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A built-in-America city bike: Detroit Bikes

Bike manufacturing might be making a comeback in North America in the cultural epicentre of the automobile if Zak Pashak of Detroit Bikes has his way. Zak came to town recently to launch his new bike and introduce his new company.

Zak plans to reinvigorat mass bike manufacturing in America. He purchased a large factory in Detroit and equipment to ramp up to 40,000 bikes a year (cross fingers). Most bike manufacturing in North America is now on a much smaller, mostly custom, scale and most mass production has moved offshore to Taiwan and China.

After selling two successful bars in Calgary and Vancouver, Zak uprooted to Detroit with no definite plans. Detroit bars turned out to be already quite excellent so Zak decided to jump into bike manufacturing. Though Zak had no previous experience in the bike industry he is nothing if not ambitious. Looks like he's made a good start though there's always room for improvement.

Zak (on the left) chatting about Detroit bars? Bottom brackets?

Bikes on Wheels is carrying the bikes in Toronto. For TIFF goers, the word is that you'll also get a chance to purchase a Detroit Bike. So keep an eye out for them on the red carpet.

I tooled around a bit on the matte black bike at the launch and found it comfortable and simple to use. They kept it simple: back pedal and/or use the front brake to stop; and choose one of three speeds from the internal gear hub. The basics is how I like to have it for my many short bike trips.

The design looks like it was inspired by traditional cruiser bikes like the old CCM. The Detroit Bike looks like it was designed to fit into the same price point and appeal of those looking at Linus, Public, Bobbin and similar lower-end city bikes.

A plus for women is that the top tube is shorter than on a Linus bike which puts the rider in a more upright position. Women typically need a shorter top tube and longer seat tube then men.

To make it feel unique, they gave every bike gets its own metal tag with a number. I didn't check but I hope that each also gets a unique number stamped into the bottom bracket for identification in case of theft.

The rack looks great with its laser cut logo and would appeal to those who are already purchasing Linus or similar bikes. These racks, however, only hold about 35 pounds max. I can easily exceed that on a grocery shopping trip. The Detroit Bikes rack may also not fit some pannier clips as the tubing is a fairly thick, though it will work with baskets as seen in the photo above of the bikes at Bikes on Wheels. If you're considering the bike as a utilitarian machine I recommend bringing a loaded pannier or basket to see how it handles.

For everyone else just enjoy it.

Let's all move to the Hammer! Hamilton approves separated bike lanes while we keep plodding along

Hamilton City Council just approved a separated bidirectional bike lane along the length of Cannon Street, a distance of over 5 km in downtown Hamilton. And did so despite it being controversial (Photo: Raise the Hammer)

"This is a tough call," said Councillor Bernie Morelli, who added he's heard from bike-lane supporters as well as residents enraged by the plan. "But I want (councillors) to know you're doing the right thing."

Over in Hogtown, our new Transportation General Manager Steven Buckley - who originally oversaw the building of 250 miles of bike lanes and trails in Philadelphia - told Kuitenbrouwer of the National Post saying he doesn't want to offend anyone when a bike lane is proposed.

“I try to site a bike lane where nobody ends up feeling that they are a loser,” he says. “Where pedestrians or businesses or drivers start seeing that they are losing something, you have a problem. Many cities are seeing that now and even New York is in that boat.”

That's just depressing. Just mentioning bikes is enough to bring out the crazies. Even a bikeshare station bizarrely offends some people, such as seen with the launch of Citibike in New York. A bike lane always breeds controversy in car-fetish cities.

I really hope that was just Buckley's way of saying he is listening carefully to the community and not a signal that he will roll over and play dead whenever a bakery or bank wants to preserve its primordial, god-given right to a curbside parking spot.

And while Hamilton councillors praise the amount of community support for the separated bike lane plan, Toronto has had to push back against the likes of Councillor Vaughan who has resisted separated bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide (unlike Councillor McConnell's strong support) and even now seems to be angry and resentful that he has been forced into supporting them, according to the National Post:

But Councillor Adam Vaughan is no fan of these bike lanes. Recently I sat on the public benches during a council meeting, chatting with Mr. Minnan-Wong. Mr. Vaughan came up. The two councillors went at each other hammer and tong, with me in the middle, about bike lanes on Richmond-Adelaide.

I wonder if Hamilton can sell us some of their multivitamins that's giving their councillors so much backbone and clear heads.

Note: Buckley also noted that they just don't have the capacity and a shortage of staff. To be fair this might be an issue in Hamilton as well for all I know. Only 1% of Toronto transportation staff work on cycling and they're stretched to the limit. Buckley suggested he'd be open to using consultants to help with capacity though he didn't mention why he hasn't done it already. This is not new: for years the cycling budget hasn't been spent because they are short-staffed.

Cyclist seriously injured on Harbord: is a painted line still "good enough"?

A cyclist was seriously injured on Harbord near Euclid on the weekend. There weren't a lot of details on how it happened but from the photo we can see the cyclist hit the windshield. Currently Harbord has a painted bike lane next to parked cars along that stretch.

With events like this it gets a bit frustrating that we have some road warrior cyclists who claim that Harbord is "good enough" and that all plans for separated bike lanes for the street should be stopped immediately. Is Harbord good enough because it has some painted lines and bike symbols? I don't think anyone believes that a painted line is going to ensure someone's safety, especially if that painted line is right next to a parked car.

While there are plenty of other major streets that need separated bike lanes - my personal favourite is Queen Street - Harbord needs to be safer too. Peak hour bike traffic is already at about 40% so by making Harbord safer we're improving the lives of a lot of cyclists.

Separated bike lanes (bidirectional or unidirectional) are safer than painted bike lanes and definitely safer than just sharrows (see footnotes here). While we don't know for sure if it would have helped this guy, we do know separated bike lanes do make streets safer for cyclists.

Boosting cycling and walking key to solving transit woes

The following article is a reprint of an article by Albert Koehl, an environmental lawyer and cycling advocate. He was on the Ontario Chief Coroner's stakeholder panel for cycling safety.

By process of elimination, simple means of getting around like walking and cycling must be looking increasingly attractive to Ontario's provincial and municipal politicians as they struggle to fund new
transit to unclog roads.

The need for better transit is obvious. How to fund that transit: not so much. That's why it's a good time to invest in relatively quick and cheap measures to increase walking and cycling safety to get more people out of their cars and to provide clean and affordable ways to get to new transit once it's in place.

Cars

In step one of our existing car-dominated system an individual forks over big bucks to buy and operate a transport product (the car). Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), estimates that the average household spends over $9100 annually on car ownership.

In step two the individual, whether car owner or not, pays various taxes that ultimately fund highways and roads as well as associated costs like policing, health care, and environmental degradation.

In the final step, the individual gets into a car in order to travel just a bit faster, but often slower, than a bicycle.

