Action on the Viaduct

If you happened to cross the Bloor Street Viaduct on Monday afternoon, you might have noticed David Curtis, his partner Laura and a couple of die-hard activists still givn’er with placards, after 4 solid days of Car Free activity. Dave & Laura take action!!!
Our targets were the many drivers who speed Eastbound, jamming into the right lane to exit down on to the Don Valley Parkway (which looks beautifully resurfaced for next year’s Ride for Heart, by the way!!!).

Perhaps more importantly, we felt a need to target cyclists as well, who are forced to merge across this auto-mania, as their Bike Lane abruptly ends. The dangers were imminent as we watched rider after rider cut into the traffic lane without so much as a hand signal or even a backward glance! Drivers were time and time again “cut off” and forced to slam on their brakes to avoid plowing the cyclist down.

“Cyclists who want to be treated equally by motorists need to shape up.” says Curtis. “Make sure that you’re giving drivers as much time to react as possible and ride according to the rules of the road. It works both ways and it’s a simple ethos to adhere to. I know, it’s such a pain sometimes to stop at a red light, but by blowing through, at best you’re irritating drivers and tarring all cyclists with the same brush. At worst you and others are going to get hurt.”

The City has been made aware of the dangers of this particular zone, by both individuals and activist groups alike, and yet still no signage or redesign on the road appears to be in sight. Possibilities shown here are courtesy of the FERGUSON PILOT B.I.K.E.* PROJECT:

Image courtesy of FERGUSON PILOT  B.I.K.E.* PROJECT

“It might also help all road users if our collective mindsets were altered.” muses David. “That’s an individual thing of course and one sign on the Bloor Viaduct that asks people to share the road may not account for much. However, if that message were all over town, it might eventually sink in. That includes completing the bike lane network at a rather more rapid pace than we’re used to.”

The Viaduct danger-zone falls surprisingly in Paula Fletcher’s Ward, who has been relatively bike-friendly in my experience. Perhaps she needs our help in lighting a fire under City Hall’s ass on this one? If you know, or are concerned about the dangers of this lane change, or if you are a resident of Ward 30, please take a few moments to contact Councillor Fletcher and let her know.

Councillor Paula Fletcher
City Hall - 100 Queen Street West, Suite C44
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
Phone: 416-392-4060
Fax: 416-397-5200
Email: councillor_fletcher@toronto.ca

Comments

something else that might be helpful is a big solid and perhaps coloured swath of paint showing clearly where cyclists will continue to ride. signage is definitely needed to alert motorists to let cyclists merge thru tho. Let's find out what Councilor Fletcher says...
Oh and I really like that guys shirt too ;-)

That's not really a difficult intersection. Don't insult cyclists by saying they need special paint and signage just to go across a lane of traffic. And don't try to restrict them to one specific merging path, as it may not be the best in all circumstances.

It's really basic stuff, same as changing lanes in a car: look back and wait for the gap or signal and get someone to let you through.

The first guy, almost certainly a guy, is a more experienced cyclist, and yes, he's somewhat right. But even with a couple of decades of biking and a couple of years of doing this crossover area on a near-daily basis, it's a problem. Actually Problem.

The cartillery is not always respectful, and it speeds because the Viaduct has a design speed of a highway, and it's great to see some police enforcement here too btw.

The parts of the City that are responsible for biking and safety have known that this is a Problem for years, and while they're overloaded, that's still no excuse for more civic inaction when faced with a correctable hazard.

What has been done in Portland has been discussed at some ofthe Network sub-comms, II'm sure, and there may be a paper trail for liability/court somewhere, and not just buried in my orifice, it's been listed in some of the documents that back up some of the City work, or TAC work. That is as tt suggests, applying paint across the exit ramp as a further visual reminder that the motorists don't have the right of way, just the right of weight.

There was a positive response in Portland and I believe it cut down crashes though I've not searched through the portland site/pdfs for this back-up.

So it's just cheap paint once again.

And a further refinement for the speedier folks like #1, as the angle of the blue paint was meant for the slower cyclists which do exist here, is maybe starting a long thin wedge of bike symbols on the left white line of the turn-off lane that gradually expand in size to the near bike lane width.

