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Where Toronto plans to build bike lanes and where we bike sometimes intersect

The Cycling Unit at the City of Toronto has been collecting data of people's cycling routes. They've been collecting it via a phone app that collects GPS data while cycling. I recently got a copy of the City's preliminary map of cycling densities from that app thanks to John Taranu.

The City Core is interesting (we already know that the suburban cycling volumes are low). I'm going to assume that a lot of the people using the app were probably the less casual type; they're more passionate about cycling. They probably used the app mostly on their work commutes. Given that, it looks like that from the east most commutes are channelled into Danforth or Dundas East. From the west people end up skipping Bloor and going down to College, Harbord or Dundas. Or all the way down to Queen and then Adelaide/Richmond.

It makes me think that getting cycle tracks on Adelaide and Richmond was a huge win. Probably the biggest in the last couple decades. And I will say arguably, more important than Bloor bike lanes.

Next let's look at another map. This is from the recent survey of draft proposed routes from the City's ten year bike plan. Thanks again to John Taranu, this time for combining the two maps the Cycling Unit staff presented in the survey.

It's unfortunate that they decided to use the same green line regardless of whether it's a bike lane, cycle track or just a "signed route". The narrow green line means it's already installed; wide green that it's approved. The red lines are proposed and are more likely to be included in the bike plan.

There are some nice solid additions, including Bloor, Yonge and Kingston Road. But again looking at the core shows that despite having by far the highest volume of cyclists in the city that staff have decided to wimp out and do little. Sure we'll get Bloor and an extension of the Railpath (but not plowed in winter), but looking at the traffic volume map and it shows that all the cyclists on College, Dundas or the ones trying to connect to the new cycle tracks on Richmond and Adelaide will get next to no relief. Parkdale and further west is mostly out of luck.

Staff are taking the politically expedient route by ignoring the gaps on College in particular. College has the highest cycling traffic volumes in Toronto! College was one of the first to get bike lanes but looks like we'll have to wait at least another decade before anything improves there. For shame.

Is it wrong to think that we should be prioritizing where people are already cycling and making it safer and more enjoyable for them?

Can a bike be parked in curb parking on the roadway?

I recently got this excellent question about parking a cargo bike on a residential street's parking.

Hi,
My primary source of transportation is a bakfiats, and I've just moved to a new house where I don't have parking for it, and I've been parking it on the street (the back wheel has a wheel lock) during the day, then my husband helps me carry it up on to our front yard at night (because permit parking starts at midnight). I've just had a neighbour come and complain that I can't park a bike on the street. Do you happen to know anything about bylaws that would hinder a bike from being parked on the street during the day if no permit is required?
Thanks,
Angelique

Angelique told me that she had also followed up with Councillor Paula Fletcher's office and her assistant Erica Wood investigated:

Dear Angelique,

This has proved to be quite an interesting question that bounced from Permit Parking to Transportation Services to the Cycling division. As you can see in the response below, Jacquelyn Hawyard Gulati of the Cycling Infrastructure & Programs division has indicated that bike parking is legal when the bicycle is parked parallel to the curb.

I hope this is helpful to you.

Sincerely,

Erica

Jacquelyn said that Chapter 950 of the Municipal Code actually does allow "bicycles to be parked on the street, parallel to the curb". Section 950-201 B:

"No person shall leave a bicycle on a highway except in such a manner as to cause the least possible obstruction to pedestrian or vehicular traffic."

Now we know. Thank you Angelique for raising the question!

So, in terms of getting a permit, it would exclude bicycles under Chapter 925-4 D but Angelique was just hoping to park her bike during the non-permit hours. So looks like we're free to park where we want during those open times.

Mind you, it's still annoying that we can't just purchase a parking permit for our bicycles. Or even better, a permit to place a semi-moveable bike rack next to the curb so we can lock up a few bikes.