Transit

The Metrolinx plan for rapid transit expansion in the GTHA calls on each household to contribute an average of $477 per year. It's a relatively small amount but still a hard sell, particularly to grumpy motorists already burdened by vehicle costs. It doesn't matter that only two of the proposed funding tools target motorists or that low-income earners, who benefit most from transit, would be compensated by a mobility tax credit.

Walking and cycling

Fortunately, walking and cycling improvements don't require multi-billion dollar investments. Equally important, once the Metrolinx plan is fully implemented over 70 per cent of GTHA residents will live within two kilometers of rapid transit service -- close enough to cycle or walk to a station.

Building our cities to accommodate cars has meant creating public roadways that usually aren't welcoming to cyclists or pedestrians, even for short trips. In Toronto more than half of all trips are actually less than seven km and therefore easily manageable by bike (or on foot for shorter distances). Simple investments like marked mid-street crossings (which could address some of the 31 per cent of mid-block pedestrian deaths recently identified by Ontario's Chief Coroner), more bike lanes, and slower speeds are a good and inexpensive start to improved safety.

Bike lanes are often attacked as being too expensive. The claim has a hollow ring for homeowners (like me) who cycle to get around --- and therefore put minimal demand on the road system --- but pay the same amount in property taxes as neighbours with two or three cars.

Painting a bike lane on a street isn't expensive. It's the complex studies, including environmental assessments (EA) that are expensive.

These EAs often have little to do bicycles and much to do with figuring out how to accommodate every potentially displaced motorist or parking spot.

Bike lanes actually present the opportunity to increase a road's traffic capacity. After the installation of bike lanes on Jarvis St. in downtown Toronto, traffic increased from 13,300 to almost 14,000 vehicles per day. The bike lanes were nonetheless removed and a car lane re-installed (at huge cost) because civic leaders cared little about the vehicles without exhaust pipes.

Getting more kids out of the back seats of cars and onto their feet on the way to school will cost little more than the price of putting the initiative in place. In a Metrolinx pilot project at 30 schools, kids were given the opportunity to walk to school as part of a supervised program. As a result, car drop-offs in the morning fell by 7 per cent and kilometres driven were cut by 100,000 in a single year. Lower speed limits in neighbourhoods around schools would give even more parents the confidence to send their kids to school on foot (and take advantage of the obvious and long term health benefits.)

The monetary savings created by walking and cycling might also create a greater willingness (and capacity) to contribute to transit projects.

While we resolve the bickering around transit funding there are great opportunities to make small but valuable investments in cycling and walking that will serve us well today ... and tomorrow when the new transit finally shows up.

Harbord Bakery, you're right. One-way protected bike lanes are better. So let's build them and remove all the parking

You know what? One-way protected bike lanes are probably better than two-way for Harbord. Thanks Harbord Bakery for bringing up the issue. But the Harbord Bakery failed to offer any alternative so I will: let's build one-way protected bike lanes on Harbord.

While bidirectional is the best way to accommodate some curbside parking while also providing safe protected bike lanes, this option has been obviously rejected by the Harbord Bakery (and their allies) as "dangerous". So that just leaves one-way (unidirectional) protected bike lanes as the best remaining option.

While bidirectional is certainly not dangerous, it is safer than nothing at all1, I will agree that unidirectional is even better2 for Harbord.

Everyone is safer with separation
As in the above diagram you can see that a protected bike lane on each side of the street provides a nice buffer for both cyclists and pedestrians, improving safety for everyone. Protected bicycle lanes have been shown to reduce injuries for all street users - pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. In New York City the protected bike lane install at Prospect Park led to a 21% reduction in injuries across the board; no pedestrian injuries during the 6 months between the installation and the study and a huge drop in sidewalk cycling.

This all results from providing dedicated space for cyclists on a major street. Motorists no longer have to worry about cyclists swerving in front of them; cyclists don't have to worry about cars blocking their path or swerving into their lane; and pedestrians don't need to worry about a bike coming down the sidewalk. A win-win-win situation.

Parking
It's unfortunate but necessary that it requires removing all the curbside parking, but isn't that a small price to pay for saving people's lives? The Harbord Bakery is not important enough to sacrifice cyclist and pedestrian safety anymore.

Adjustments can be made: off-street parking exists or extra can be built3. Suburbanites can still drive in and get their bagels. It's just that we'll no longer consider their convenience as more important than our lives.

We need a safe continuous route
Harbord is the second busiest cycling route in the city. Cycling represents up to 40% of all traffic during peak hours. Right now Harbord is our only real chance for a continuous, unbroken cycling route through the downtown. Completing a safe cycling route on Harbord would be a major boon for both street users and for businesses along the route.

If you agree you could consider sending a note to the Harbord Bakery to let them know, whatever it looks like, we prefer protected bike lanes to no bike lanes. Even if it means taking out all the curbside parking. We're not trying to punish anyone. We just want to be safe.

Footnotes:
1. Though bidirectional separated bike lanes are still safer than nothing at all. The research backs it up (as I mentioned in my previous post).
2. Veló Quebec recommends one-way cycle tracks over two-way when there are many cross streets. The new Ontario Bicycle Facilities guide lays out some mitigation measures including a dedicated signal phase; improving the sightlines by moving parking and street furniture away from intersections; clearly marking the intersections and banning turning if needed. Montreal, Vancouver and Dutch cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam still have lots of bidirectional cycle tracks that work well enough.
3. Parking can be accommodated off-street. Where there's a will, there are means. At Hoskin and Spadina there are two parking lots on the east side of Spadina (U of T Graduate House). At Bordon and Harbord there is a large school parking lot. I'm sure the school board could be enticed to create public parking there as an additional revenue source.

Strange bedfellows and petitions galore!

anti-bike lane petition

In a funny twist, a handful of Harbord businesses have become bedfellows with a couple of activists, including one who previously fought for Harbord bike lanes, and are now trying to stop separated bidirectional bike lanes on Harbord. Meanwhile activist group Cycle Toronto has launched their own petition buttressing support for the lanes.

We the undersigned

On the anti petition side we've got a guy named Marko and a self-described "carmudgenly" cycling activist, Hamish Wilson. Their petition asks Councillors Layton and Vaughan to halt the plan for bidirectional separated bike lanes on Harbord, calling them "dangerous", citing Transport Canada (1). A reader sent me the photo above of the petition displayed prominently at Harbord Bakery and said they saw about 100 signatures (and there might be another hundred or so signatures captured elsewhere).

Meanwhile Cycle Toronto's petition in support of the separated bike lanes has over 220 signatures (here and in paper versions going around).

But even this isn't the only petition. In 2010, a petition for the separated bike lane network was sent to the public works committee and included the call to "complete and separate the Wellesley/Harbord bicycle lanes system and end the gaps in the system at Queens Park and on Harbord." It has about 150 signatures on it. A number of organizations and groups also sent letters of support at that time which if we counted all the people involved in those groups would add up to thousands of people (2).