Another cheap no-brainer is a fricking sign, just like what these two catalysts put up and which the city ripped down by Friday or so. The amanglemated motoropolis doesn't like to have a challenge to supremcarcy as it were...

Diehard activists can be die-easys too.

In flyering that area yesterday wit hLana about the B/D bikeway "study" - another topic - I was reminded that the term passhole was inspired by a cyclist.. So there was another reason to avoid the CM for awhile - it's hard to push for doing more for bikes in Caronto sometimes..

There's another BIG problem near there, the eastbound bike lane narrows to a dangerous 1.2m/four feet right on the curve ahead of the Viaduct, and that is precisely the point where a full width is needed due to the consistent tendency of the mobile furnaces and gassholes to cut into this bike space. The City has been warned in writing by moi-meme starting about 2.5 years ago of this problem, and so far all they have been able to do is just repaint over the existing line. Restriping the entire curve is required, and the problem is how the Metrocarats that run our Cars Dept. won't alter the design speed of the off-ramp lane-split to the valley on the north side to create a safe bike space. The design speed of the Viaduct is for a suburban near-highway, not for an urban setting. And it's no longer okay just to be soo thankful that the Metro level let us have bike lanes on the Viaduct above the subway, they must be safe.

On the westbound, the cut-off to the valley could also use paint like Portland, but there are also a TON of cyclists who blow through the stoplight at CastleFrank eastbound and also at the stop sign at Cambridge Ave.
.

well, for starters, we don't insult them by assuming that they are all confident, experienced and able enough to cross over a completely unsigned offramp where motorists speed up as they exit!
chephy, not all cyclists are young men, as I bet you are.
many people have told me personally that it is a frightening spot for them to ride through.
I personally (and thankfully) have not had a bad experience there, and haven't had trouble signalling and merging through...but still, I ALWAYS appreciate special bike signage and infrastructure where ever I go - every last bit of it, even if it's on easy street.. because you know what? It makes me feel like I belong. It also makes me feel safer.
I applaud this action.

Unfortunately, the sign is now gone.

I thought the idea of the sign was great, but it was hard to read from a distance. I really liked the fact that it said "caution cyclists merging" - none of the signs above say that and I think it is a critical message for that particular stretch of road.

I was one of the cyclists who saw you that day and it put a smile on my face to see someone advocating for cyclists on my route home.

It is a tough spot and while I signal and look, I'm never sure if cars can see me, or if they're going to just speed through and some signage warning all users of the road that this spot is a bit tricky would really help.

I am not a man. I actually happen to be female. Moreover, I am not even a militant vehicular cyclist who enjoys taking lane on 70 km/h arterials. There are plenty of places around the city that I find stressful for riding. But not that one.

And I don't always appreciate cycling signage and infrastructure at all, because often it is there just to slow cyclists down to make them "safer". Ever rode on any Mississauga bike paths that parallel major roads (e.g. Rathburn, Britannia).? These charming "cyclists dismount to cross the road" signs are nothing I particularly appreciate.

That sort of thing is my main fear when it comes to making roads "cycling-friendly". A lot of the time the infrastructure is put in place to slow down cyclists so much, that they become, in essence, pedestrians. Or, the signage/infrastructure ends up being unintuitive and violating basic traffic principes, which creates confusion among motorists (who then act in unpredictable and hence dangerous ways) and gives cyclists a false sense of security ("oh, there is a bike picture here, so everyone will yield to me!" sort of thing).

Right now, if you're truly frightened by that crossing or have real bad luck merging on any given day, nothing prevents you from just stopping and waiting in the bike lane until there is a gap (cars come in packs, so a gap is bound to come up), or using the ped crossing. Eventually, you should be able to build up the skill and confidence necessary to merge without a problem. After all, we do require motorists to have basic vehicle-operating skills, so how come cyclists are so passionate about defending their right to be clueless and incompetent when it comes to operating their vehicle on public roads? Of course, motorists have a far greater responsibility since they operate far more dangerous vehicles, but everyone who uses a public road should have basic skills and knowledge to do so safely, efficiently and predictably. So if you're unskilled and unsure in traffic, don't proudly state it and demand that the road should be rebuilt to suit your incompetence (which almost by definition will end up inconviniencing other road users, including other cyclists, since making a thing fool-proof usually makes it far more limited... something's got to suffer). Instead take some cycling courses, read up on cycling safely, and practice.

