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.


I'm really conflicted about this kind of thing. I guess I am a "hardcore" cyclist because I'm happy to ride with the cars, take my lane when I should and all that, but that isn't really the point;

I don't want to give up on everybody sharing the existing roads in a better way. Separated lanes feel kind of like caving in to car culture, affirming for people that cars and bikes should not occupy the same space.

On the other hand, perhaps I'm just being naive and should just accept that North American motorists will never learn to share the road better and this is for the best, especially since it does make cycling seem more safe to the majority.

I do question, though, whether cycle tracks really are more safe. Feeling safe (comfortable) and being safe are not the same thing.

Last question: Where will fast "hardcore" cyclists ride? Street? CycleTrack? Both?

They should just close down Hoskin / Harbord / Wellesley to cars entirely and make a bicycle superhighway.

Rantwick, I have to agree that "feels comfortable" does not necessarily equate to "is safe". The people who are judging that separated tracks "feel safest" are the ones with least experience.

I am not sure I would want to be cycling with a lot of riders with little experience and little desire to gain skill....as much as I would not want to drive a car in the presence of drivers with little experience and little desire to gain skill.

Not exactly parallel, but having the seats too low on a bicycle with underinflated tires also feels more comfortable....until the knees start aching, and fatigue sets in. Dutch-style cruisers may be more comfortable....until the day when you need to ride from the Humber to downtown along the Martin Goodman trail and there's a brisk east wind blowing. It will take you forever.

As for where to ride hardcore, I invite you down to facility-free Richmond and Adelaide, where anything goes. Heck, I don't feel comfortable or enjoy riding here in rush hour (as I am commuting, it's hard to avoid). But my other option is to take the streetcar or GO train. Or, facetiously, walk my bicycle on the sidewalk from Yonge to Spadina.

I'd be totally good with an entire street closed off for cyclists, though. Even if there are a lot of poor riders out, there's room to avoid them.


While I do ride on Toronto's streets with cars, and I have done so for over thirty years, I'd really prefer not to.

I have a wife and we have two kids. I'd prefer if they didn't have to ride with Toronto's drivers who honk for no reason, shout (incomprehensible stuff) at us, throw stuff at at, drive too fast and too close to us.

My wife is not comfortable riding on the streets, and she's even less comfortable letting our kids do it.

If you and I want to be one of the few riding, then we don't need bike lanes or cycle tracks, nor any of that. But I want my wife and my kids to ride, and to enjoy the experience. I also want more of my neighbours, the ones who think that I'm foolhardy for riding a bike in traffic, to be riding bicycles as well. And if it will take more bike lanes and cycle tracks to get them riding a bike to get to places rather than them taking their cars, then I'm all for it!

And it doesn't mean "affirming car culture," because -- where they did it successfully in Europe, it was done as a direct attack on car culture; achieved by removing parking and driving spaces.

So what's the point of this new-age bicycling advocacy? What is it trying to accomplish?

Getting "more riders out" and giving "safe places to ride" for the unsure and the timid is all very nice. Will they become regular riders? How far will they ride? WIll they ride to get places, or will they ride (as I see from my front porch all the time) around the neighborhood on a nice evening? Will they care about bicyclinjg infrastructure?

The bicycling infrastructure needed to support occasional riders out for a slow trip around a few blocks is quite different from infrastructure that allows a bicycle to be a useful tool for going places. (And reinforces the "bicycle is a toy" mentality.)

Anthony, how are your wife and kids going to get to Harbord to ride around? Since we're putting all our money into separating existing bike lanes, I think it will be a cold day in hell before we get, oh, even a painted bicycle lane on The Queensway to Royal York.

As for Adelaide/Richmond, there's no need to cater to eight-year-olds or eighty-year-olds, as they are not likely to be riding there. (I don't ride there for fun; I ride there because I'm trying to get somewhere, and can't avoid downtown traffic.) Just make something better for all the people who do their best to commute to all those office buildings. A painted bike lane would be just fine.

Getting "more riders out" and giving "safe places to ride" for the unsure and the timid is all very nice. Will they become regular riders? How far will they ride? Will they ride to get places, or will they ride (as I see from my front porch all the time) around the neighborhood on a nice evening? Will they care about bicyclinjg infrastructure?

I am glad you asked. We have answers for that - in the burbs. In Scarberia, of all places. Quite often it's the older generation that remembers that bikes are useful.

Do they ride regularly - yes. They ride to the store, to visit friends and family or just to get out of the house. All season long, even through the winter.

How far do they ride? You can't get anywhere in the burbs without riding 5 to 15kms.