Both councillors for Ward 19 and 20, Councillor Mike Layton and Councillor Adam Vaughan, have stated publicly that they support the separated bike lanes on Harbord. We'll see what these petitions mean for their continued support.

The centre of the battle

This is what it looks like near the Harbord Bakery currently: squeezing between moving and parked cars, and token sharrows. And where there are bike lanes they are typically treated by motorists as free parking.

I'm not alone in that estimation. People who signed the Cycle Toronto petition had similar comments. From Bradley:

I frequently bike on Harbord, and although it is a very good street for cycling, I don't believe Sharrows do anything to help cyclists, and separated lanes are the way to go to improve cycling in Toronto today and in the future. Bidirectional lanes are my preferred option for both safety and ease of movement, allowing easier passing and a mix of cyclists of different skill and comfort levels.

And from Jennifer:

I live in the West end and commute by bicycle daily along Harbord to the downtown core. Harbord/Hoskins is a well used biking route. While the current painted lines offer cyclists some amount of protection, the fact that cyclists must ride in between parked cars (which are often pulling out into traffic) and the busy roadway, and the busyness of the bike lanes, makes this route a perfect option for separated bidirectional lanes. I also use the Sherbourne Street bike route on occasion and the painted separated route makes cycling much more visible and predictable for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.

These responses are typical of people who are not "hardcore" cyclists used to mixing it up with the elephant herd. Most people, studies have shown, prefer separation.

Running with the elephants by bikeyface.com

I don't think the anti group has clarified that they are fighting for a street that is already frustrating, unsafe and not even connected. Is that the kind of street they think most cyclists prefer? If so they're deluded.

Strange bedfellows

The businesses opposed to this plan seem to be led by the owners of the Harbord Bakery and Neil Wright, Chair of the Harbord BIA. They've been vocally opposed to bike lanes for decades. In the 1990s they fought off bike lanes in their domain and managed to do it again a few years ago.

I had thought that this opposition had softened when I attended a public meeting last fall organized by Councillor Vaughan, writing in my blog post that it was a mostly positive, albeit lukewarm, response from business. In fact, the owner of the Harbord Bakery even stood up to announce they have always been pro-bike, they had been one of first to install a bike rack! Alas, it was not to be. Instead a strange alliance formed to oppose the proposal.

Hamish Wilson was a key person in fighting for a complete Harbord bike lane in the 1990s. Wilson and a number of other activists worked doggedly for the bike lane. They measured out the street width to ensure that bike lanes could fit, talked to merchants, worked with City staff. But in the end City staff caved in to business concerns about losing some curbside parking and left two disjointed bike lanes to the east and west. And now the activist is fighting against bike lanes.

Why the opposition?

The BIA Chair and the Harbord Bakery seem to be dead set against bike lanes in any form, perhaps thinking that the bike lanes will hurt their businesses. But with New York City and elsewhere experiencing booming business revenues where bike lanes were built (revenues up 49% compared to 3% elsewhere), this has become more of an outdated notion. We now know that cyclists have more disposable income and shop more often).

It's easy to imagine why the Harbord businesses are opposed even though misguided, but I can't really understand the passion with which Marko and Hamish are fighting against this proposal. Perhaps it's fear of the unknown. In cities where bidirectional has been built I have found no such outcry.

Risky game

What the petition writers gloss over is that risk is always relative risk. We can't just label something "dangerous" and something else "safe". Is climbing a ladder "dangerous" or "safe"? It doesn't make sense to ask it that way. Instead we should be comparing the risk to something else. For instance, is climbing a ladder more or less risky than taking a shower? Likewise is a bidirectional separated bike lane riskier than riding next to the threat of car doors opening? To answer that question we need real data, not just opinion.

The UBC Cycling in Cities studies, for instance, are helpful in that they have shown that separated bike lanes are significantly safer than bike lanes next to parked cars. And Dr. Lusk's studies of separated bike lanes in Montreal showed that not only is cycling on bidirectional separated bike lanes more popular, they are** safer** than streets without any bicycle provisions (3). And this is despite the fact that Montreal's bike lanes lack many of the measures now used to make them even safer: green markings through intersections, set back car parking and so on.

The petition writers are just bullshitting if they claim they know a bidirectional bike lane is more dangerous than what we have currently on Harbord. They don't have the evidence to make such a claim. Transport Canada references a Danish study but no link to the study. We don't know the context, when it is relevant, how to compare it to other dangers, or how various cities have made modifications to make them better.

Furthermore, their claim of "danger lanes" begs the question, if they're so dangerous why do numerous cities still have bidirectional bike lanes and continue to build them? Montreal, New York, Vancouver, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and other cities all have bidirectional with no evidence of cyclists dropping like flies so far as I tell.

Bidirectional versus unidirectional - either is fine so long as we get them

Funnily, the anti petition could perhaps hurt the anti cause. The petition says they are "in favour of keeping Harbord's current unidirectional bike lane setup".

The bidirectional bike lanes remove fewer parking spots than a unidirectional bike lane. That's one main reason why City staff are proposing bidirectional: to save some parking. If some people are against the bidirectional, perhaps we should all push for unidirectional. If it means taking out all the parking between Bathurst and Spadina so be it. Isn't that a small price to pay for increased safety?

I wonder what would happen to the unholy alliance in that case?

The world has moved on

Meanwhile, we could have had this already (photo by Paul Krueger):

While we're still fighting old fights in Toronto the world has moved on. In the last few years we've seen North American cities move far beyond painted bike lanes by installing separated bike lanes all over their downtowns. New York, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Chicago and other cities are all building separated bike lanes. City officials have official guides. Studies show that separation is both safer and more popular. Dutch and Danish cities have had them for decades.

It seems to me that by teaming up with anti-bike lane businesses the petition writers are playing a dangerous game (or should I say risky?) that is going to make it harder to build bike lanes of any kind anywhere in this city whether it stops the bidirectional lanes or not.

Footnotes:
1. The petition claims "According to research conducted by Transport Canada, experts conclude that bidirectional bike lanes are more dangerous than unidirectional bike lanes." I didn't receive any additional information, though I believe it's this link, which includes a reference to a Danish report that recommended unidirectional over bidirectional separated bike lanes saying bidirectional could create more conflicts at intersections. What the reference does not say is if the Danish compared bidirectional to painted or even no bike lanes at all.
2. Letters of support from: Cycle Toronto, the York Quay Neighbourhood Association, The U of T Graduate Student’s Union, University of Toronto Faculty Association, the Toronto Island Community Association, the St Lawrence Neighbourhood Association, the ABC (Yorkville) Residents Association, the Palmerston Residents Association, the Bay Cloverhill Residents Association, the Parkdale Resident Association, South Rosedale Residents Association, the Moore Park Residents Association, the Oak Street Housing Coop Inc., and Mountain Equipment Co-op.
*3. The study states: "our results suggest that two-way cycle tracks on one side of the road have either lower or similar injury rates compared with bicycling in the street without bicycle provisions. This lowered risk is also in spite of the less-than-ideal design of the Montreal cycle tracks, such as lacking parking setbacks at intersections, a recommended practice."

