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Move On: Yes, it is OK for cyclists to ride across these special crosswalks

Elephant's feet markings denote 'crossrides' that are shared by cyclists and pedestrians

Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery
Breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that
Can't you read the sign?

So opined the Five Man Electrical Band back in the 1970s.

But they really hadn’t seen anything like what was coming. So many more signs. With an increase in visual instructions for people out using the roads, and a whole new set coming online for active transportation, let’s review one.

Two fat white lines define a crosswalk for pedestrians. Beside the crosswalk, the square dotted line markings (as shown photo 1 in the above gallery), define a “crossride.” Yes, a crossride is a thing – think crosswalk for bikes. Bikes roll across this intersection on the left. Pedestrians walk across on the right. The separation between modes is clear and it all works because there are dedicated bike lanes and sidewalks at both ends for continuity. 

The fat dotted marks for the crossride are known as “elephant's feet.” I love the name for its completely out-of-context whimsy, though I guess it is a jungle out there. Elephant's feet are the Canadian national standard for marking a crossride.

The crossride and crosswalk design at Brooksbank Avenue and Keith Road (see photo 2 in the gallery above) is unusual on the North Shore because it separates bikes from the crosswalk. 

For the most part, we see a combo of the two: pedestrian crosswalk lines flanked by elephant's feet. You see this treatment on the Green Necklace and the Spirit Trail at intersections. The crosswalk is a simple continuation of a multi-use path for people walking and biking. 

Placed together this way, the markings mean that people walking and cycling share the space and that it is OK for people biking to pedal across. Yes! Cyclists can stay mounted and enter the crosswalk/crossride. This is the piece that everyone, including people on bikes, hasn’t fully grasped. I mean, we were all taught to dismount and walk across intersections – absolutely no riding! Now? Transportation systems have evolved. But, our knowledge lags. 

The current version of the Bike Sense manual (the document that you read when we learn to bike) says that “it is illegal to cycle in a crosswalk unless authorized to do so by a municipal bylaw or otherwise directed by a sign.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t carry around municipal bylaws for handy reference. It just happens that I am an active transportation advocate and know what elephant's feet mean. 

There are variations on the elephant's feet theme as well, including the intersection by Capilano Mall where 16th Street crosses Marine Drive (see photo 3 above). The elephant's feet on the one side indicate cyclists can use that lane to cross 16th moving west. The solid line shows the pedestrian crossing limit, separating people on bikes from people walking. 

The addition of green paint is a new feature at this location. Green paint means “alert all users” this is a high potential conflict zone. Be careful. Some people who advocate for green paint everywhere have pointed out that while elephant’s feet might be the standard, people don’t know what they indicate. But not every crossing is a conflict zone. So a new marking had to emerge.

You can find another ped/bike cross combo treatment where the Spirit Trail crosses Pemberton Avenue at Welch Street (photo 4 above). Transportation designers told me that the swirling spirals are special, introducing an element of “fun” at crossings and help define the Spirit Trail. Mostly I am not having a lot of “fun” at intersections, though I like the “spirit” of this idea. But with so many new markings, why confuse things with a one-off found only on the North Shore? Can we please have some green paint in a conflict zone? No swirls. Said the party-pooper. 

There really should be green paint at the corner of Grand Boulevard and 19th Street (photo 5 above) where the crossride/crosswalk encourages bikes to cross on the “unexpected” side of the road. People turning left from 19th onto Grand Boulevard are not used to people on bikes moving across on the left. They are OK waiting if there are pedestrians. But it is an anomaly to wait for people on bikes through a crosswalk on an unexpected side. More than once I have had motorists express their opinion here because they don’t know people on bikes are allowed to cross. Not only that, but a few people have written in to ask how they should cross here on a bike. I tell them "carefully," and with the walk signal.

That's all I have on elephant's feet. I remain hopeful we will see alligator's teeth and lion's manes define new features of our transportation system. Walk, bike and drive safely everyone. All of us are learning how to read the signs.

Heather Drugge is a sustainable transportation advocate who has used her bike for transportation for over 20 years. She’s zooming around on an e-bike now, and maybe looking at a jetpack next.