numbers or reported comfort along a route. Sharrows are unpopular with the interested but concerned potential cyclists & drivers do not seem to understand them either. Despite NACTO endorsement, Sharrows are not uniform in design, placement or intention.
            I’m not your, or for that matter a, researcher So I not interested in debating the relative merits of each individual study. There are some institutions I trust more than others & metta studies are always preferable to individual studies. Of course https://trid.trb.org/view/1393928 “The Relative (In)Effectiveness of Bicycle Sharrows on Ridership and Safety Outcomes” is widely cited. Its results are clear. UBC’s Cycling in Cities research program has several interesting reports http://cyclingincities-spph.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2012/08/OpinionSurveyBrochure.pdf is just one that concludes sharrows are unpopular & do not encourage cycling.
            99pi’s article is balanced, a good history of the development of Sharrows A reference to Federal Highway
            Administration report: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/pedbike/10044/10044.pdf as well as the aformentioned University of Colorado Denver study Shich they qualified with: “Of course, this could be city-specific result.” So I stand by “the article was well researched & balanced”. Your focus on the gif & the couriers behaviour is, quite simply missing the point. Sure there is an implication, not supported in body of article, that if Sharrows were effective this wouldn’t happen. Maybe there is a kernel of truth to that. Or maybe the gif is one of many viral documentations of toxic driving environment that is causing violent road rage.

          • Combative? yes, when that is required to bring clarity. I did not say that sharrows are ineffective, and the Chicago study you support has been roundly debunked, right here in this comment thread. The UBC studies also have been debunked. Opinion surveys, my friend, are not safety studies. Etc. Thanks for giving your full name.

  5. John Brooking

    Sadly, most cyclists everywhere consider edge-riding to be the only way to ride.

  6. Patricia Kovacs

    I believe that the methodology of the Ferenchak and Marshall study of shared lane markings in Chicago was flawed. The study counted crashes, type of infrastructure and number of cyclists based on census block groups. The crashes were counts of all bicycle crashes in the census block group (i.e. streets with and without bicycle infrastructure). The type of infrastructure was chosen as bike lanes and trails, shared lane markings or no infrastructure based on the primary infrastructure in that census block group. This determination was based on looking at Google Street View maps (current and historic) and consultation with engineers to determine when and what type of infrastructure were installed. The number of cyclists was determined by the US Census Community Survey of primary form of transportation for commuting to work. Data were compared before and after infrastructure were installed.

    My reasons for believing this is not an accurate study is that cyclists do not ride in only their own census block group (and they may choose to ride on streets with no infrastructure), this counts only commuting cyclists and not all cyclists, and the category for bike lanes included trails, which inherently do not have many bike/car conflicts unless they cross roadways frequently. Just looking at the conclusion that 59 of 100 cyclists are injured per year in census block groups with no infrastructure and 34 of 100 cyclists are injured per year in census block groups with bike lanes and trails should cause one to question the results of the study. Are that many cyclists truly being injured in Chicago?

    There were other problems with the study in that census block group boundaries changed during the timeframe of the study and the time periods for bicycle crashes and bicycle commuters were different. Therefore, the data presented for risk factors could not be verified.

    Regarding doorings, the study stated, “In addition to being relatively rare, dooring crashes are also relatively benign”. I asked the authors if doorings were included in the study and was told that they were not. But according to Illinois DOT, 20% of Chicago bike crashes were doorings in 2011 and doorings increased by 50% in 2015.

    I have been told that I should provide constructive criticism on bicycle infrastructure. I believe that the only accurate way to evaluate safety of bicycle infrastructure is to analyze the number of cyclists and the number of bicycle crashes before and after infrastructure is installed on a particular street. My analysis of shared lane markings in Ohio is based on MPO bicycle counts and crash reports available from Ohio Department of Public Safety. Detroit Ave in Cleveland and Lakewood, Ohio, saw a 19% increase in cyclists and a 50% decrease in crashes where shared lane markings are used and a 7% decrease in cyclists and a 58% decrease in crashes where traditional bike lanes are used (no on-street parking). High St in Columbus, Ohio, saw a 102% increase in cyclists and a 4.4% decrease in crashes. These seem pretty effective to me.

    I am also looking at a couple new separated bike lanes in Ohio, in Cincinnati and Columbus. But that’s a study for another day.

  7. Patricia Kovacs

    When I wrote a review of the Ferenchak and Marshall study, I expressed concern in my conclusion that engineers and bicycle advocates would reject shared lane markings in favor of bike lanes. In particular, I was concerned that my hometown of Lakewood would reject their 2011 bike plan which stated that shared lane markings would be used exclusively because all the streets have on-street parking. Well, my worries became reality when door zone bike lanes were added to Madison Ave last summer. But not to worry, the door zone area of the bike lane is clearly marked so that cyclists know that they should ride in the left 1′ of the bike lane. https://goo.gl/maps/uf3Z9d62HMB2

  8. Judith Frankel

    Toronto engineers don’t know how to apply sharrows. They put them on the edge rather than centered in the effective lane of travel which gives totally the wrong message of where to ride

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