Bike mechanics may finally get some respect: Ontario working on a certified apprentice program

derailleur close-up

Bicycle mechanics get little respect yet we demand much of them. Everybody wants their bikes in perfect running order but we typically under value the complexity of the mechanics, at least in North America. Thus bicycle mechanics get paid little and many accomplished mechanics I know have talked about moving into other technical trades where the pay is higher and where there is more respect. (Photo by backonthebus)

That might be changing as Ontario is working on a provincial apprentice program for bicycle mechanics. The apprentice program is currently hanging in limbo as different departments work to approve it. The province has invited potential bicycle mechanics apprentices to participate in a 45 day waiting period before it becomes official. Roy Berger, a bicycle mechanic from Brantford, ON, was one of those invited. Yet Berger told me that the province has yet to start the waiting period.

Between March 2013 and April 2013 the Ontario Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities made a Training Agreement with 113 Bicycle Mechanic Apprentices in Ontario and provided a 30 page Schedule of Training.

For the longest time bicycle mechanics has been undervalued as only fit for teenagers and people who can't get a real mechanical job. The low pay has matched that expectation. With an apprentice program bike mechanics might finally become a respected profession which might also result in better pay, conditions and also safer repairing, maintaining and building of bikes. Or as Berger told me:

Papers, if you got papers, you like papers. People covet trade papers in all countries. I see this trade paper in the same category as a certificate for a gastronomical chef. You don't have to hire the guy but you figure that fellow is up to a certain minimum standard. It begins to set a bar and perhaps some day form a trade association same as chefs, hair dressers and other trades that require skill, dedication and interest. This one, our thing, is in the public interest. It's good for little Johnny, Susan and Mohammad. It's good for baby polar bears and tiger cubs. It's all about reinforcing the green and saving the planet. It's a decent moral trade. Now we have a real opportunity to step up to it. We've been wanting this for decades.

Currently Berger and other bike mechanics are just waiting. Berger received a apprentice card in the mail but now is just waiting on the government. The provincial ministry has designated bicycle mechanic as a new apprenticeship program but is hanging in limbo by another act. As explained by a ministry spokesperson:

The trade of Bicycle Mechanic was designated as a new apprenticeship program under the Apprenticeship and Certification Act, 1998 (ACA) in 2012. However, the trade is yet to be prescribed (named) under the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009 (the Act).

When the new Act came into effect on April 8, 2013, the previous apprenticeship legislation and regulations governing apprenticeship programs, including the ACA, were revoked.

Before the Ministry can name the trade in a regulation under the Act, a 45-day consultation period with industry and training stakeholders will be required to confirm support for Bicycle Mechanic to be named as a trade under the Act.

Once support is confirmed the following events will need to occur:
· the trade will need to be named in Ontario Regulation 175/11 (Prescribed Trades and Related Matters);
· the College will need to develop the scopes of practice in regulation (O. Reg. 278/11 – Scope of Practice - Trades in the Service Sector); and
· the College of Trades Board of Governors will need to establish a panel review to determine compulsory or voluntary designation.

As of April 8, 2013 and until these events occur, no new training agreements can be registered for the trade of Bicycle Mechanic.

Active training agreements with existing apprentices will continue to be honoured; they continue to be registered apprentices with the Ministry until such time as the trade is designated or not. Please note these apprentices cannot be members of the Ontario College of Trades until the trade is named under the Act.

Once the apprenticeship program is running it will require the apprentice to put in 2000 hours of time which is followed by an exam with both practical and written components "at an institution and with an instructor yet to be named". Those who pass are certified but it will still be up to the bike shop to choose someone who is certified.

So here's crossing our fingers for bike mechanics. I know I like having the people who work on my bicycle to be good at their jobs. My life depends on it.

Counting door crashes: if you don't count it, you can't manage it

The Toronto Star recently alerted us that Toronto Police were no longer recording doorings - cyclists that are hit by the car doors of stationary cars would no longer be reported. The police claim it's because of a recent clarification by the province of what is considered a "collision". Apparently a collision is defined as “the contact resulting from the motion of a motor vehicle or streetcar or its load that produces property damage, injury, or death.”

Apparently a parked car is not in motion and a bicycle is not a motor vehicle. Well, it's not a motor vehicle, but should that matter when counting collisions?

Maybe it's out of the hands of Toronto Police. Or maybe not. Either way, Traffic Services rep Constable Clint Stibbe told the Star, “realistically, there’s no reason for us to track it, because it doesn’t meet the criteria of collision. If you said how many days a week is it sunny, we’re not going to track that".

And that's that. No apology. No "we think it's important to track dooring and will follow up with the province to ensure we have the right tools for making cyclists safer". Just justifications.

And Stibbe is supposed their PR representative. He even writes for a Traffic Services blog called "Reduce Collisions, Injury and Death in Toronto". He posted in his blog a particularly bland copy and paste job masquerading as an explanation. I suppose one way to reduce collisions is to just stop counting them.

Previous to this decision police had recorded an average of 144 doorings a year (from 2007-2011).

Okay, let's step back for a second. Stibbe wrote a follow-up post this week explaining how his interview with the Star reporter was taken out of context and how there are intricacies to the reporting process of these "personal injury collisions". Even though a "Motor Vehicle Collision Report" isn't recorded, an officer may decide to make an incident report and filed in their database. Charges may be laid. An incident report, however, isn't identified or catalogued by a specific event such as bicycle versus car. (Seemingly the police use the most primitive of databases, which makes me wonder how they are able to track down anything.)

In short, they might report it but even if they report they have no way of actually analyzing it. That's pretty much the same as saying they're not counting dooring.

Meanwhile Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee wants police to begin recording them again.

“Dooring, as the numbers show, is something that happens in quite a large number of cases,” Mukherjee said in an interview. “So I think it’s appropriate for us to track them as a way for us to then decide what kinds of safety measures can be taken.”

For Mukherjee, the matter is personal: a few years ago, his wife fractured her right knee after being doored in Toronto.

Years before, the police board chair himself got the “door prize,” a sarcastic term cyclists often use for the accident.

“It was a long time ago, on King St. east of Yonge,” Mukherjee said. “I was going to a meeting and someone opened a car door without checking and I fell and fractured my thumb. I needed a cast for six weeks.”

We've got no one at the top - mayor or police chief - willing to tell the cops to smarten up. So they've fallen back into their default mode of circling the wagons and trying to make this someone else's problem.

It's unbelievable that instead of us focusing on ways to reduce doorings and injuries we now have to fight to even just be recognized in the statistics. This is shameful and the Toronto Police and the province should own up to their responsibility.

In the meanwhile I encourage you to donate to the efforts of Justin Bull (of MyBikeLane.TO fame) to create a dooring database for Canadians. And listen to the discussion on Metro Morning with Matt Galloway. Matt himself is a regular cyclist so the topic is close to home.