Union Station's Front Street reveals a total lack of knowledge of traffic dynamics

The new Front Street design is based on vague planning ideas about "shared space" as if some fancy brick on its own would solve traffic problems between drivers, taxis, pedestrians and cyclists. At least as pedestrians we got some solid bollards, revealing that the City didn't really believe in the magic. Meanwhile as cyclists we get nothing but a few sharrows and a narrow strip between moving cars and the door zone of cabs. Photo: Cycle Toronto

How is this any different from all the other downtown streets that are urban hells for cyclists? Anyone who rides on Queen is very acquainted with the feeling of fear being squeezed from the left and worrying about the day when their number is called and a door suddenly swings open in front of them.

It's even worse that the "shared space" fairy dust is being advanced by the "progressive" planners. They're doing it with a distinct sparsity of data and in contradiction of other jurisdictions that have put specific limits on where shared streets makes sense and where they don't make sense.

Toronto's Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, has been enthusiastic about the space, and seems unconcerned about the implications for cycling:

Toronto's first 'shared' space - a mid-block 'welcome mat' for all in front of #UnionStation #TOpoli pic.twitter.com/rohBSqUBZI HT @haroldmadi

Some welcome mat. More like the door got slammed in cyclists face (the City even ignored recommendations from Metrolinx that better cycling infrastructure be considered).

Harold Madi, by the way, is the guy who led this design as well as the controversial changes on John Street. This is how they imagined this urban utopia in the EA:

Remarkably different from what we see now that it's finally reality.

We need rules for shared space!

The best example of sensible restrictions on shared space are just south of the border in New York City where their Street Design Manual spells it out clearly:

Consider on narrower streets (at most two moving lanes), or outer roadways of boulevard–type streets, with little or no through–traffic, and which are not major vehicular or bicyclist through–routes or designated truck routes.

Front Street, and even John Street for that matter, do not meet these criteria! There is lots of through-traffic and it is a major vehicular route. At least with John we still have the opportunity to take different measures for traffic calming and diversion (such as making sure only local traffic will use the street by diverting cars from going through the entire street). But Front Street is supposed to be a through street and is therefore is a completely unsuitable candidate for shared street.

That is, if we use New York's guidelines. We've got nothing else to go on.

Queens Quay vastly improved for cycling for everyone but still some wrinkles

Looks so much better. Works so much better. We now have a true separation from cars from Etobicoke to the Beach! A really useful and comfortable bikeway (sure, it's a multi-use trail but it really looks like a bikeway). Bike-specific lights.

Even so there are some wrinkles. While people cycling now don't have to share with cars, there will be ongoing tension with pedestrians. It was forward thinking to make the multi-use path asphalt to make it look less like a place to walk. However, more can be done to encourage walkers to choose the space exclusive to walking.

One spot that will become a real pain is on the east end of Harbourfront Centre at the Portland Slip where the bike path disappears and everyone is squeezed into a narrow section.

On Twitter Anton Lodder pointed out the spot:

Waterfront Toronto is collecting feedback on the new Queens Quay. Have your say!

They're already aware of some issues and are planning to make some changes. Those relevant to the cycling infrastructure:

  • We’ve heard from many of you that you’re concerned about the gap in the Martin Goodman Trail as you cross the Portland Slip at Queens Quay and Dan Leckie. The ultimate vision for this spot – a WaveDeck – is included in both our Central Waterfront precinct plan and the City of Toronto’s proposed Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood Plan but is currently unfunded. This will create the necessary space for a wide promenade separate from the Martin Goodman Trail. We explored the possibility of creating a temporary deck over the lake in this area, but because building any structure over the lake is complex, this was a prohibitively expensive solution. In the short-term, we’re working with the City of Toronto to determine how best to alert cyclists to the 60-metre gap in the trail (line painting or additional signs). We’re also assessing an interim solution that would create more space at this pinch point. Because this extension of the Martin Goodman Trail was only approved and tendered in January 2015, there was no time to implement any such solution before the Pan Am / Parapan Am Games. We felt it was more important to open the new Martin Goodman Trail from Bathurst to Stadium Road with a less-than-perfect solution in this short area than not to open it at all.
  • We’ve recommended that the City approve standard trail signs to mark the Martin Goodman Trail along the south side of Queens Quay
  • We’ve heard that people would like stop signs on the south side of Queens Quay for cyclists crossing at Stadium Road and Little Norway Crescent and are prioritizing that request

Waterfront Toronto doesn't provide any guidance on when and how the pinch will get funded. Perfectly understandable that there wasn't enough time to figure that out—the whole section west of Spadina was last minute. A great improvement over the mess that would have been.

