Sharrows on Bloor a sign of times a-changing
Just when I was beginning to despair that the City has done all it can for downtown cyclists, that it has built all the bike lanes it has planned in the bike plan, chriskayTO snapped a photo of sharrows being installed on Bloor Street. Some may say this is a half-ass measure, and they'd be right, but that doesn't mean it's worse than nothing at all.
Small improvements to downtown are still coming. Our access to the waterfront is improving as the City unveils bike lanes and wider sidewalks on Yonge to the waterfront, to complement the new Simcoe underpass. But we are slowly reaching the end of all that the current bike plan has in store for central Toronto.
Paths on the city's outer edge are most lacking. Lanes planned for the downtown core have largely been installed, but the outer 416 is missing most of its promised lanes and trails.
It's great the outer 416 has the opportunity to get better lanes and trails, such as the $28.8 million to be spent on paths for the Finch and Gatineau corridors. But the needs of downtown cyclists are not being met with the loose network of installed lanes. If this is all there is in the plan, then we need a new plan. Luckily, City staff are thinking along the same lines. Back in May they introduced to Public Works a report on strategic directions. Part of that plan is to launch a public bikesharing system by next spring and to expand the downtown bikeways to support the bikesharing system.
The original bike plan chose routes that were about 2km apart, allowing equal access to bike routes throughout the city. Now that the downtown is almost done, that means almost all remaining routes to be built are in the suburbs where cycling is lowest. To keep building suburban bike lanes exclusively is surely to raise the ire of anti-bike councillors such as Doug Holiday. It makes political and practical sense to find new ways to improve downtown. The new strategic focus for downtown, according to the staff report, includes:
- significantly expand the Bikeway Network in the Toronto East York District, with new bikeways not identified in the Bike Plan, to support the Public Bicycle System;
- conduct pilot projects to implement and evaluate new bikeway design treatments, including: physically separated or buffered bicycle lanes, bike boxes, shared-use lane marking (sharrows), conflict zone markings, time-of-day bicycle lanes and intersection markings, with a goal of more widespread use of special markings and designs;
The best options for downtown bike routes include University / Queen's Park and Bloor / Danforth. Richmond and Adelaide are already in the bike plan, and will hopefully incorporate some sort of "bicycle highway" (some cyclists hope they will remain one-way so a protected bike highway can be installed).
As an aside, people don't realize how much work was accomplished within City Hall to streamline the process of implementing bicycle infrastructure. Staff can now group bike lane proposals and put them before Public Works instead of individually to the Community Councils where individual councillors would inevitably shoot them down. Much more funding was allocated, and more staff were assigned. Since then the City has been making progress in a number of areas, albeit mostly behind the scenes at this point.