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More people cycling, more places, more often

First ride: Humboldt advisory bike lanes

The Humboldt St advisory bike lanes have been installed in one block and we headed out last Sunday to see what the riding the new lanes were like. Overall, we weren’t sure that this was the solution Victoria needs, but we’re hopeful the city gets some good feedback in the next few years.

What is an advisory bike lane? How does it work?

An advisory bike lane is new to North America and is designed for quiet streets. The key part of the design is the very narrow centre driving lane, which means that drivers cannot pass each other. They are supposed to enter the bike lane to pass each other, then return to the centre lane.

To explain a bit better about what is going on Humboldt, we’ve added some colour to an image. Note – the bike lanes are NOT coloured green (but probably should be, see below)

You can read more on our post about advisory bike lanes and our concerns about whether or not they are AAA.

How do drivers pass each other?

Carefully. As can be seen in the below picture, we have two drivers coming opposite direction, with a bike rider in the advisory lane. The minivan pulled into the lane behind the bike and let the oncoming car drive pass them.

Drivers and bike rider in advisory bike lane

The lane only runs a single block, other paint still not done

The advisory bike lane only runs a single block from from Blanshard to Quadra, although the block from Douglas to Blanshard is supposed to get an advisory bike lane too.

Also not yet painted are the sharrows on all three blocks – the advisory bike lanes will have them, as well as in the shared block from Quadra to Vancouver.

Drivers were sometimes in the bike lane, sometimes not

Not unexpectedly given this is a brand-new bike lane type, drivers didn’t really know what to do. While we were there, about half the drivers spent at least half the time driving in the bike lane even with no oncoming traffic.

Beyond the signs, there hasn’t been much user education yet, so it is unsurprising that some drivers wouldn’t know what to do. See this Reddit thread for some of that confusion.

Vehicle traffic is still too high

The number of drivers using Humboldt to cut through between Blanshard and Quadra or Vancouver is still quite high. We were there on a Sunday evening, not the busiest time, and still there were many times with two or three cars on the block at once.

However, the plans for Vancouver St will add barriers to Southgate and Fairfield St, so car traffic should drop.

Isn’t Richardson getting an advisory bike lane?

No. We’ve seen some confusion about this. Although an advisory bike lane was originally proposed, the city changed course due to feedback from the community and ourselves. What was approved will be a AAA shared street similar to what will be installed on Haultain or the northern sections of the Vancouver/Jackson route.

What next?

Next we see how these lanes work. As they are the first in the city and rarely used in North America, there is a lot we don’t know about advisory bike lanes. Our list of questions hasn’t changed since we published our post “More on advisory bike lanes“.

As we mentioned above, one quick change the city should do is to paint the lanes completely green. This follows Dutch guidance on advisory bike lanes.

Before we add more advisory bike lanes, we’d like the city to do some post-installation surveys with drivers, bike riders and walkers at some point in 2021. Find out what people liked/didn’t like about the advisory bike lanes. Show if more people are using the street and if the people using the street has changed (more women, more children, more people less comfortable riding, etc.)

Have you ridden the new advisory bike lane? Let us know what you think in the comments below

3 Comments

  1. Just rode Humboldt now. Only one car coming my opposite which felt a bit close, given it was heading toward me. The thing about the signs is they are busy, to much info to gather, as you are also watching for others heading at you—they are essentially a distraction. Maybe these “instructions” should also be painted on the road surface.

  2. I see this organization supports solid pavement markings (green). Would it lend its support to the same for accessible parking spaces (blue)? Staff are resistant. Can you provide arguments and studies in favour of pavement markings that accessible parking advocates can use?

  3. 900 block Humbolt has up to 5 institutional trash bins out for over an hour on Wednesday mornings. Not enough room for them, buses, bikes and cars. I hope members who see them will report them using the Connect Victoria app. A team pulls them out and some time later, a collection truck comes around. Assuming this is not allowed.

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