Do they care about cycling infrastructure?They are scared of cars - "They are trying to kill me" was one statement I got from a 60-year old heading towards Markham. And they found their protected bike lanes. You guessed it they cycle the side walks.
They know it's illegal but they find the sidewalk the only "safe" option (even though we darn well tell them that they are exposed to a different threat, the turning other vehicle at the nex intersection). I have stood in front of a room of such cyclists and taken questions on safety: yes, they want a safe infrastructure.

Ed, the answers to your questions are positive. You can project this lesson to the downtown situation. If you can see that, you may also agree with Herb that protected bikelanes will draw a large number of commuters from the car and TTC to the bikes. It's a promising plan that will increase the presence of bikes downtown and ultimately change attitudes of drivers and voters.

I too want more bike infrastructure. I ride year round and still feel more comfortable where I am on a bike lane. I know I wouldn't ride all winter if ther Martin Goodman Trail wasn't cleared.

I am involved in the TDSB bicycling committee. The TDSB wants children to ride to school for a number of reasons. For it to happen in a big way there needs to be proper infrastructure. Our committee is already looking at the bike rack issue and how to get cycling to score for Ecoschools. We will be looking at Safe Routes to Schools. Our major questions will be where are the bike lanes? Why are there gaps between them and how can they be filled.

We see it every year. Traffic increases dramatically when students go back to school. If we want them to ride, they need infrastructure.

Finally, seniors not riding in the suburbs is false. I live in Etobicoke and see seniors riding all the time. They ride within the community to do their chores. In Agincourt there is a very interesting trail proposal happening. Councillor Lee supports it. One of the main expected user groups will be Chinese seniors

I'm opposed to redoing Harbord at this time for a couple of reasons.
1) We really desperately need a complete network ahead of rebuilding an okay, not-perfect facility that was just upgraded a few years ago, though two bad spots eg. the connection to Wellesley and the end of Harbord at Ossington need work.
2) Because of the numerous intersecting streets all along Harbord St., the odds are high that it will be unsafe due to an increase in conflict points in varied turns all along it.

Not that facts matter, but the VeloQuebec folks based in Montreal where there are many bi-directional bike lanes indicate that there are a set of conditions that should occur before this type of route is installed eg. c. 300m between turns but the blocks all along Harbord are c. 75M eg. 25% of the standard.

So do injured cyclists and their familes get to sue Herb? How's the CycleToronto liability insurance?

And because of the whiff of bad politics about the separated lanes, this Harbord idea should be backburnered till after the next election, assigning the priority for urban work to catching up on already approved but undone projects from c. 2009 and 2010, and oh, Bloor is being rebuilt/paved and the part west of Ossington to Dundas St. W. is really important to fill in.


I like you, it was fun working with you on the Ward 20 Committee, but you are not being helpful here.

Killing the Harbord lanes will do nothing for Bloor. On the other hand, one of the best ways of getting Bloor lanes is getting proper protected lanes on Harbord.

Why? Because the more people that cycle the greater the demand for proper, safe cycling infra everywhere. Getting a lot more people using Harbord to cycle to where they live, work, shop, etc. means that those people will be wanting to use Bloor.

I find the Portland study to be very important. I cheerfully admit to being part of the "Strong & Fearless" top 1%. But the roads have to be for everyone, not just me.

One of the things that I found most interesting while in cities in The Netherlands was to encounter a large number of people who here would be in the category of the “30% who would never consider cycling.” But in The Netherlands they are getting around on bicycles.

After talking with about the fifth or sixth person who shattered the Dutch stereotype of "people who love cycling" by telling me how much they hated cycling even although they went everywhere by bicycle, I asked why. Not surprisingly, the answer was all about infrastructure. A typical response went something like this:

To drive a car to work, I would first have to walk from my home to the car parking garage. That would take about 10 minutes to walk, and renting a car parking spot would cost 75 euros a month.

The direct road to where I work is a through road for cyclists, but only a local access road for car drivers. To drive a car to work I would first have to drive out of the city, then drive around the city on the surrounding ring road until my car was adjacent to the sector where I work. Then I would have to drive my car back in to the city again and park it in a car parking garage that was a 10 minute walk from my workplace. The cost of this car parking garage is 85 euros a month.

Time to drive to work: 10 minutes walk from home to car parking garage, 25 minutes drive time and 10 minutes to walk from car parking garage to workplace. Total drive to work time: 45 minutes.

Time to cycle to work: 15 minutes. So I cycle to work every day, even although I hate cycling and love driving.