Now, I have nothing against making intersections truly bike-friendly: as in, allowing cyclists to operate more safely AND at least as efficiently as prior to the introduction of the infrastructure. If something like this could be arranged for that merge, great. If not... there is already a safe and less efficient way to negotiate that ramp (see above). Use it and don't force a less efficient way on the rest of us, please. There are enough lights and obstacles in the city as it is.

P.S. If you're just going to put some signs there, warning cyclists and drivers what's ahead - good. For someone who's riding there the first time it's bound to be quite a confusing intersection.

chephy when someone wants to use an example of a bike lane they use the worst example going? Those things in Mississauga hardly qualify as bike lanes. Why not use something with a more well thought out (but not certainly not perfect) bike lane like Dundas E. A bike lane that has managed to improved the traveling experience for all users, including cars, on top of making life more pleasant for the immediate residents.

Encouraging people to use the cross walk on the Danforth Viaduct is pretty irresponsible. You are more likely to be injured as a pedestrian than cyclist. The east bound ramp onto the northbound DVP is very poorly designed. Drivers are both gunning for the ramp and the red light and blowing the speed limit. Crosswalks' usefulness diminish quickly as the driver exceeds 60 kmh. Drivers cannot react fast enough, peds cannot move fast enough. Add children who cannot judge speed, relevant for this intersection as there a lot of young teens from a local school nearby, and you have yourself a mess. I have sat at that intersection and watched cars doing less than 20 kmh have near collisions with peds, generally a driver is not willing to wait for more than five people to cross at a time. It is astonishing. It is also pretty telling that the ramp is a favourite place for police to set up a speed trap.

While your own experience in using a facility might be relevant to yourself, typically this is how most people frame their arguments for or against, it generally has little value to the public in general especially when you are seeking new people to take to the roads. I have used the Viaduct hundreds of times probably employing the same method to get across as you do, still scares me. Cannot tell you how many times I have been almost back ended by car that shows up from nowhere doing warp factor nine.

I am certainly not in favour of the whack jobs from Mississauga redesigning or even placing signage on this ramp but it needs to be looked at. Something that might be worth taking a loot at is significantly reducing the speed limit in the curb lane or reducing the width of the lane for the cars.

chephy when someone wants to use an example of a bike lane they use the worst example going? Those things in Mississauga hardly qualify as bike lanes.

You're right, Darren, they are not bike lanes, they are bike paths. I used them to illustrate the point that not all cycling infrastructure fills my heart with joy (in contrast with another poster's view that everything with a picture of bike on it is wonderful by definition).

I am not against restricting cars per se. In fact, I'm all for it. Reduce the speed limit, get rid of high-speed ramps - nothing wrong with that. However, I think I read somewhere that highway and highway ramp design is not up to the city, but is decided by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. So the city may not be able to redesign the ramp (I hope they do have that authority, but it's possible that they don't). Instead, if they are forced to do something, they'll put a huge stop sign in the bike lane and a sign that says "cyclists wait for the gap" or "cyclists dismount". Does that make things safer for anybody? Not hardly. More cumbersome? Yes, a lot.

And that's what bothers me. Cyclists typically complain along the lines of "oh, traffic really scares me, do something", and the city planners say "ok, if you can't ride safely, we'll introduce cumbersome or inefficient solutions that make sure you can't get yourself killed even if you tried very hard, as you seem to be doing most of the time... Of course that means our design will have to force you to 5 km/h most of the time, and get off your bike every 100 metres, but what won't you do for safety? And oh, we're not slowing down any cars btw... cars must fast. The roads ARE for them after all, you just told us you are incapable and scared of using roads yourself, didn't you?". That's why I am a little nervous whenever there is talk of new bicycling infrastructure, especially when it's an attempt to fix a place that really ain't THAT broke, but which results being truly broke after the supposed fix. Unfortunately, I've seen too much of that, so I'm apprehensive. There is some good infrastructure too, of course, but my favourite cycling roads actually have no bike signage of any kind: just ample space to share with cars and bikes the way that's natural and conductive to the flow of all traffic - not the way that some arbitrary stripes force you to.

