Beyond the rhetoric: Sarah Thomson presents realistic bike plan

Allow bikes on the road and even make it safer and easier for them on the road? As one of the main frontrunners for the mayor's seat, Sarah Thomson had first bucked the trend of playing it safe by proposing road tolls to pay for public transit, and now she's come out with a real bike plan, cheekily called "Bike City". This is a breath of fresh air. Rossi, Ford and copy-cat Smitherman have taken to pretending that commuter cyclists don't exist and hope that they'll shut up if they build a handful of trails that haven't already been built. In a time when people like Ford like to shit on the things that work, like streetcars and bike lanes, this is a welcome change to the rhetoric of the "war on cars":

We've all heard the terms "War on the Car" and "War on Bikes". I am tired of those terms being used to cover politicians' inabilities to come up with and implement a viable plan for shared road use.

Cars, motorcycles, cyclists, and pedestrians all use the same roads. Toronto needs to have a plan to make the roads safe and useable for anyone who has a right to use them.

Bike City is a reasonable proposal to lay the foundation for a strong cycling community in Toronto. I envision a Toronto where even a complete novice can pick up a bike and ride safely and easily from their front door to their place of work.

Opponents of the cycling community say that Toronto wasn't built for bikes. They're right, it wasn't. But a Sarah Thomson administration will transform our city into a world-class cycling city.

Thomson doesn't provide a lot of details in words, but her two maps show a general approach of creating shared lanes on major arterials and improving cycling on residential streets and secondary arterials. I suspect that she's had a lot of help from a blogger called "Instructable Ted" who's blog Giddy Up Toronto hosts the maps. "Inscrutable Ted" says he's got lots of ways to improve Toronto but isn't allowed to use his engineering degree in this country. That's a shame since there does seem to be innovation going on here.

The first map is not as particular as the official Toronto Bike Plan; it doesn't show a lot of the suburban bike lanes that the bike plan contains. Though it's refreshing to have another candidate that is actually willing to support this almost ten year old plan which has fallen behind. Her plan builds on the bike plan's signed routes by calling for bike boulevards criss-crossing the city on quieter streets. According to Wikipedia, a bike boulevard is "a shared roadway which has been optimized for bicycle traffic. In contrast with other shared roadways, bicycle boulevards discourage cut-through motor vehicle traffic, but typically allow local motor vehicle traffic." Hopefully, that is what she means by bike boulevards.

Someone on the Thomson has done her homework by incorporating bike boxes and something called "hook turns" for cyclists on the shared lane arterials, as well as reduced speeds on some of these roads. Transportation staff have already gotten approval to install bike boxes on some downtown intersections and there is also a hook turn for northbound cyclists turning left onto Bloor. A hook turn facilitates what most cyclists already do by allowing them to stop at the rightside crosswalk to wait for the lights to change so they can turn.

Thomson's plan isn't the final word, but at least it's a reasonable approach to making it safer and easier for cyclists on Toronto streets.


This looks next to useless. Three physically separating bike lanes leading nowhere (though I'm glad there aren't more, because it's a fucked up concept anyway) and a whole whack of "bike boulevards" that largely consist of streets that are already bike-friendly. This is no better than what Rossi is proposing, moving bikes to "residential" roads.

... to me at least. The detail of what makes a "bike boulevard" effective would have to be defined before we can settle our opinion of the map, but with good routing and intelligent traffic light sequences the plan could be made to work.

The downtown separated lanes are on roads with considerable width, and they seem to be pretty useful for the masses od cyclists that commute into the office core. I'd use them when I go down-town!

In my neighbourhood (Scarberia), I see feasible access to the big shopping centre, a drop of Brimley as bike route (with its high-risk ramps where it crosses the 401) and it being replaced with Midland which already has a slower speed limit and no ramps. Not a final version, but whoever worked on it did look at details and understands cycling. Give them a chance will you?!

Overall, I would expect the plan to get implemented, and you could hold the mayor accountable for progress or lack there-off if Sarah should get elected.

