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.

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.

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.


Herb wrote: "It's unfortunate but necessary that it requires removing all the curbside parking"

Kevin's comment:
No it doesn't. It only requires removing the car parking. There is still plenty of curbside parking available for everyone at the post-and-ring parking stands.

Kevin Love

But there must be car parking for the solitary driver in their Rolls Royce or Hummer to park and buy their daily bagel. The walk from and to their parked car can be exhausting, on their way to the gym for their daily exercises.

Though with the price of gasoline going up, they may reconsider. Not!

The big selling point of cycle tracks is that they attract novice riders because of their perceived safety and comfort levels. However, cycle tracks (and organizations that are promoting them) could get a bad reputation if a bi-directional cycle track on Harbord is the scene of a bunch of collisions caused by unsafe intersections.

The stretch of Harbord and Hoskin running from Ossington to Queen's Park measures 2.5 km. A bi-directional cycle track on the north side would run through a whopping 35 intersections! It works out to one side-street or lane-way every 71 metres. That's a lot of crossings, and a lot of motorists making crossings – some of whom will inevitably fail to look for cyclists riding 'in the wrong direction'. Making matters worse is that inexperienced cyclists may let their guard down, having been lured into a false sense of security by the hoopla surrounding the cycle track network.

So often, cycling controversies in the downtown get too emotional. Let's examine the evidence. How has the cycle track issue been handled in various places?

In Copenhagen, classic, bi-directional cycle tracks have been banned because they are considered unsafe. Nevertheless, Danes are experimenting with dividing entire streets (like Vestergade) into two-way bike lanes

In Holland, the national bike traffic design manual (issued by CROW) recommends uni-directional in principle. Although two-way lanes are faulted for "jeopardising safety", they are condoned in special circumstances (e.g., on streets with few intersections that border rivers or railroads)

In the United States, NACTO comments that "Driveways and minor street crossings are a unique challenge to cycle track design." Bi-directional cycle tracks are considered appropriate "on streets with few conflicts such as driveways or cross-streets on one side of the street."

Roger Geller, Bicycle Coordinator for the City of Portland, strongly recommends against 2-way on-street bike lanes

Montreal has built a lot of bi-directional tracks because they are easier to plow in the winter, but . . .

The Velo-Quebec Technical Handbook of Bikeway Design advises that two-way cycle tracks are acceptable only on streets without any intersections on the bike lane side, or if crossings are spaced apart by at least 300 m.

Transport Canada: "bicycle tracks do not necessarily reduce collision risks and may actually increase them if attention is not paid to intersection design"

The City of Toronto did a presentation last year that compared the uni-directional to the bi-directional model. Of 14 criteria, bi was judged superior over uni only in one area: "effect on number of parking and loading spaces"

As for parking, the Toronto Parking Authority need only re-invest a fraction of its $50 million in annual profits to build a few GreenP parking lots near Harbord that would allow us remove on-street parking. This would give us space to install uni-directional cycle tracks.

Too many compromises were made on Sherbourne. On Harbord, let's bite the bullet and do the job properly.

Michael Black

Great post!

I am been both a supporter and critic of the Harbord protected lane plan, but this design would completely satisfy me.

I support the idea of separated lanes on Harbord, but don't think bi-directional lanes are appropriate on a bidirectional street with so many unsignalized intersections (where conflict cannot be avoided through separate phases).

Riding in Montreal's bidirectional lanes, I witnessed and experienced a number of very scary close calls, where vehicles turned across the path without seeing a cyclist.

Sure, the Netherlands does have many bidirectional paths, but they are in the suburbs where intersections are few and almost always signalized (or a roundabout). The only bi-directional paths in the centre of Amsterdam are the access points to Centraal station, and the path through the Museumplein park. In Dutch city centres, the form of cycle infrastructure is almost always uni-directional separated paths.

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