I will reiterate again that I am not an adrenaline rush junkie who loves to fight for space with big metal objects. I am a pretty conservative rider who enjoys wide berths when being passed, ample road space and lower speed limits. Given a choice of a somewhat shorter route on a speedy narrow-laned arterial and a somewhat longer route on quieter streets, I'll pick the latter. And yet I still have no problem with the intersection in question... neither do many of my friends (I asked a few of them today about that intersection just to compare notes) who are utility cyclists, and range in age from early 20's to early 60's... so I conjecture it's not a matter of being a crazy young man with a suicidal tendencies, but of some training and reasonable assertiveness. Of course, after I posted this, I will probably be rear-ended there tomorrow, just 'cause of Murphy's Law. :-)))

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see what, if anything, will be done. I really do hope it ends up being something that makes cycling experience safer and more pleasant (or at least no more dangerous and no less pleasant) than now.

I agree with you, chephy. And Darren makes some good points too.

Would you take your 4 year old daughter who rides her own bike on that route? Or would you prefer she ride on the sidewalk? What about your six year old daughter?

My four year old currently only rides as fast as a jogger, about 9mph. The six year old can sustain 13mph. When our family rides together we have to go at the speed of our slowest. Like you, the girls don't like riding on the sidewalk. I cannot say I am any more fond of that than they are, or you seem to be. Dismounting to cross when it is safe at intersections is a slow and lousy way of getting anywhere. So we ride on the road most of the time.

Their height lends them at a significant disadvantage, it's difficult for most motorist to see them over their hoods. Heck, some motorists have difficulty seeing me over their hoods! I'm sure you've felt the same way.

So how to design the road for both kid cyclists, adult cyclists, and motorists?

I think that you are right; to cyclists, and even many motorists, merge/diverge lanes and interchanges are EVIL, plain and simple. We should completely abolish these things from our city streets.

What else can be done? How about bike lanes with a buffer zone? I think that would be good; at least I'd like to try it. It would allow motorists more room to pass, and cyclists more space. We don't yet have any of these on our streets, at least not that I know of yet.

I'd also like to see more parking removed from many streets, and more bike lane space where bike the lane does have to be near parked cars/trucks/vans/SUVs.

And while I/we also like quieter routes, the many bridges in our city often preclude this option. Perhaps we need more pedestrian/cyclists bridges (like the bridge over the Humber River that's part of the Martin-Goodman).

One thing that I have found is that any Infrastructure that is usable by both kids and adults, and is still useful, will encourage more cyclists. It will especially encourage the novice cyclists to come out. While I don't always like the idea of advocating more cycling Infrastructure, it's a heck of a lot easier, faster, and likely cheaper, than re-educating all the motorists currently on the roads. But as I mentioned before, it has to be useful, and not at all like those messes you mentioned in Mississauga.

And having more cyclists on our roads is a good thing. It both encourages more cyclists, and it makes cycling safer for everyone. There truly is safety in numbers!

Cephy, I do not what you took to mean that I was 'incapable' of using the Viaduct. I do have a healthy fear of someone rear ending me while I merge lanes. Experience has shown that there are people who have no qualms about doing 80kmh plus on the Viaduct and see a left arm extended as a sign that they should be giving the motor more gas. Anyone that tells me that they have no fear is either a liar or fool. Fear only becomes a problem when one becomes restricted by it. Volvo drivers are the best example of losing fear, they are told that there cars are indestructible, they lose fear, they have one of the highest incidents of collision.Fine for the Volvo driver, not so good for those they hit.

I doubt what you are calling in Mississauga are even bike paths, if there is such a distinction. They are multi-purpose paths or recreation trails, they are not intended to go anywhere fast.

"Cyclists Dismount" have been banned from Toronto road facilities for years. Still used in places where cyclists must use a sidewalk (Dundas bridge under construction) or where a multi-use path crosses a road (Pottery Rd and Don trail).