Rather than poo-poohing the proposal, let the other candidates see whether they can do better!

In an Mayoral race where no cadidate is coming out in support of cycling, I give Thompson full credit for taking a bold position. All of the others seem afraid to say anything in support of cycling, but Thompson shows she is prepared to take a hard stance on a contentious issue.

Smitherman is only supportive of initiatives that are already approved like Bike Lane refurbishment, and the Hydro Corridor recreational trails, Ford thinks cycling is a recreational activity, and Rossi is still standing on Jarvis with a can of black paint. If Joe Pantalone has a favorable position I'd like to hear it, or anything from his soft spoken self actually.

Details aside, Thompson has certainly distinguished herself from the other candidates, and that's all good to me.

Ms. Thompson is again leading debate, the stance on favouring road tolls being a clear winner for some of us.
Her Bike Plan is less bold, though welcome. And we don't always need bike lanes for better cycling as wider curb lanes can be effective, if the roads are rideable.
Richmond/Adelaide and University Ave. have been kicked around for bike lanes etc. for nearly 20 years.
But there is still a trend to shunt cyclists on to looping side streets - sorry - some of us think direct = respect - and we don't have extra time to go hither/yon, wait for car traffic to clear at main drags etc. etc.
Too much of a good cycling network though, would cut into the TTC funds - they currently rely on the core transit to make a lot of money, and by keeping the better way unsafe, this is how they can keep their market $hare vs. fostering the competition.
And yes, Bloor/Danforth doesn't make it onto Ms. Thompson's OK list -even though as a means of expanding the subway for nearly free price of paint one might think a pro-transit and pro-subway mayoral candidate would be supportive of transit-friendly bike infrastructure. If the bike riding were made safer and easier parallel to the subway line, I think a fair number of people would bike, and that would essentially expand the subway for next to nothing.
This level of nuance is lost on most everyone though, and Ms. Thompson at least has shown she can think about things. That's encouraging - we need more Copenhagen!

It's all in yer heeds, ppl.

"Bike Boulevards", "Hook Turns", "Copenhagenize", "Bike Plans" etc. etc. Mean nothing to the majority of Torontonians, i.e Rob Ford's constituency. Most ppl don't even get that bikes are vehicles and can be used on roads and are subject to the highway traffic laws. Most ppl get that bikes are fun toys that don't cost gas, tax, or insurance. Bikes absolutely are toys for recreational use.

This trick by Thompson is just a marketing ploy to get her name out there, and get more votes. And of course you bike lobbyists and the "cycling community" rally behind her; she's the consummate underdog, she's a natural lead kook for all Toronto Kooks who aren't already behind Rossi. Get serious bikers. Ford at least knows what Torontonians want and think, and will give them what they want, and do the work and get the job done.

Most folks don't give a damn about bike plans or separated bike lanes or bike boxes or special turns for bikes. They just want better traffic, safer streets, and fun, cheap recreational activities. Ford will make that happen.

Ride on.

Ford won't and can't make anything happen, he won't be paying anybody.

Are you going to work for free building those streets??

The man is a lying windbag.

I have watched the recent mayoral debate on OMNI TV and it's obvious that Ford is of the first kind.

Thompson does twists and turns as well, but she's got some basics figured out that others don't seem to grasp. And sure, the bike path proposal will get her visibility - without it, we wouldn't be talking about her, for instance.

The common voter doesn't give a hoot about bike paths, I agree - but most would like to see a low-cost solution to the ever-increasing commute snarl of the city. Getting 5 or 10% of the commuters onto bikes during eight months of the year will alleviate the traffic density during road construction season and thus make a big difference. (in the winter season, cyclists are likely to switch to TTC for the few months - they probably have one car less in the household than the other folks). So, an attractive bike commuting network is very much in the interest of the voters and the folks running the city. We can sell this and so can any mayoral candidate if they are smart enough to see that.