What I did on my summer vacation: cycling around Vancouver amongst the sporty set

On my summer vacation we got a chance to visit Vancouver for a few days on our West Coast trip, borrowing a couple folding bikes from friendly Momentum Magazine folks. Vancouver is quickly jumping into the lead of great cycling infrastructure. Soon they'll have their own BIXI program. It's all great except for the pesky helmet law.

Vancouver is getting great cycling infrastructure (top photo: Burrard bridge). Cycling there is so much less stressful than Toronto. If there's anything "wrong" with Vancouver cycling is that it is still heavily dominated by the "sporty", white, middle class set compared to Toronto. Is it a cultural difference or is it BC's helmet law that is excluding non-sporty people away from picking up a bike? It will be interesting to see how the bikesharing program will be hurt by this or will change it.

Chris Bruntlett of Hush Magazine, as pointed out by James of the excellent The Urban Country blog, made a recent trip in the opposite direction of myself and made some insightful comparisons of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal cycling habits. While Toronto really sucks for safer cycling infrastructure compared to Montreal and Vancouver, the one thing going for it is no helmet law. The helmet law in Vancouver, Chris contends, just serves to drive people away from cycling:

It achieves little, except deterring the most casual cyclists, who also happen to be the slowest and safest ones on the road. Shaming and/or fining those who take this relatively minor risk isn’t going to get them in a plastic hat: it’s going to stop them to stop cycling.

Vancouver, we'll take your cycling facilities but you can keep your spandex and helmets. Funnily even with a helmet law it seemed that about one quarter of people didn't bother to wear one. Perhaps this is because repercussions are relatively rare: a local friend noted that there were thousands of outstanding helmet fines. Still just having to stand there and be publicly shamed while a cop writes a ticket would be enough to turn off many. The helmet law has done a good job of making people think that cycling is a dangerous sport even if just riding a few blocks to the corner store. Which is a real shame since Vancouver is actually quite enjoyable by bike.

Anyway, for us outsiders I was most interested in the cycle tracks and bike boulevards, and I snapped a few photos.

Tenth Avenue bike boulevard intersection. Characteristics include restrictions of through traffic to bicycles only - motor vehicles can make right turns only - and light activation buttons accessible at bike level.

Hornby cycle tracks - bidirectional bike lanes separated from Hornby streets. They are actually narrower than what is planned for Harbord. No one complained about the inability to pass (a problem which some hardcore cyclists here have invented before the cycle tracks are installed).

Great Northern Greenway - a cycle track alongside the major street. This would be comparable to Lakeshore East bike path.

Downtown cycle tracks with bike racks. I forget which street this was on, but it was relaxing and peaceful and had easy access to parking.

Bike valet offered at the local farmers market. Cycle Toronto: make note of the efficient way to hang the bikes by the seats.

Ontario's new bicycle facilities manual: a little bit closer but still far to go

The Ontario Traffic Council has produced a new Bicycle Facilities guide. It was produced with help from Vélo Québec, which has the experience of Québec's extensive cycling facilities, and Alta Planning and Design which has been at the forefront of a new generation of protected bicycle facilities in North America. It is a promising document, but it still falls short of high water mark that is Dutch bicycle facilities standards. This much we learn from David Hembrow of A view from the cycle path, who explained how even this updated Ontario standard falls short of Dutch expectations for their own facilities. It reveals that even though the concept of providing protected facilities that appeal to all ages and abilities is now here, it has yet to fully permeate planning.

The language of the document is slippery. Some of it sounds quite reasonable on an initial reading, but when you look closely it becomes obvious that the authors have rather low aspirations for cycling. There is an expectation that cyclists can share the roadway when both speeds and traffic volumes are at higher levels than we would experience. The authors think that it is only necessary to "consider" building an on-road cycle lane even speeds of up to 100 km/h. The language of the document betrays the lack of ambition for cycling.

From the graph streets like Richmond and Adelaide would "qualify" for protected bicycle facilities, but just barely because the traffic is quite high. This graph might exclude a lot of streets that in Europe they would consider excellent candidates for separated facilities. These decisions are mostly arbitrary so perhaps the traffic planners could err on the side of making streets more comfortable.

The manual is not particularly innovative but reflects the state of the art in North America, not surprising given the consultants come from across the continent. For those of us doing cycling advocacy in North America it's good to have an outside critique to help us keep an eye on a distant goal. We are mindful that we want to celebrate our wins, big and small, lest we come off as ungrateful, something with which Hembrow doesn't have to concern himself. By being the first Ontario document to explicitly allow for protected bicycle lanes this is a real step forward. But Hembrow's excellently placed skewer of North American traffic planners blind spots shows just how far we still have to go.

Motorist impunity and the fear of cycling

Memorial banner

As the Toronto Star reports, Initial reports of the crash that killed Tom Samson indicated that he had run a red light. The police and prosecutors have now stated they do not believe Samson ran a red light; instead, they believe he had stopped, properly, to make a left turn when a van hit him from behind. The Star reports, quote, "It’s unclear what prompted the change."

The history and circumstances of bike facilities in Toronto and Montreal: TCAT video

From TCAT, a video that explores the history and circumstances of bike facilities in Toronto and Montreal. Also available in French and Spanish. As a bike advocacy nerd, I think it's a bit short but it's probably just right for the wider public to get a decent understanding.

It's interesting to see how things develop differently in Canadian cities, having just come back from Vancouver and tried out their extensive bike network of cycle tracks and bike boulevards.

Harbord cycle tracks will not be for the hardcore but for the rest of us

Weak cycling infrastructure on Harbord

The Harbord and Hoskin bike route as it currently exists is not good enough to convince a large percentage of people to bike. For that to happen, as many other cities have found out, physically separated bike facilities make cycling much more popular as well as safer.

Even though Harbord and Hoskin is a popular bike route (partly by funneling people from other streets), its painted bike lanes and sharrows only attract a small portion of Torontonians. Being just paint makes it easy for motorists to park in, and sharrows do nothing to prevent cyclists from having to struggle and squeeze between car doors and fast moving traffic.

We've now got an opportunity to showcase a new, better way of building bike infrastructure. Harbord to Wellesley, if all goes well, from Ossington to Parliament will have protected bike lanes along its entire length by the end of 2014.

Toronto is hardly being radical by building protected bike lanes. Heck, even Lincoln Nebraska is building a bidirectional cycle track!

Lincoln, Nebraska gets its own cycle tracks

Attracting the "interested but concerned"

The Portland Bureau of Transportation in a survey found a "interested but concerned" group of potential cyclists that made up 60% of the population. This is a group that is willing to bike (unlike the 30% who would never consider cycling) but have been turned down by the poor state of infrastructure. Compare that 60% to the 1% of the strong and fearless and the 7% of the enthused and confident and it makes me think how vocal cyclists now often fail to think of how different things would be if even half the potential cyclists could be converted.

