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How can we protect bike island signs from cars and trucks?

January 17, 2016
What I saw at 3 p.m.L the PVC pole of the "Except Bikes" sign snapped off at its base.

The “Except Bikes” sign at Manitoba and West Broadway, at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Once again — for at least the third time — the signage marking the bicycle island on Manitoba Street, just south of the intersection with West Broadway Avenue, has been knocked down — apparently by a motor vehicle.

The bicycle island is a traffic diverter — a raised concrete lozenge that leaves two openings:  one for northbound motor vehicles and bicycles and another just for southbound bicycles. It’s there to reduce traffic through the heavily single-family residential neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant, immediately south of the island.

Normally there is a PVC pole mounted on the island, bearing two retro-reflective signs — a large white one, marked with a red and white circular No Entry symbol and the words “EXCEPT BICYCLES” and below that, a tall one emblazoned with diagonal yellow and black stripes.

You can’t miss them or mistake their meaning: southbound drivers are not allowed entry through the single vehicle lane of the island.

Sometime between Friday and Saturday, one driver certainly didn’t miss them!

All signs point to a broken intersection


Bits of the snapped-off PVC pole litter the pavement.

At 3 p.m. on Saturday, January 16, I came out of the alley on the south side of West Broadway Avenue onto Manitoba Street, where the bike island is situated.

The two large retro-reflective signs, that I recall as being intact only a day earlier, were laying flat on the grass on the west side of the bike island. They were still attached to most of their PVC pole, which had been snapped off at its base, a steel collar anchored in the concrete island. There were bits of shattered pole here and there.

Back in the summer, on June 3, the sign pole of this same island was badly bent but not broken. It had, however, only been replaced four weeks previously in May after being flattened at the end of April.

An identical bike island, serving an identical purpose, one block west on Alberta Street, has had its signage flattened at least once, back in November of 2013.

Against all odds, the next bike island west, at Columbia Street, has, so far as I know, survived unscathed since it was installed at the beginning of July, 2013.

Apparently — until self-driving cars do away with drivers — we can’t keep these signs from being hit. But isn’t there something the city can do to make the signs more impact-resistant in the meantime?

Maybe we should put some spring in our bike island signage

A car-resistant steel pole using a steel spring. -- Flexpost

A car-resistant steel pole using a steel spring. — Flexpost

I’m not an engineer but I find it hard to believe that sign posts can’t be easily and cost-effectively spring-mounted in concrete so that they can be pushed flat by low speed impacts without breaking off.

Michigan-based Flexpost is one company that offers several diameters of car-resistant steel posts and bollards that employ shock-absorbing springs. Posts can be mounted on asphalt, concrete or ground. A 2.4-metre steel sign post, with thick plastic bollard cover, costs nearly CAD$600.

I don’t know how one would handle being entirely driven over by a commercial delivery truck but they are designed to significantly bend and not break under the sort of low-speed impacts that are regularly snapping the sign posts on the Manitoba bike island.

Assuming that they would actually survive multiple impacts, I have no idea how many it would take for them to be cost effective compared to having city workers routinely replace broken PVC posts.

The City of Vancouver’s Engineering Services department is not without ingenuity. I’m sure that something could be cobbled together to test the idea of a spring-mounted sign post at one of the more accident-prone bike islands. And if such a thing didn’t prove effective, city workers could just replace it with another PVC post, which, as it stands now, is exactly what they’d have to do sooner-or-later anyway. Click the images to enlarge them.


It's almost as if...but no, drivers would never delibarately hit the bike signage, would they?

It’s almost as if…but no. Drivers would never hit the bike signage intentionally.

From → Bicycles, Development

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