It is nice that you like to use sideroads but a funny suggestion on your part. There seems to be a lot of starting and stopping (yes I actually stop at them) on the side streets, something you are railing against. The alternative route for the Danforth west of Vic Park has about 4 stop signs for every 1 light on Danforth. Cyclists are like anybody else, they have to get to work to eke out a living or pick up the kids from daycare. Regardless of how fast I ride, why would I want to take a longer route? I shop at the same stores as everyone, mostly located on those main routes.

"...that make sure you can't get yourself killed even if you tried very hard, as you seem to be doing most of the time... " Nice, too bad you have such a dim view of cyclists.

Chephy - sorry I assumed you were a man. I felt badly after a posted that. I like men! So, I didn't want to seem sexist... I was just speaking from my personal blogging experience...

this is an interesting discourse. sometimes I wonder how we get anywhere in the cycling community when cyclists themselves rail against signage and infrastructure for cyclists. one of your suggestions is to "practice" - where, if not on the road?

also I'm not sure if I would like to see any cyclists stopped in the bike lane waiting to merge - it would create more obstacles for those of us (cyclists) trying to merge and go through.

I will agree that we need consistent, useful and intuitive signage tho - not some slapdash crap that doesn't make any sense. specifically, cycling signage should be where motorists can see it and understand it (should be in the drivers handbook). our City seems to be fond of slapping down some paint on bridges and saying: "look there's X# km of bike lane for ya!" but then nada, nothing, zip once the bridge (or tunnel) is gone!

I wonder if Fletcher's office will read this...

Your argument all seems to make sense, Chephy, as long as we all buy your characterization of city planners as bumbling idiots who will do anything to make life harder for cyclists. Fortunately, there are more and more city planners who now understand cycling issues, and are commuter cyclists themselves - even if they must struggle a bit to get. I've met a few of the planners at City Hall and can say that they take cycling infrastructure quite seriously since they use it themselves quite regularly.

Strawman:

Cyclists typically complain along the lines of "oh, traffic really scares me, do something", and the city planners say "ok, if you can't ride safely, we'll introduce cumbersome or inefficient solutions that make sure you can't get yourself killed even if you tried very hard, as you seem to be doing most of the time... Of course that means our design will have to force you to 5 km/h most of the time, and get off your bike every 100 metres, but what won't you do for safety? And oh, we're not slowing down any cars btw... cars must fast. The roads ARE for them after all, you just told us you are incapable and scared of using roads yourself, didn't you?"

Chephy, as long as we all buy your characterization of city planners as bumbling idiots who will do anything to make life harder for cyclists. Fortunately, there are more and more city planners who now understand cycling issues, and are commuter cyclists themselves

Yes, I have seen SOME positive shift in this direction over the years. There have been improvements. However, even people who are commuters and who do truly want to make cycling better for everyone will often come up with infrastructure that does not work very well for cyclists - because they will greatly overestimate some dangers and greatly underestimate others. For example, this idea of getting physically separated bike lanes keeps rearing its ugly head time and time again in the cycling community, among people who really are cyclists and want good cycling infrastructure. Be sure that I will try to fight that for as long as I am a cyclist.

The main flaw with bad cycling infrastructure seems to me to be cyclist segregation from motor traffic. While it's great in theory, it cannot really be done in practice because of intersections. So this infrastructure that's supposed to protect cyclists actually endangers them or makes them slow down to a crawl at EVERY intersection because they might get hooked by turning motorists due to poor sightlines.

Try the bike path that parallels Eglinton West west of the Humber. Ten years ago it had the same stupid "cyclists dismount" signs as Mississauga paths have no.w That has been changed: the cyclist crossings at intersections have actually been redone and colour-coded. Still, they are regularly blocked by right-turning auto traffic, so you end up giving up right of way at every intersection even though most of the time you have a green light (since Eglinton is a major street that gets traffic light priority). Frankly, I think the intersections have been made more dangerous, because the new infrastructure encourages them to believe that they have the ROW and can just roll through, even though the intersections remain just as dangerous as before. I've witnessed several near-collisions there - and I hardly ever ride in that part of town!

one of your suggestions is to "practice" - where, if not on the road?

