Main-ly Safely Navigating

By John Dance

September 21st, 2016

Main Street is all so new with zigzags, elephant feet, shark teeth, bike boxes and sharrows. The new street markings present an educational challenge for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians but improved safety and comfort for all users will make it all worth it.

With September’s opening of the rebuilt Main Street from the Queensway bridge to Clegg Street, the many changes seem at first a little daunting. Just what’s meant with all that green paint and weird symbols?

For the most part, the street has transformed from being a four-lane roadway to two lanes with turning lanes at key intersections. The lane reductions have allowed the creation of much wider sidewalks than previously and “cycle tracks,” which are separated bike lanes.

The separation of the three types of users works well until there are crossovers and turns so at these points there are new markings, for instance, the zigzag lines on the cycle tracks to notify cyclists that they must yield to pedestrians who are crossing to get onto buses.

At intersections the cycle tracks become crossrides that are like crosswalks except instead of straight lines, they are delineated by small painted squares that are termed elephant feet. These have been recently approved for use in Ontario and common in Europe at cyclist crossings.

In addition to the elephant feet, the crossrides are painted green to emphasise where turning motorists must yield to cyclists who are going straight ahead.

Another European pavement marking device being introduced is called shark teeth which is a line of triangles. They mean yield right of way if the teeth of the triangles are pointing towards you. If the triangles point away, it means ‘bump ahead’ and slow down.

The big green bike boxes at intersections represent a major change. As Robin Bennett, a project manager in the city’s cycling programs says, “With the advent of protected bike lanes there is an accompanying movement towards guidance for cyclists who wish to make turns or to gain a positional advantage over motorists at signalised intersections for visibility and safety reasons.”

“Since making a legal vehicular style of left turn is no longer possible with cycle tracks or protected bike lanes that reach an intersection, it became necessary to provide guidance for the new concept of two-stage left-turn manoeuvres, which comes to Ottawa courtesy of Copenhagen,” concludes Mr. Bennett.

“A bike box is used at intersections to designate a space for cyclists to wait at a red light,” says Main Street project manager Josée Vallée. “Cyclists stop in front of motorists and can proceed through the intersection first when the light turns green. These areas increase cyclist visibility and reduce the risk of “right hook” and “left hook” collisions after a green signal.”

The other new symbol users will encounter is the sharrow between Hawthorne and Lees. This “shared arrow” symbol with two chevrons above a bike image alert motorists of the space cyclists are likely to occupy in the lane and encourage safe passing of cyclists by motorists, who, by law, must leave at least a metre of space between themselves and the bikes they are passing.

"I've lived and biked in OOE for almost 20 years and the cycle track is a welcome separated bike lane on Main Street,” says Denise Inglis, Merritt Street resident and cycling instructor. “With a bit of education to both motorist and cyclist about the new markings such as the bike box, it will be a safer and more enjoyable street and will definitely encourage more cycling in our neighbourhood."

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