For the interested but concerned person, this is what is needed to convince them to hop on a bike on busy urban roads - separation from motor vehicles. These are people - young, old and unsure - who are uncomfortable riding in busy traffic and will only consider cycling as a regular activity if they get more infrastructure.

This group of potential cyclists rank separation from traffic higher than existing cyclists. The preference study at UBC's Cycling in Cities showed that for potential cyclists, having separated bike lanes or quiet bike boulevards was important and were unwilling to ride on major streets with parked cars and just painted bike lanes. It's interesting to note that even regular cyclists ranked cycle tracks highly but were much more comfortable riding on major streets with painted bike lanes.

Where hardcore cyclists are comfortable riding in mixed traffic next to large trucks and car doors (though even this changes as we get older), the potential cyclists are most comfortable on recreational bike paths and with clear separation from motorized traffic. While hardcore cyclists tend to be dominated by men, potential cyclists represent the larger population in gender, age and ability.

The City still tends to listen primarily to the 2% hardcore cyclists when building new bike facilities. The idea for protected bike lanes on Harbord (and Sherbourne and Richmond/Adelaide), however, came from outside the hardcore group. It was borne of people who had seen cities like Amsterdam or New York and saw the potential in Toronto. It was a major push to get City cycling staff and cycling advocates to think beyond painted bike lanes that provide next to no comfort or protection and focus more on the concerns the 60% and come up with strategies for building what is needed.

Protected bike lanes on Harbord and Hoskin will help provide a mind-shift among Torontonians, improving infrastructure for the majority.

Harbord/Hoskins needs more than just paint

Some preliminary drawing and figures were presented at the recent open house.

From Queens Park to St. George

From St. George to Ossington

Harbord and Hoskins cycle tracks will be a great improvement for those streets where speeding along stretches is still common, drivers routinely park in the bike lanes, and where a large stretch doesn't even have bike lanes.

Protected bike lanes are safer

But it's not just that people prefer more separation on streets like Harbord, it has also been shown to be safer than just painted bike lanes. After NYCDOT build cycle tracks on Prospect Park in Brooklyn they found a number of benefits, more so than what a painted bike lane would provide:

  • Speeding is down
  • Sidewalk cycling is down
  • Crashes are down
  • More cyclists of all ages are using it

The protected bike lanes will also provide specific benefits of vastly improving the intersection at Queens Park and Hoskin. What is currently an uncomfortable and unsafe intersection where cyclists and pedestrians have to deal with high speed traffic will be redesigned so cyclists can avoid having to try to cross multiple lanes of fast traffic.

And let's not forget that we finally have the political will to fill in the missing bike lane along Harbord, where cyclists have nothing but a narrow space between the doors and moving traffic. This requires politicians willing to risk the wrath of merchants.

Both Councillors Layton and Vaughan have come out supporting the Harbord separated bike lanes. Along with public works Chair Minnan-Wong, the support for Harbord is across the political spectrum. This is pretty rare in cycling advocacy. Even Mayor Miller missed his chance to build major bike lanes. Politics is the art of the possible and if this opportunity is not taken, it will be much harder to build another chance.

With such broad support the chance of getting protected bike lanes along the longest bike route through central Toronto just might be possible.

Toilets for BIXI

A plan for saving BIXI Toronto seems to be shaping up. Councillor Minnan-Wong may be on to something with an idea to scrap the expensive self-cleaning toilet contract with Astral Media in exchange for Astral Media paying down BIXI Toronto's outstanding loan. Even Councillor Vaughan thinks it's a good idea. The self-cleaning toilets seemed to be a great idea during Miller's term but it turns out that they aren't nearly as popular as BIXI.

Astral Media made a deal with the City a few years ago, promising to pay for street furniture in exchange for plastering its ads around Toronto. There was a marginal but expensive self-cleaning toilet project that has been having trouble finding locations. Turns out toilets are not as popular as BIXI bikes.

From the Toronto Star

The 20-year Astral contract allows the city to “cash out” of the toilets after 10 years — that is, force Astral to pay the city a certain amount of money in exchange for the right to not build the majestic thrones. Minnan-Wong’s proposal: persuade the company to allow the city to cash out now, four years early, and funnel the proceeds to the Bixi debt.

“It’s an initiative that the details have to be worked out on. But there is a synergy and an interest on everybody’s part,” said Minnan-Wong, a North York conservative. “The public wants to save Bixi. The city wants to save Bixi. The city is not so interested in the toilets. And Astral is willing to help out.”

It seems that the City also got some interest from companies in purchasing or just operating BIXI. The most promising is Alta Bikeshare, which is already operating a number of BIXI Toronto's sister systems, including in New York and Chicago. They are willing to assume the debt servicing but only if they can reduce costs and increase revenues slightly (read increase prices). It's unclear if the City will be pursuing private operators in addition to paying off the debt by scrapping toilets. It might be a good way to clean the slate and let an operator and the City invest in a much needed expansion. We'll find out more today as BIXI goes back to Exec Committee.

Update: The Exec Committee item provides some more details but no mention of the toilet deal.

None of the six respondents to the RFI were of the view that the BIXI Toronto operation could be assumed by a private operator/owner without some level of City subsidy; however there appears that there could be some potential to reduce the City's financial risk, to some extent, through a new arrangement with a private sector firm.

The six respondents:

  • Alta Bicycle Share (operates other large BIXI systems and likely has the best chance of running BIXI Toronto in my estimation)
  • B-cycle (operates its own bikesharing system in smaller American markets. Would it want to replace BIXI bikes with its own clunky model?)
  • CycleHop (site offline but claims to be involved in bikesharing management. small potatoes)
  • Four Square Integrated Transportation Planning (has done some bikesharing planning for Capital Bikeshare)
  • StartUpNorth (if it's this site, it seems to have no experience with managing such systems)
  • Toole Design Group (transportation planning)

The respondents were able to provide some useful comments (p.4):

There was a general consensus among the RFI respondents that bike share programs cannot fund the start-up capital equipment costs through membership and usage fees and sponsorship contributions. Bike share programs generally require some form of funding for the initial capital investment, either through municipal funding, government grants or a large title (i.e. naming rights) sponsorship.

How BIXI Toronto compares to other systems - performing well in some areas, poor in others:

  • Has reasonable operating costs;
  • Has a low number of members per bicycle compared to other systems;
  • Is generating a large number of trips per bicycle;
  • Has a cost-recovery, through membership and usage fees, that is generally in line with other comparable systems;
  • Appears to have a lower than expected level of sponsorship revenue on a per bike basis; and
  • Could increase membership, stimulate usage and generate sponsorship opportunities by expanding the system.

Have your say on Richmond and Adelaide today and on Harbord tomorrow

The first open house for Richmond and Adelaide cycle tracks is happening today (hurry!) at City Hall until 9pm and for Harbord (the Wellesley/Hoskin section was already approved) tomorrow at Kensington Gardens, Multi-Purpose Room 25 Brunswick Avenue from 4 to 8pm.