For starters, on a large quiet smooth paved area. Like a parking lot. It's amazing how many cyclists start riding in the street as soon as they learn how to balance. Many lack the basic skills like one-handed riding or looking back without veering left. They should go to a place that has no traffic of any kind and perfect their cycling skills. Next try bike paths (excellent obstacle courses on a summer evening ;-) ), then quieter streets. Then, finally, high-traffic areas. A natural progression, no?

also I'm not sure if I would like to see any cyclists stopped in the bike lane waiting to merge - it would create more obstacles for those of us (cyclists) trying to merge and go through.

I don't suggest stopping halfway through the bridge in order to wait for a gap. It's just as easy to wait for a gap close to the intersection, at a point by which merging cyclists would already have changed lanes.

our City seems to be fond of slapping down some paint on bridges and saying: "look there's X# km of bike lane for ya!" but then nada, nothing, zip once the bridge (or tunnel) is gone!

Actually, I kind of like that... I think for a couple of reasons bridges and tunnels should get priority bike lanes:

1) Auto traffic tends to speed up there due to lack of intersections and traffic signals, so cyclists would especially benefit from a dedicated lane.

2) Due to lack of intersections, bike lanes don't mess up natural traffic patterns the way they sometimes do on regular streets.

Consider the bridge in question. Once you cross the Don Valley going east the bike lane stops. However, the curb lane on Danforth is wide and is easily shared with moving vehicles at rush hour and parked vehicles at other times. Do you really need a bike lane there? How is a bike lane going to make anything better? Really, I'm curious.

Experience has shown that there are people who have no qualms about doing 80kmh plus on the Viaduct and see a left arm extended as a sign that they should be giving the motor more gas. Anyone that tells me that they have no fear is either a liar or fool.

I don't feel fear in that situation, and I'm neither a liar nor a fool - please don't insult me. I exercise caution. That's a rather different concept. Fear makes one irrational and, actually, likelier to make bad decisions. Caution on the other hand makes you safer.

I wonder if you seem to believe that an extended left arm gives you an automatic right-of-way. If that's the case, I can see how you might be frustrated and scared, since that "right of way" is being violated all the time. However, if you realize that signalling does not give you ROW, then merging becomes pretty easy. Start checking the traffic behind you well before you are near the intersection, to see if you can find a suitable gap. If you can time it so that you move left during the gap, great. Otherwise, look back, signal and don't just move left and HOPE that the driver yields. CHECK FOR THE DRIVER RESPONSE. If the driver is not slowing down to let you in, let him go. The next one will probably slow down. If not, then the one after him will. I've NEVER had to "ask" more than three drivers in a row to let me merge. It really works. Once you see that the driver is slowing down and letting you in, then you know he has seen you and reacted to you, so you move left. Which part of this routine supposed to be scary?

It is nice that you like to use sideroads but a funny suggestion on your part. There seems to be a lot of starting and stopping (yes I actually stop at them) on the side streets, something you are railing against.

Where did I say I liked side roads? I said that I liked roads that have ample space to share in the curb lane. Ideally, they would be major roads, so I don't have to stop and start all the time. Some major roads in the city are like that (Bathurst south of Bloor, Danforth, stretches Mt. Pleasant, stretches of Yonge etc.) Unfortunately, most major roads have narrow lanes, so I often choose side roads at that point. I am all for making major roads bike-friendlier by widening curb lanes or possibly putting well-designed bike lanes in.

"...that make sure you can't get yourself killed even if you tried very hard, as you seem to be doing most of the time... " Nice, too bad you have such a dim view of cyclists.

That's not my view, that's the view of the generalized city bureaucrat. However, I do think that a lot of cyclists do a lot of stupid things on the road. The very post we're discussing describes a cyclist who has done something very stupid (cutting across lanes without even glancing behind him and forcing a driver to slam on the brakes), and then using this as an example of why the intersection should be redesigned. I think that just serves as an example of why a lot of Toronto cyclists should acquire some rudimentary cycling skills, for crissake.

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