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.


I know you're advocating for seperated lanes, but I don't really think this incident is the right springboard, since as you say we don't know if they would have helped this guy.

I'm not against the infra you are suggesting, but I'm probably more FOR cyclist and motorist training and education. I think most accidents are the result of poor driving on one or both sides. Improving the driving knowledge of cyclists and motorists can make EVERY street more safe rather than just those that get the royal treatment.

Sadly, there's even less money for that stuff than there is for infrastructure!

Education is great, unfortunately educating people takes a lot longer than it does to install bike lanes, especially in a car centric city such as Toronto.

Both education and bike lanes should be carried out in parallel. There will never be 100% bike lane coverage.

( Disclaimer - I would say - it seems to take a lot longer for Toronto to build bike lanes than any other city on this planet :-) ).

Torontonians have to get out more... It's not just the bike lanes, of whatever type, though they have their place if the intersections are solved, as that's where most of the accidents happen. And looking at Northern Europe's bike infrastructure doesn't teach you every lesson you need to know, either.

I ride in Tokyo, and it has 1/4 the road fatalities per capita for every mode, despite:
- greater Tokyo having the population of Canada's entirety
- far greater density than Toronto
- fewer bikelanes, almost none of them on-road
- a pretty strong automobile culture (most families have one)
- a poor cycling culture (most riding is on sidewalks and very local)
- traffic enforcement is as poor as Ontario
- a higher number of 'hit and runs' (but that connects to the legal ramifications below)

What I think makes the difference in fatalities is:
- no turns on red (left, rather than right)
- civil penalties for all collisions
- criminal penalties for any significant ones
- a legal and police bias AGAINST drivers
- say goodbye to your license!

Education, always called for in Ontario, doesn't matter: most still speed and drive poorly to aggressively. Infrastructure is only for photo-ops: usually discontinuous, poorly planned for intersection safety or for where cyclists need it most. Something simple: do as Japan does, stick it to the LESS vulnerable road user in any collision. Works a charm.

Education is worthless and wasted on the typical aggressive, negligent car driver. Their problems are ethical, not a lack of knowledge.

Proper Dutch-style protected cycle infra is what is needed. Then car drivers can road rage all they want - there is a nice stout concrete barrier protecting me from their two-tonne lethal weapon.

Kevin Love

It is naïve to think you can change car, police culture, legislation in this continent or city in any time frame that is meaningful for anyone over 30 years of age.

The only way we can meaningful address safety for cyclists , and also increase safety for pedestrians as well, is to create networks of separated bicycle lanes in our cities now.

That is why Europe and many progressive North American cities have either separated or are separating their cycling network from traffic.

No country I know of yet has changed their culture first to accommodate cycling.
They have redesigned their transportation infrastructure to accommodate cycling which seems to lead to the culture change.

Totally agree Separatist.

One important factor to consider in the separated bike lane debate, is that they also force cyclists to comply to road position and direction. In other words, drivers know exactly what to expect when encountering a cyclist in a separated lane; and it is highly unlikely to see a bike going 'contra-flow'.

There is the obvious protection from cars crashing into you, but the same can be said from the driver's perspective.

It is understandable that some cyclists do not want separated lanes - we are independent by nature; but they dramatically improve safety while building ridership.

The best way to educate drivers about cyclists' safety is to get him/her to ride a bike. Cycle tracks and off-road trails are the best infra for introducing new riders to cycling. There's a lot of other things that need to be done in this city--installing the West End Bikeway Plan routes, restarting the EA on Bloor/Danforth, connecting the discontinuities on existing routes, building the Bikeway Trails Plan and Pan Am Path, etc.--but this and the other cycle tracks are an important step forward.

'Kevin', that 'protected' bike lane helps you none at the intersection... where the accidents happen.

'Separatist', calling someone "naive" is cheap rhetoric. Besides, you don't think getting the bike lanes you want is any less? Laws or lanes, it's the same culture we have to deal with. Have you not been paying attention? Do note it takes longer for infrastructure to get built than a law passed, allowing retrograde politicians to more easily cancel the former: examples abound, no? Like the rest, you only speak to North American and Europe (Northern and Continental at that): there are other paradigms that work that should be examined. Not only Japan, of course. Your last paragraph is the one that has any merit, but I doubt it was as simply in the order you state, but concomitant.

Adult cyclists deserve safety, and driver's respect, but many drivers do not think so, and all of our whinging (as they see it) will achieve nothing. The Dutch made it about not killing their children, and so should we, because even a Toronto driver would not say:

"My heart bleeds for them when I hear [a child on a bike] gets killed, but it's their own fault at the end of the day."

It's about time that cyclists realize what poor advocates they are, especially when they are right.

Stand by my comment. Laws are not as good as lanes. Laws are only as good as enforcement. Robustly separated bicycle lanes with concrete curbs , bollards don't need enforcement. Current laws allow taxis to legally to stop and drop off or pick up passengers in unseparated bicycle lanes. Canada Post is federally regulated they can legally stop in unseparated bicycle lanes ( need to change our constitution).

I would be more than pleased to be proven wrong if you or anyone else could successfully get one of these laws changed, and get them consistently enforced, before the Harbord lanes are built next year. Will putting separated lanes on Harbord dramatically change things across the City? Probably not, but it will change things on Harbord, which is a start. Don't get me wrong I am all for you and those who agree with you, to work to change the laws, get better enforcement and change our culture. But until that happens I am working on getting separated bicycle lanes installed across this City one block at a time.

I don't think Toronto can actually build a proper bike lane. For some reason, the good old Toronto half-assed approach to everything has infected the Toronto bike lane engineers and we end up with projects like Roncesvalles and Sherbourne. Both are total failures, I don't care what anyone says, when these new lanes go in, cyclists abandon them for any decent paved road with a flat grade, lines or no lines.

I think we as a city are still learning how to do it. It's not just how do cyclists like it and how do they cope with what's provided - it's also how do the other participants in traffic deal with it.

For instance, painted bike lanes would be fine if drivers respected them. Maybe in other cities, they do. But in TO, they are considered "alternate parking/standing/stopping space". Thus we have to spend hundreds of thousand of dollars to create physical separation and in the process lose 2ft of cyclable surface - like on Sherbourne.

The cops (and their slack attitude in that matter) represent the will of the people that have pull in city hall. You'd have to go after the roots of the problem to address it - everything else is just shadow boxing.

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