There's a booklet to explain all the details for Richmond and Adelaide. I first saw this informative document at the stakeholders meeting two weeks ago.

Speaking of which, the meeting was quite interesting. There were a lot of people there who were excited in some kind of separated bike lane. Even the head of the taxi union/federation had previously lived in the Netherlands and "got it" when it came to safe cycling infrastructure.

I was approached by Councillor Adam Vaughan afterwards. That's a whole blog post in itself. He was quite concerned that I had painted him in a negative light (as being indifferent, or at worst, against the separated bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide). So he wanted to set the record straight. I can't say I came away from the chat thinking that he'd drastically changed his mind, though he seems less likely to block the bike lanes in favour of his configuration. On Harbord, Councillor Vaughan was much more clear: he supports separated bike lanes there because it's got community support. Let's hope Vaughan can be convinced too that the prime concern of many is that there is a safe, protected bike route on Richmond, Adelaide, Peter and Simcoe. We want more bicycle highways.

American bicycle culture and infra from the perspective of a Dutchman

A Dutch "anthropological" look at American bicycle culture by Mark Wagenbuur of BicycleDutch. Much the same for Canada. Glimmers of change, but we're still so much in a car-fetishizing culture with space dominated by cars.

Infographic: how cyclists will go out of their way to travel on comfortable bike lanes

Thanks to Iain Campbell for this great infographic "Two Wheeled Traffic, or why bike lanes work"! It shows the bike traffic volume relative to the size of the road. Thus a street like St. George has only two car lanes but carries many more cyclists than nearby Queen's Park/University with its 8 lanes. Iain's data came from the City's 2010 Bike Cordon Count, which counted bike traffic into and out of downtown over 24 hours.

Iain's infographic provides a strong visual of how bike lanes are a much stronger magnet for cyclists than the importance of a road for car traffic. It strongly suggests that people will go out of their way to travel on a more comfortable, less stressful street with bike lanes. This is why I believe that separated bike lanes on Richmond and/or Adelaide will be a big draw for people of all ages, shapes and sizes.

There's more than one way to stop a bike lane

Bike Lane Closed by Tino

Councillor Vaughan said that he has never voted against a bike lane. Though that might be true, there are many ways to stop a bike lane. (Photo credit: Tino)

The obvious way to stop a bike lane is to vote against it. An example is University when the opposition to Mayor Miller passed an amendment to remove University from the bike lane plan that year.

The most egregious way to stop a bike lane, for which Toronto has become world famous, is to rip out existing ones. Thanks to spiteful Mayor Ford, Councillor Minnan-Wong and Councillor Berardinetti we are now three bike lanes fewer.

Those are the methods that get the most public attention. But even before a bike lane reaches a vote or is built, a bike lane can be stopped. John Street is a favoured north-south route for cyclists. Councillor Vaughan led a drive to turn it into a "pedestrian priority zone" (as well as a patio zone from what I can tell of the plans). The environmental assessment, which ended last year, resulted in a solution with no bike lanes. It didn't help to build trust in the process when the consultants largely ignored cyclists in the official count. Dave Meslin revealed the fudge of their recorded flatlined 2% bike mode share by conducting his own count (along with some help from yours truly and other volunteers) showing a much higher number during peak hours.

According to the EA, however, the bike mode share didn't matter since they were directed to create a pedestrian priority zone (which also happened to include motor vehicles, large and small). As a palliative, Vaughan had pointed out that Peter would become the alternative route, though we've yet to see much movement among staff or councillor to create that solution. Thus I'll hazard to say that the entire process was configured so that bike lanes would be excluded and never come to a vote.

Another way to stop a bike lane is to build local opposition. The current Vaughan says he supports separated bike lanes, but the older Vaughan actually blasted them as "barricaded". That doesn't sound like someone who supported separated bike lanes, but instead like someone who's trying to build local opposition to them.

Yet another way to stop a bike lane is to call for more community consultation or to make it a pilot project. Councillor Wong-Tam took these tactics with the Sherbourne protected bike lanes. The City's Cycling Unit staff went door to door along Sherbourne, consulted with businesses and residents groups, and held public consultation meetings for Sherbourne (where the majority of attendees supported the lanes). I was told by a staffperson at the time that Councillor Wong-Tam provided next to no help in making her constituents aware of the project. It all suggested an attempt at stopping the bike lanes by studying it to death.

It's easy to point out the idiocy of politicians who rip out bike lanes, but it's good to keep in mind that there are more subtle ways out there to kill a bike lane while trying to keep the "progressive" label.

Cycling Gotham

Humber Woods Park

[I'd like to introduce a new blogger to I Bike TO, Ian Slater. Ian is a father, husband and professor at York University. And as a guy on a bike, he'll be providing us with an interesting perspective of the long-distance commuter. Welcome Ian! -- Herb]

I was driving my son home from class one night on a poorly lit side street in Toronto when a cyclist, with no helmet, no lights, no reflectors and in dark clothing flew off the sidewalk and cut me off. I saw him at the last second and braked. He then pulled over to the side up ahead, adjusting something on his belt. I drove by, rolled down my window and told him, “I can’t see you brother, you’re completely invisible in the dark, I almost hit you.”, to which he replied:

“I can see you”, and rode off into the night.

My son asked me, “what did he mean by that?”

I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out the answer to that question. What did he mean by that? Surely this guy is smart enough to realize that he is hard to see in the dark without any sort of lights and wearing light non-reflective clothing. And no helmet too, what does this tell me? Well, maybe he’s overconfident, that would explain his comment. Or perhaps he thinks that you are just as likely to run him over if he’s visible as when he’s not, so why bother?

The longer I listen to the public dialogue around cars and bikes in Toronto the more I favour the latter explanation. I think many cyclists are both overconfident and convinced that motorists would just as soon run them over as pass them by. I have seen many, many verbal fights break out between cyclists and motorists as I commute. They are rarely pretty. It’s all “war on the bike” and “war on the car”, I want a better model, war is ugly and, to be frank, if we’re at war the bikes are going to lose.

The level of mutual animosity in all this finally pushed me to start blogging. I think it’s time to dive in to the public dialogue.

Toronto occupies a very interesting position, a large metropolitan center with an international population, a strained transit system and an increasing number of cyclists. Or so it seems from what I see on the roads. Toronto has been cited as having the worst commute times from a sample of international cities, 80 min a day (that includes to and from work).

The TTC is strained and expanding, the city is growing. Air quality is impacted by an increased number of cars, I breathe the difference every time I ride. I see the wistful look on motorist’s faces when I wheel by them in a traffic jam.
We are ripe for a cycling revolution, but the mutual animosity makes this difficult.

