Smithers Town Council voted to cycle out the “sharrows” on Third Avenue at its regular meeting on April 9, in an effort to save money on the Town’s annual traffic marking contract.
The sharrows, which are symbols with a bicycle and arrows painted on the road to signal that cyclists and drivers should share the same corridor, were originally painted as part of the Third Avenue Bike Lane pilot in 2013.
The decision followed council’s receipt of a report from director of development services Mark Allen recommending they approve a budget increase of $8,000 for the traffic marking contract.
The contract is administered each spring to repaint markings that may have deteriorated over the winter.
Allen recommended the increase because the Town’s approved budget for the contract fell short of the lowest bid, made by Terrace-based contractor Yellowhead Pavement Marking Ltd. for a total of $70,977.
The approved budget for the Town portion of the work was $57,400, while the Yellowhead bid for the Town portion of the work was $64,064.
The other portion of the contract is for repainting at the airport and paid out of Airport Operations.
According to Allen’s report, the bid “represents an escalation of approximately 20 per cent over last year’s rates for the same scope of work.”
The owner of Yellowhead Paving, Doug Russel, cited increased difficulty in retaining staff, resulting in higher wages, and the increased costs of paint as well as glass beads for “reflectorizing” as reasons for the increased rates.
“Staff request that council approves a budget increase of $8,000, which would cover the difference between Yellowhead’s price for main Town painting and the available budget of $57,400, plus a small contingency amount,” Allen recommended.
Allen also acknowledged that council had already approved a $7,400 budget increase in the 2019 budget for the work compared to the 2018 budget, which Coun. Frank Wray picked up on in the discussion.
“This is an increase on top of an increase that we already put in the budget,” Wray said, suggesting council remove the sharrows from the contract so they are not part of the repainting, to save money.
“This might seem a little surprising to people given my passion for the bicycle, but I would support Councillor Wray’s idea of removing them,” agreed Mayor Taylor Bachrach.
Bachrach said he supported the removal of the sharrows from the contract because he does not think they are effective.
“There was a big study that came out of the United States about the sharrows … and found that not only are they not effective at increasing safety, they actually make your roadway less safe for bicycles,” Bachrach said.
“The sharrows … they’re a bit expensive and there’s no evidence that they increase safety, so I would support removing those from the budget.”
Wray moved that council amend the contract to remove the sharrows from the work, for a potential savings of $2,400, which council carried unanimously.
“I’m still a big supporter of bicycle infrastructure,” Bachrach told Interior News after the meeting. “I hope that in the future Smithers can get serious about using proven approaches.
“We have the active transportation plan coming up and I’m optimistic that that plan will identify some strategies that will make a real, material difference for people who get around by bike.”
Approved traffic marking painting will be completed between May and June when Works and Operations has cleared the roads of winter debris.
The rainbow crosswalk is not included in the contract since crosswalk painting will be completed by volunteers.