Ask City today to properly protect cyclists on Harbord and Hoskin

Today is one of your last chances to tell city staff that their revised plan for Harbord and Hoskin falls short of providing good protection for cyclists. (Photo of Sam James coffee shop on Harbord by Tino)

Their latest plan will continue to put cyclists next to the door zone, allow cars to park in bike lanes at their convenience and continue to fall short of what City Council asked of them to build.

Today, Thursday, March 27, 2014 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m you can drop in at Kensington Gardens, 45 Brunswick Ave. North Building, Multi-Purpose Room, to explain to them you want something better.

City Council asked for protected bike lanes (aka cycle tracks). Staff are now offering something that falls short. While their proposal helps fill in the gap in the Harbord bike lane, their proposal is basically a bike lane with a wider painted strip.

City would be letting down families and students who might only bike if they felt that they had separation from car traffic.

  • Cyclists will still ride right next to car traffic that speeds on a road that is forgiving for high speeds and not for new cyclists.
  • Car drivers will still park in the bike lane whenever they feel like it.
  • The bike lanes will get no special treatment regarding snow clearing, unlike Sherbourne.
  • Cars will park right next to the bike lane continuing to put cyclists in the door zone.

In short, cyclists will continue to be treated like peppercorns in the pepper grinder of car-centric traffic planning. It's like bike planners expect cyclists to act as traffic calming with our own bodies.

City staff were too timid to propose removing all the car parking along Harbord, which is why they had proposed the bidirectional in the first place. But now that they've done a questionable traffic study, they've backed away and can only fit in a unidirectional painted bike lane. Business as usual.

The fact is, staff do not really know if their proposed unidirectional plan is safer than the previous bidirectional plan. They just figured they'd choose the option that meant less traffic delays. They mention turning movement conflicts in the case of bidirectional, which they try to mitigate in the study, but they haven't been able to put it in the context of conflicts of regular bike lanes: dooring, collisions from behind, sideswipes from cars entering/exiting parking. We don't really know which is more dangerous. All we have to go on are the existing scientific studies that have suggested that bidirectional protected bike lanes work and are safe in places such as Montreal.

Staff have been unable to confirm with me that the model they used can accurately reflect reality. Has anyone who has used this model and then built some bike lanes gone back to measure the traffic speed to see if the model made a solid prediction?

And they haven't even been able to confirm if they know what the margin of error is. That is, if the traffic study states that in a scenario traffic will be slowed by 5%, the margin of error could be higher than 5% for all we know. This is something basic that we see in every poll ever done so we have an idea of the significance of the numbers. Meanwhile, with their traffic study, we have no idea of the significance of the numbers, nor do we know if it has a track record of accuracy. So why should we put any faith in at all unless staff can tell us this?

Finally, what's so bad about slowing down traffic? In one of the traffic study's scenarios cyclists got an advanced green to give them a head start over car traffic. That actually sounds really great! Why not implement that for all our key cycling routes?

This traffic study did not study all the options out there for improving the safety of cyclists at intersections. It only looked at the status quo intersections. For instance, it could have looked at protected intersections like they install in the Netherlands.

So this is what we could ask of staff:

  • Go with fully protected bike lanes, either the original bidirectional plan or unidirectional (which likely requires taking out all the parking but isn't that a small price to pay for safety?)
  • Install protected intersections
  • Install advanced greens for cyclists on major cycling routes: Harbord, Wellesley, St. George/Beverley, Richmond/Adelaide, College, Sherbourne.
  • Stop proposing milquetoast plans!


there are plenty of streets that could use protection before harbord and hoskin, which are probably the safest routes for biking in the entire city. even on streets with bike lanes, college is much higher traffic and far more dicey. wellesley is a mess. dupont and davenport are safe for the most part, but dangerous at key intersections (dupont/dundas, davenport/ossington). roncesvalles is just weird, since pedestrians get off on standing in the middle of the platforms on the bike path even when there's no streetcar in sight.

i suppose st. george and beverley is probably safer, but that's not saying much. either way, i'd support better infrastructure basically anywhere before i'd support it on the safest street in the city.

If we could just blue sky our favourite routes to upgrade and then make it happen, then sure, let's take your approach. But it never works that way. Harbord/Hoskin is being studies now and we can influence how it'll look. Meanwhile in order to get other streets studied would add years to seeing anything done.

Besides, on a street which has one of the highest bike mode shares in the city--around 45% of traffic during the morning peak is bikes!--it makes sense to do something nice to accommodate all those people. It'll have a much bigger impact for more people than even fixing Dupont, etc.

There are still issues with bike lane parking, and snow removal on Sherbourne. The only difference is that when the lane is obstructed it's a lot harder to go around.

Don't you know that parking with a car's four-way hazard flashers overrides all laws and bylaws? Especially, when its for something important, like getting coffee for yourself.

Hi Herb,

I think that there is an opportunity to still have a fully protected bike lane in the eastbound direction with only minor tweaks to what is being proposed.




I read over the proposal and your comments, and I had a few questions, as I’m having a hard time understanding how the revised proposal is good for anyone, cyclists or drivers.

You mentioned that, “Their latest plan will continue to put cyclists next to the door zone, allow cars to park in bike lanes at their convenience and continue to fall short of what City Council asked of them to build.”

I took a look at the mock up in the link you provided, it seems that cyclists are beside the parked cars, but there appears to be ample room to open a door without interfering with the flow of bicycles. Do you have a minimum distance that you think would be acceptable, or is the objection that any parking next to a lane is a bad idea. The BICE study certainly makes it clear that parking is universally bad for cyclists, but they don’t specify the distances involved in this proposal, so I’m not sure.

I’m also curious about the idea that this plan allows cars to park in the lane at their convenience. Is this just a result of the fact there is a bike lane rather than separated infrastructure, and thus cars can park there? I assume this has nothing to do with this particular plan (e.g. it would apply for any bike lane), but I could be mistaken. This strikes me as an issue of enforcement, not lane design.

What I’m really having a hard time figuring out is how two bike lanes rather than one are better for anyone, cyclists or drivers. Wouldn’t a bidirectional lane take up less overall space than a pair of unidirectional lanes, and thus be better for parking and such?

Lastly, the link has a comment that puzzled me:

“This study showed it would not be possible to safely accommodate bi-directional separated bike lanes, without unacceptable delays to all road users.”

This I’m also uncertain about. A bike lane only has “delays” at intersections, to my understanding, thus bidirectional or unidirectional the delays would not be different, or am I missing something?