Perhaps Councillor Joe Cressy could use a bit of the big pot of Section 37 money to pay for this small bit of infrastructure? Surely, there's money somewhere. Toronto has money to spend a half billion on 3000 drivers so why not a few thousand on this?

City Hall die-in is a start: Zero Deaths campaigners have to be in it for the long haul

Three people who were cycling have died so far this year, and twenty-one who were walking. This morning over 150 cyclists staged a die-in in front of City Hall. Their demands: adopt a zero tolerance on road fatalities, increase the cycling budget from around $8 to $20 million (to put it in line with Montreal's) and build a minimum grid of protected bike lanes and bicycle boulevards. (Photo credit: Martin Reis)

The people cycling were Adam Excell, Toronto architect Roger du Toit and Peter (Zhi Yong) Kang. It'll take a lot more work to compile the list of everyone who was killed while walking.

See more here, here and here.

Right now Toronto has no plan to reduce road fatalities. Then very few North American cities acknowledge this. NYC just adopted Vision Zero but it's going to be a very long exercise fraught with setbacks and controversy. Compared to NYC, Toronto is actually safer but that doesn't mean we should become complacent. Try telling any of the more than twenty families whose loved ones died this year that those deaths were acceptable losses. No family is exempt; no person is 100% safe from dying on our roads.

Cycling campaigners have fought for safer roads for decades with a scattering of success. In order to change the complacency in government a sustained, long-term campaign is necessary. Only then do we have a chance that our mayors will care just as much about human life as they do about drivers shaving off seconds on their commute. The shift didn't happen by accident in NYC, it took a lot of work by organizations like Transportation Alternatives.

A packhorse of bicycles

I got a new bike. It can carry lots of stuff.

Heavy stuff. Like a chainsaw.

I got the Workcycles "Fr8" from the great tiny country of the Netherlands. I admit that it's kind of a (pre)mid-life crisis bike but instead of sports car, I've gone with a much cheaper option of just about the most robust and practical bike you can buy.

Workcycles is actually run by an American, Henry Cutler. The Fr8 is pretty great: comfy, upright ride, sturdy, two big racks (the front rack is fixed to the frame not the fork for greater stability). It's a versatile tank; an SUV of bicycles.

I've had bikey friends try it out—friends that normally ride more crouched over on one-speed fixies—and loved the comfortable ride.

Full chain guard (naturally, for a Dutch bike)

The front and rear lights are powered off a hub generator

One of the most unique features: remove the triangle to change tubes. With enclosed chains it can be a real pain in the ass to change tubes and tires.

Notice too the seat tube that actually meets in front of the bottom bracket. This odd feature means that the bike is a better fit for both short and tall people. By moving the seat further or closer at a faster rate than regular frames it keeps a better distance between the seat and handlebars for most people.

A lot of thought went into the use of this bike for everyday life, which I appreciate a lot.

I imported the Workcycles but you can also buy similar sturdy Dutch-style bikes from local sources. Urkai in Burlington imports Azur from the Netherlands; such as the Transporter or the Industrial Bike. Or Curbside in Toronto which imports the Belgian Achielle. Or even the British Pashley bikes, available at Hoopdriver, though they don't have front racks. Or you can go even more "hardcore" with cargo bikes: bakfietsen (box bikes), longtails and so on. Luckily it's becoming a lot easier to find such bikes in Canada now.

John Street could be good for pedestrians and cyclists

Ian bikes down John Street regularly. He recently captured the chaos that is John because of the road space given over to patios and muskoka chairs.

John Street has become uncomfortable and less safe for cyclists. But instead of fighting against improvements for pedestrians, we need to focus on how we can reduce the motorized traffic by making it harder for cars to use John as a direct route.


My attempt at capturing the mess.

The problem is the cars NOT the people

Some people misunderstand the issue here. The issue at heart is not about making John Street more pedestrian-friendly. Myself and others who have a problem with the City's actions thus far is not to try to preserve the car-centric John Street of yore.