I’ll be posting here regularly, giving my thoughts on current issues around cycling in TO, and hopefully pointing out some useful information for those who are thinking of long distance urban cycle commuting. What works for the short hop rider doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

I hope I can bring a fresh perspective on things, and possibly get a few people who have been thinking about cycling to give it a go. The weather right now is fantastic for riding, cool and sunny, and everything is in full bloom, giving almost every street in the city a roiling green canopy, there’s never been a better time to be on something moving at a speed that allows you to see what’s all around you. The fresh air on your face, the ability to pass bumper to bumper traffic.

You know you want it.

I have also been taking pictures of Toronto cycling routes for 5 years or so, all on my phone camera and while moving. I’ll post a pic here regularly too, maybe it will inspire you to try out a new trail, with all the focus on bike lanes, we forget that Toronto has a wealth of urban cycling trails.

The pic at the top is from Humber Woods Park in North West Toronto.

Cheers,

Ian

Councillor Vaughan will not support "bicycle highways," in and of themselves, on Richmond and Adelaide

Dunsmuir cycle track - Paul Krueger

No matter which way you look at it, Councillor Vaughan has never said "I unreservedly support separated bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide". Instead he has caveats and reservations. Vaughan is willing to sacrifice protected bike lanes, and the safety of cyclists, on Richmond and Adelaide if he doesn't get his beautification list. On their own, in and of themselves, protected bike lanes have little value to Vaughan. This much I have parsed from his words. (Photo: Dunsmuir bike lane. Credit: Paul Krueger.)

Councillor Vaughan told me he supports bike lanes. In an email, he replied "Separated bike lanes, integrated with a stronger pedestrian realm is a must." He was visiting Vancouver at the time, exclaiming "great bike lanes here!" But here's his qualifier: "If all we build is a bike lane then all we will have accomplished is building a by-pass." An "isolated gesture". Just "bicycle highways". So is that a maybe? Why is a well-informed politician, who has a strong opinion on almost every area of city building, caging his words on separated bike lanes?

By the way, Councillor McConnell didn't put any restrictions on her support for protected bike lanes on the portions of Richmond and Adelaide that run through her ward. She supports them. Period.

Isolated gestures

Vaughan celebrates Vancouver bike lanes, but does he know that the outstanding protected bike lanes on Dunsmuir and Hornby streets were done as "isolated gestures"? Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver took leadership in pushing for them even against some local opposition. The primary focus was bike lanes. Sure they put in planters but they weren't deal breakers. For free, Vancouver got even further separation of car traffic from traffic on the foot highway (like in the photo above).

The protected bike lanes, in fact, would be an isolated but major gesture for a ward where little has been done to install and advance protected cycling infrastructure. Politicians and traffic planners alike have mostly ignored cycling safety for so long that in order to get anything built, bike lanes are, by nature, "isolated". It seems as if bike lanes in downtown are constantly being pushed off the table, whether it be Yorkville, in front of Union Station, John Street and now the Annex. In each case the politicians and traffic planners have figured that people on bikes will just have to fight it out with cars.

Vaughan had a perfect opportunity to get protected bike lanes in Ward 20 when he was a close ally of former Mayor David Miller. During this administration's 6 years not one protected bike lane was built. The closest we came was a failed vote on a protected bike lane for University. People tend to focus on Councillor Paula Fletcher's mistaken vote, but the Mayor wasn't even present for the vote. It wasn't important enough for the mayor.

What does he want
Vaughan has described protected bike lanes at various times as "bicycle highways", "single use and isolated gestures", "barricaded", "by-passes". So why is he holding up progress on bicycle infrastructure? What are these other things he wants? From his comments I've gathered these requirements: "Stronger pedestrian realm" aka fancier "foot highways." Planters. Bike parking. "Connectivity". Two-way streets. "Complete streets"

Foot highways? Last I looked there were foot highways on both sides of the street. And they're bidirectional!

Planters? Well here you go:

But is he going to try to block the bike lanes if he can't get planters?

Bike Parking? Nope. Is he seriously considering this a requirement for his support?

Connectivity? Done. It already connects with Beverley bike lanes and Sherbourne! And can be extended to Eastern bike lanes and to the Railpath. (Richmond and Adelaide are certainly more connected than Vaughan's preference for Wellington).

Two-way streets? Come on, you can do better. New York is full of one-way vibrant streets as "destinations".

Complete streets Sorry, Vaughan's definition sucks: "accommodate choice in as safe and as beautiful a way as possible". So far as I can tell, no jurisdiction that has a complete streets policy has put "beauty" on par with safety. No one's going to say they hate beauty but who would sacrifice safety for it? (Other than an artist). Instead, Toronto's City Planning says complete streets is the "safe and adequate accommodation, in all phases of project planning and development, of all users of the transportation system." Let's use their definition.

Fast forward to now
We have a plan to build awesome, connected protected bike lanes across downtown. There are zero alternatives. So far, Councillor Vaughan is unwilling to lend his support. Is he just trying to squeeze some concessions, or his he willing to let the plan die if he doesn't get his way?

We'll see. This bike lanes will represent, I think, a turning point. Either we'll begin down the bicycle highway towards emulating cities like Chicago, Vancouver and New York, or we'll hit a deep pothole and stall safe cycling in this city.

Footnotes: quoting Vaughan on bike lanes
For those interested in the history of Vaughan's quotes on bicycle highways, read on.

Last year (2012) at a joint ward meeting that I attended with Cycle Toronto's representing wards 19, 20, 27, and 28 Councillor Vaughan had suggested that he was against "bicycle highways":

"...to create a bike highway through the downtown is as serious a piece of bad planning as a car highway."

He had also said at that meeting that "creating a single use capacity will not solve the problem".

Also last year (2012) at a meeting organized by the Harbord Village Residents Association on bike lanes for Harbord Vaughan had said:

When we build bike lanes they must be separated. Painted lanes are good but aren't safe enough. My son, who bikes, needs the separation to be safe.

People in this neighbourhood cycle but they don't do it safely. We don't accept it for drivers, nor for pedestrians, but we accept lack of safety for cyclists. We need to change that.

And in January of this year (2013) Councillor Vaughan had said to the Toronto Star that he remained undecided regarding bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide.

It’s crucial that any bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide be considered in the larger context of pedestrian traffic, cars and transit, said Councillor Adam Vaughan (Trinity-Spadina). Although he’s willing to consider bike lanes, he hasn’t made up his mind. The entertainment district needs to be considered as a destination, not just a series of thoroughfares, he said.

In 2011 in a letter to his residents Vaughan had called them "barricaded bike lanes".

From Vaughan's response from last week:

We have set aside funding for streetscape improvements. Bike lanes, bike parking, plantings and connectivity are all important components of a good plan.

I support exploring these issues specifically, and separated bike lanes generally. They are a critical component of the future for the street. But they must form part of a comprehensive re-thinking of the streets and not just a single use and isolated gesture.

If all we build is a bike lane then all we will have accomplished is building a by-pass. This is not good planning nor will it serve riders well. It should never be about getting from a to b. It should be about building complete streets that accommodate choice in as safe and as beautiful a way as possible. ...

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