Cycling Network

Shared Lane Pavement Markings (Sharrows)

Share Lane Markings, or "Sharrows" are road markings used to indicate a shared environment for bicycles and motor vehicles. The shared lane markings highlight cycling routes alerting all road users to the presence of bicycle traffic on the street, and may also be configured to offer directional and wayfinding guidance for cyclists.  The shared lane marking is not a dedicated cycling facility, but a pavement marking which has a variety of uses to support a complete bikeway network.



Frequently Asked Questions

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1. What is a shared lane pavement marking, or “sharrow”?

A "sharrow" is a shared lane pavement marking. This pavement marking includes a bicycle symbol and two white chevrons. Sharrow markings can be a useful pavement marking for bicycle boulevards.

Learn more about how other Cities are using sharrows and traffic calming to create bicycle boulevards as part of their bike networks.

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2. What do these sharrow markings mean for cyclists?

Sharrows are used to mark cycling routes, which are not dedicated, but mixed with motor vehicle traffic.

  • For safety reasons, cyclists should ride one metre from the curb to avoid debris and sewer grates.
  • In lanes that are too narrow for cyclists and motorists to travel side-by-side, cyclists should ride in the centre of the lane to discourage motorists from passing too closely.
  • Where there is on-street parking, cyclists should ride one metre from parked cars to avoid the “door zone”.

Although it is the motorist’s and/or passenger’s responsibility to look first before opening their door, riding too close to parked cars can lead to serious injuries that can be avoided.

Sharrows are also used through intersections and some merge zones to support straight-line cycling and to increase the visibility of cyclists.

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3. What do these sharrow markings mean for motorists?

Sharrow markings are used to remind drivers to share the road with cyclists. Sharing the road means you should:

  • only pass a cyclist where there is enough room to to do safely (at least one metre between motorist and cyclist),
  • reduce your speed when passing a cyclist, and
  • watch for cyclists when making lane changes and turns.

Be aware that cyclists are vulnerable to different hazards than drivers (e.g. minor pot holes and debris), so give them space to manouvre. Even where there are no sharrows or bike lanes, motorists should always share the road.

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4. Where can I expect to see these sharrow markings?

Sharrows are mostly used on quieter local and collector streets, which have reduced speed limits.  Streets with low traffic volumes and low traffic speeds are better suited to a travel environment where bicycle and motor vehicle traffic are mixed.   

If sharrow markings are used on a busier road, they will typically be placed in the curb lanes.  They may also be used to highlight the presence of cyclists in areas where traffic merges, such as at highway on-ramps or intersections with multiple turning lanes.

Sharrows are used in the shared lanes adjacent to yellow "contra-flow" bicycle lanes.

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5. Why are some sharrow markings in the middle of the travel lane? Aren’t cyclists suppose to move to the right?

According to the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), cyclists travelling at less than the "normal speed of traffic" should ride in the right-hand lane when practicable, or as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway (Section 147(1)).

Under certain circumstances, it may not be possible for cyclists and motorists to travel side-by-side safely. For example, if debris or poor pavement in the curb area poses a hazard to cyclists; or the lane may be too narrow for cyclists and motorists to travel side-by-side.  In these circumstances, the cyclist may “take the lane” to discourage the motorist from passing too closely. In locations such as these, where the lane is too narrow for cyclists and motorists to safely travel side-by-side, the City will paint sharrows in the middle of the lane to encourage cyclists to take the lane and to make drives aware that cyclists are entitled to ride in the centre of the lane for their safety.

Although it is uncommon in Toronto, if there are more cyclists than motorists travelling on a roadway, then the "normal speed of traffic" becomes the speed that bicycle traffic is travelling at.  The City interprets the HTA to mean that under these circumstances motorists should yield to bicycle traffic.

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6. Why are some sharrow markings on College St. W in traffic lanes that have part-time parking? Can I park my car on top of sharrows?

Sharrows have been installed on College Street between Manning and Lansdowne where there there is part-time parking, and the parked cars cover the sharrow markings for parts of the day.

The parking and stopping of on College Street parking and stopping is regulated by the signs you see on the street – not by pavement markings. 

For these College Street sharrows, the sharrows are visible to motorists and cyclists during peak "rush hour" times of day, when parking is prohibited. Sharrows are being used in this way to improve highlight cycling traffic during the busiest times of the day. These “Rush hour sharrows” were installed on College St., because there is a large number of cyclists using the street, but the combination of the street width, streetcar tracks and on-street parking makes the installation of a dedicated cycling facility (bike lanes or cycle tracks) difficult to achieve.

You may park your car on top of sharrows during the time periods when parking is permitted, as indicated by the signs (typically during off-peak hours such evenings and weekends). If you stop, stand or park illegally you may receive a ticket and your vehicle will be subject to towing.

The effectiveness of the Pilot “rush hour” arterial sharrow markings on College was evaluated.  Although they do not provide the benefits of a dedicated facility such as a bicycle lane, they were found to improve the cycling environment, compared to when no markings were installed.  Following the findings of this evaluation, the College Street Sharrows will not be removed.  However for future installations on arterial roadways, bicycle lanes are a preferred facility type to Sharrows.

Read the College Street Sharrow Evaluation

Read the College Street Sharrow Evaluation Appendices

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7. How are sharrow markings different from a bike lane?

Bike lanes are a dedicated space for cyclists where motorists are not allowed to park, stop or drive. Bike lanes are painted on the road with bicycle symbols and a solid white line, and most importantly, a diamond symbol.  The diamond symbol is used on Ontario roads to indicate that a lane is a "reserved lane".  Legislation has been passed for reserved lanes, which put additional restrictions on them than normal traffic lanes governed under the HTA.  The restrictions on bicycle lanes are that parking, standing and stopping by motor vehicles is prohibited and that bicycle lanes are reserved for bicycle travel only.

In comparison, sharrows are used in lanes that are shared by motorists and cyclists. Travel lanes with sharrows do not have a separate white line or diamond indicating a dedicated cycling area. Instead, chevrons and a bicycle symbol are used to indicate where cyclists should ride, and where motorists should expect to see cyclists.

Read Toronto's Understanding Bicycle Lanes flyer (PDF)

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8. If I see these sharrow markings, is the lane for bikes only?

No. Sharrows are used to in lanes that are shared by motorists and cyclists.

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9. Should cyclists and motorists only share the road in lanes with sharrow markings?

No. Cyclists and motorists should share the road on all streets regardless of whether there are pavement marking or signs encouraging them to do so.

In Toronto, cyclists may lawfully ride on any street which is not a Provincial 400 Series Highway, or similar Expressways maintained by the Municipality such as the Allen, Gardiner, or Don Valley Parkway. 

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10. Are these markings going to be on every street?

No. The sharrow markings will be used primarily to mark cycling routes on non-arterial streets.  Cycling routes on streets which have been traffic calmed are preferred.   

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11. Why not just stripe bike lanes instead of sharrows on city streets?

On busier arterial roadway bicycle lanes are preferred to sharrows as a bikeway design treatment, but not all streets have enough room for bicycle lanes due to high demand for on-street parking and/or the inability to eliminate or narrow regular traffic lanes. 

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