Wharf Street Protected Bike Lane, Victoria, BC
Take a walk along Wharf Street in Victoria, BC on a damp fall day with the intent of capturing interesting elements of the protected bike lane design that others might learn from. Wharf Street features a bi-directional protected bike lane along the harbour front between Humboldt Street/Government Street and Pandora Avenue, a distance of approximately 650 metres. The street previously featured one vehicle lane in each direction with either parking or turn lanes at various points. Today it still features one lane in both directions, but the parking and turn lanes have sometimes been removed to create space for the bike lanes.
This is the intersection at the south end of Wharf Street with Government Street and Humboldt Street. Cyclists coming southbound on Wharf can turn left and cross with the bike signal to Humboldt Street which also has a bi-directional bike lane. Note the no right-turn-on-red for traffic also heading southbound and you can almost see if or traffic heading northbound, meaning no vehicle conflicts for the movement between Humboldt and Wharf. To the left of the image below is a scramble crosswalk which runs at the same time as the bike signal, meaning all vehicles stop while people cross in any direction. No walk with traffic, no right-turn-on-red means no pedestrian vehicle conflict. The one slight challenge might be access to and from Government street to the north by bicycle, but people riding can navigate through the scramble phase to get to and from the protected bike lane.
Southbound cyclists can also continue south onto Government Street towards the parliament buildings and James Bay. Government Street currently features only painted bike lanes, but traffic volumes and speeds are usually quite low in this section. Note the bike lanes are all signed with skateboards and a + sign indicating they're not just bike lanes, they're for all micro-mobility modes.
Previously there was an island with tree in the middle separating some traffic movements, now there's a plaza with seating, and a place to take a rest.
There's also a permanent count station in the plaza, there's more than 2 cyclists this day, it's just the refresh rate doesn't align with the camera shutter speed. The raised crosswalk on the bike path helps to convey that pedestrians have priority. I'm leaning more toward continuing the sidewalk concrete surface straight across here to convey the modal hierarchy that places pedestrians at the top.
Just beyond the plaza, there is plentiful bike parking, which probably see's more use in the summer and is next to the tourist information centre. These bike racks work well with a chain lock, but they proved difficult to get a d-lock around the frame and front wheel last time we tried as the plate in the centre restricts options.
Coming around onto Wharf Street proper, the bike lane is 3.0m wide from face of curb to face of curb, 1.5m each direction meaning the southbound lane is about 1.2m asphalt, 0.3m gutter. It's important to note that while on the narrow end of the spectrum, the bi-directional nature still provides comfort and space to pass in what is quite a narrow facility. a Uni-directional facility would require wider lanes to allow passing and two protective barriers rather than just one. There is mid block crosswalk with raised crossing and another bike coral and small crosswalk signage for the bike path compared with the larger signs for motor vehicle traffic.
Further along the bike lane becomes a parking protected lane with small door zone buffer. One positive at least, even if a door was to be flung wide open or a cyclist riding right at the edge, if a northbound cyclist was to hit a car door here, they would push it in the direction of closing, rather than the opposite more painful edge more common on uni-directional facilities. I really like the flex posts Victoria use, they look like proper bollards but they're rubber and have some give, but a driver would be more concerned hitting these compared with the more typical post seen in most places.
Crosswalks downtown feature these TWSI's (Tactile Warning Surface Indicators) with individual studs rather than the high contrast yellow often seen elsewhere. Mostly an aesthetic decision, albeit when you look up close at a static photo rather than walking by, the adhesive used looks a bit messy.
There are several driveways along Wharf Street down to mostly parking below. They're highlighted with green surface treatment to make drivers more aware but these uncontrolled crossings are often the reason bi-directional facilities are less preferred. there is additional driver workload to look in both directions, and some drivers can be reluctant to slow down sufficiently to properly check their sight lines, especially if feeling pressure from drivers behind. Those drivers behind are going to get stopped at the next signal anyway, so take your time when turning and check both ways. One time standing here in the space of two minutes I watched one driver almost right-hook a cyclist as they didn't check behind them, the next driver (with a bike rack on the back) fully stopped before proceeding across.
Signage and pavement markings to tell drivers to yield which is not always effective unforrtunately. If you're new to riding, possibly as these new protected facilities have given you the comfort to ride a bike, you might not have the road sense gathered from years of dodging traffic. Be alert at conflict points as you'll invariably fair worse.
New technology to tell you you've been detected at a bike crossing and don't need to push a button. Look out for the small bike symbol with lines either side. If you position yourself over that you should be detected.
A cyclist entering Wharf Street northbound from Fort Street via a dedicated bike crossing. But note the little left turn lanes for both north and southbound cyclists to make the turn into Fort Street without blocking cyclists passing through, and note that bicycle detection sign on the signal pole.
Another cyclist heading southbound on Wharf, taking the shortest path.
Working with existing sidewalks and using pavement markings to direct you to the curb extension. Riding a bike seems like the smarter option along this route...
With the protective barriers cast in place on the existing road surface gaps are need for a few reasons, to allow stormwater to reach catch basins that are usually left at the existing curb, to avoid utility impacts as is the case below, and often opposite side street or driveways to allow access from across the street. The alternative precast barriers often have drainage channels on the underside which can at least address the drainage issue without leaving gaps.
Crosswalks... I know we hate giving up momentum but yield to pedestrians...
This little loading zone creates quite a tight little shimmy int he bike lane, southbound cyclists can often try and cut the corner squeezing northbound cyclists. It's a constrained little zone and cyclists will always try and take the smoothest line.
Flashing beacons at the floating bus stop... Re. the human rights tribunal, I'm still trying to understand why this is different than every other crosswalk across the bike lane... I still think the solution is to interrupt the bike lane with a continuous sidewalk to the bus stop that becomes a slow roll zone, and cyclists have to slow down and navigate it like a multi-use area.
Approaching the Johnson/Pandora intersection we see more dedicated bike signals. There's a lot going on here as Johnson and Pandora are one way streets a block apart and merge to go over the Johnson Street Bridge with a short section between the two that creates complexities with the signal timing I'm sure.
If you look closely at that stop line sign pole, the back is full of stickers, reading these kills time while waiting for the light to change... I think the Ear Kanal is my favourite...
As we reach Pandora, there is a protected intersection corner that let's you transition either direction between Wharf and Pandora, but you can also head to the Johnson Street Bridge multi-use pathway to the left in the image below.
Looking east along Pandora, you can see those bike symbols in the foreground where you should wait to be detected. The protected corner is the hallmark of a protected intersection, providing a safe space to wait to make a two-stage turn, which in this case could be a left turn from Pandora to Wharf or a right turn from Wharf to Pandora.
Playing with focus...
Wayfinding at the Pandora/Wharf plaza with distance information... I'd like to see these signs include walk time, bike time, and ebike time. If people realized how little time it took to get places by ebike, I think it would help convert some.
Later in the day, dark, rainy, but protected bike lanes make it safe enough to ride with kids up front in the cargo bike... This is looking back down Wharf street from the Pandora/Wharf protected corner.
Thanks for reading, if you're interested in reading more about bike lanes, there's a book about that...