Nor do I believe that the City has rid itself of any responsibility to cyclists on John by moving the traffic light on Queen at Soho/Peter. It was the absolute minimum that the City could have done but still not enough to entice most cyclists from taking John.

The problem at heart is that the City is being half-assed about John Street. There is NO plan to reduce car traffic on John Street.

So the pilot project has installed some planters to create a hard barrier between people sitting in chairs and the cars and cyclists. For the short term this has created a squeeze of cars and cyclists who are now forced to fill in the little gaps left by the cars and trucks. There was no effort to try to divert cars and trucks away from John so the traffic is as heavy as ever. It's torture for cyclists and hardly friendly to pedestrians.

But even the final design which City staff are working on right now has no plans to deal with car traffic. With all the talk about "cultural corridor" and "pedestrian priority route" there is nothing about diverting car traffic. Instead it talks about fuzzy things like gently sloping curbs, new paving materials and new trees. But for anyone who ever visits Kensington Market you'll know that this is hardly enough to create a "pedestrian priority route" even though Kensington has a much greater pedestrian traffic than John. Kensington is as choked as ever with cars and trucks.

So instead I'm on the same page as Jared Kolb of Cycle Toronto who is calling for the City to create true Bicycle Boulevards and not the half-assed cycling routes. A key feature of bicycle boulevards that's relevant here is motorized traffic diversion.


An example of a traffic diversion with cycling bypass on Health St E and Inglewood Dr in Toronto.

From Wikipedia:

Bicycle boulevards discourage cut-through motor-vehicle traffic but allow local motor-vehicle traffic. They are designed to give priority to bicyclists as through-going traffic. They are intended to improve bicyclist comfort and/or safety.

On a "cultural corridor" and "pedestrian priority route" like John Street, wouldn't it be in the interests of people—whether they are pedestrians, merchants or cyclists—to discourage cut-through motorized traffic? I believe we can all win if the City just woke up to this option.

Better to block a cyclist than a car driver

Last week City staff removed the cycle track curb in front of 24 Wellesley. Yesterday we already started seeing this:

Twitter: liz goddard

I had raised suspicion about Councillor Wong-Tam's call for a review of cycle tracks and dealing with Wheel-Trans, emergency vehicles and that it would start poking holes into the protected bike lanes all over the network. It turned out that the review was completely unnecessary since Cycling staff are quite willing to remove a cycle track curb in front of 24 Wellesley without full public consultation.

It's clearly important that Wheel-Trans and EMS be able to access the building. EMS can always jump any curb but Wheel-Trans needs a place to load/offload wheelchairs so they needed someplace flat. Stopping in the car lane on Wellesley was an option—a typical Wheel-Trans stop lasts 7 minutes. Another option is one of the three laneways around 24 Wellesley, though staff seemed to only have considered one of the laneways and determined it was too narrow. Yet another option was to raise the cycle track bed much like is done at bus stops on Sherbourne, but staff stated there was a problem with drainage.

So it seems that given the choice between blocking the car lane versus blocking the protected bike lane, access for a car driver wins out over access and safety for a cyclist.

At least we know where the City's priorities lie

Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, the new Cycling Unit manager, states that the "adjacent vehicle lane will be narrowed so cyclists can ride around a Wheel-Trans vehicle without entering traffic."

It's a substandard solution since cyclists have still lost the curb separating them from motorized traffic. Gulati claims that “the site-specific access concern really impacted the people who lived in that building, while the impact on cyclists is very minor." We don't have any idea of what Gulati is comparing here: is it access for residents versus safety and comfort of cyclists? I would hope the City staff would try a bit harder so they don't have to trade these off.

Residents of 24 Wellesley were lobbying politicians and staff to remove the cycle track:

Councillor Wong-Tam claims she didn't know about the removal, but surely she must have received complaints from residents and have heard from staff. Perhaps she knew all about the issue but didn't know cycling staff were going to go ahead with the removal before public consultation in the summer.

Regardless, this is a bad precedence for safe cycling infrastructure in Toronto. I'm sure we'll hear about more calls by businesses, residents to remove cycle tracks. It takes years of public consultation to get safe cycling infrastructure but mere weeks of no public consultation to rip them out.

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