Sarah has another thing figured out, I noticed. In Scarberia, we have been moaning for years that the city never gave us the needed subway extension.There's good reason to NOT build it: it's darn expensive to do so. But building any leg of the subway system has carried exorbitant costs, and it was built nevertheless. The reason: in the long run, building a subway pays off because it fosters desirable change: just look at how the Yonge subway has brought growth into the Yonge and Sheppard area for example. So the Scarborough subway should be built if one could figure out how to do it. Sarah proposes a road toll, levied on the car commuters, restricted to the time that it takes to build the subway. Road tolls have a nasty side-effect: commuting becomes expensive and thus, over time, jobs in the city will move away. Moving jobs takes time. The trick is to make the toll temporary and lift the toll within maybe five years. After that, the city looks to residents as well as employers a lot more attractive than before. I think her proposal would work.

A lot of the bike boulevards I wouldn't want to ride because they meander a bit too much. They do make up a fairly dense network, though, which is nice.

Just looking at South Etobicoke, the plan needs quite a bit of tweaking.

Some existing bike routes and lanes aren't included, which puzzles me, because why reinvent the wheel? For example, Elder/Birmingham is an existing bike route, with bike lanes between Dwight and Kipling. Why put a route on New Toronto, which goes nowhere and has almost no destinations?

... I think we all agree on it. In the east end, the Brimorton Trail is left off. The plan may be based on outdated material. Only the author knows....

As cyclists we need to communicate better on what is important to us.

All these planned trails in beautiful ravines and quiet residential streets are great. I will probably enjoy them on a Sunday ride once in awhile. Talking about bicycling as exercise etc won't impress my Councillor. Go to the gym if you want exercise.

Reality is I use my bike for commuting. I ride downown from Etobicoke daily. That is something my Councillor can understand. He is dealing with traffic issues that are getting worse. Me on a bike equals one less car on the road. If bicycling is shown as a cheap effective way to reduce traffic congestion, then councillors will get beind it.

It has worked in other areas. You will have a hard time convincing me Toronto has bigger traffic problems than London England or Manhattan. They put in bike lanes because it reduces congestion.

Finally, since there is so much focus on putting bikes into ravines etc. it might be a good time to push harder on the west end bikeway. It fits with what our politicians seem to want to hear. I also think it could go further. Why not through the ravine and under the Bathurst St. bridge? There is a whole new communtiy about to be built from there to Spadina. No streets etc in yet. Why not fully separated bike and dedicated transit lanes put in? Much easier to do now than once everything is in place. Otherwise we'll get the bicycling friendliness of liberty Village and the TTC complaining how they can't get their vehicles through.

I've just returned to T.O. after 6 years living in Germany. In Germany I didn't have a car; my bike was my car. I commuted, took vacations, went everywhere on my bike. So I'm speaking as someone who is 100% in favour and convinced that bikes are legitimate vehicles and should be treated as such.

But to be honest, I'm shocked by the bad behaviour of the Toronto cyclists I've observed since I've been back. I see them blowing through stop signs and red lights and riding around with no lights or reflectors at night. This is not only insanely stupid, it's a very good reason why there is so much tension between drivers and cyclists.

I don't think bikes belong on the road with cars. Just as I don't think pedestrians belong on the road with cars. Cars and bikes should only have to share the road when absolutely necessary, and unfortunately that is the general state of affairs in this city; the alternative is a line painted on the road in some places (kind of like having to walk on the shoulder of a country road because there are no sidewalks!). So since cars and bikes HAVE to co-exist for now, cyclists need to drive their bikes the way they would their cars. It's fundamental to mutual respect between drivers and cyclists. Believe me, these cyclists are frightening to drivers. I can understand why drivers don't like them.

One more thing. WHY are bike shops even allowed to sell bikes that aren't equipped with bikes and reflectors, and a good loud bell? You don't buy a car and then add the lights later, so why is it like this with bicycles? That's nuts too.

Toronto has a long way to go. And so do cyclists in this city. I hope they smarten up, because they sure aren't help their cause.

Thanks for the vent.

'I'm a cyclist, but other cyclists are bad, bad, bad!' Killjoy.