We can do the exact same thing in Toronto. Cycling is already much faster than driving a car. If it were only safer with cycling infra to Dutch engineering standards, we would have Dutch levels of cycle mode share.

Here is a brilliant cartoon that shows exactly what I mean:


Kevin Love

I love that image of cyclist trying to ride with the herd of elephants. She just wants to be accepted into the herd! http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/bikeyface/9267945196/

I couldn't imagine how separated cycle paths would work and was quite anti-cycle path once upon a time. Then I spent 3 weeks cyciing in Holland. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

I ride everywhere 7 months of the year. I live in Norh York, I work in mid-town, my family lives in Bloor West Village, in other words, I put a few kilometres on the bike.

I will take an off-road trail over a painted bike lane. I will take a painted bike lane over sharing a lane with cars. And I will take a cycle track over a painted bike lane. Not because I'm inexperienced. Not because I feel unsafe. It's just NICER.

And for the commenter that was wondering where the fast riders will go - the same place fast drivers go - to a track. Public roads are about sharing space, and sometimes sharing space means you go at a slower pace that suits the conditions. And yes I drive a dutch style bike and although I haven't done the Martin Goodman trail in a headwind, I routinely ride north from downtown in a headwind to get home. And it really doesn't take me more than a few minutes longer. But then, my bike ride is not a race - its a form of transportation.

The reasons I'm opposed to reworking Harbord are not because separations are not a nicer, safer thing as they are.

But even though Harbord isn't perfect now, the rest of the City needs far more work than rebuilding an existing lane entails, and that's what the Fordists do NOT want to do, and they are worth being suspicious of because they don't truly care if they screw up a street in the core or harm cyclists if they can foster division in a core community and within core councillors.

We need connections far more than rebuilds, extensions of east-west far more than rebuilds, as we go well beyond a smaller route in the core.

There are also some real drawbacks, including safety, to what's proposed.

There are too many conflict points with these bi-directional lanes unless there's a move to close off some of the side streets - traffic mazes are hot items for a councillor.

Also, there are some real issues with turning points eg. from Harbord to St. George southbound, and also going along QPC southbound where the lanes narrow to proposed 2.4M on a sharp right-angled turn. Guaranteed crash time! and more space won't be available because the cars need all their space right?

People really need to be smarter politically and functionally in what they seek and promote.

Just to show I'm not averse to bi-directional in the right circumstances, I'd put out a thought of a living legacy for Layton lanes on the Danforth, but there's one complication with this: there are a lot of short blocks interfering with any bi-directional lanes on the north side between Broadview and Pape especially. But apart from that complexity, which would be trouble for Ms. Fragedakis and planners, it would be a good enough solution to Danforth biking from Sherbourne out to say Victoria Park for maybe 7kms?


A few brief interjections:

  1. Stopping the building of separated lanes on Harbord gets nothing in return.
  2. Remember that there are actual engineers planning and designing this work.
  3. Under Ford there will be no new bike lanes, so if the only "take" is trails, cycle tracks and retro fits, then that's what you do.

I hate to jump into this mundane discussion again, but it is time to move on already.

So last night I found that the (right) curb lane of Richmond is blocked off; apparently the Sheraton Centre is having some kind of reconstruction. The barriers were out to the very edge of the next lane, so there was no room for bicycles. I was stuck behind a bus, which was blowing diesel fumes and hot air from the cooling and A/C systems out at me. It made the regular heat of the day feel refreshingly cool. A young woman rode off to the left of the bus, squeezing in between the slowly moving bus and the traffic in the right middle lane. (And there are streetcar tracks there, too.) I'm too old to do something like that.

This morning, I came as close to being doored as I have in ten years, and it was my fault. I was trying to squeeze by to the right of stopped traffic on King Street--the alternative being stuck behind cars until rush hour ended. Just enough space to squeeze, one foot on the curb, and then one passenger in a car decided to get out. Fortunately I was not going fast. A bit of a stoppie on my part, and no one was hurt. I am kind of mindful of this risk, as I was once nearly doored by a taxi passenger flinging the door open while I was passing the taxi to the right (I thought it was going to be turning left....this was Wellesley just east of Yonge). edit: and before the bike lanes....I lived at Wellesley and Ontario between 1985 and 2006, and always had at least one bicycle in the apartment, later two and then three.

In the meantime, I am thrilled to hear that the non-riders of the Annex will be getting the bike lane, which they disdain to ride in, upgraded to a separated lane.

My issue with a separated cycle track is that it will become a space that is used by joggers, skateboarders and rollerbladers as well as cyclists. Add in a bunch of inexperienced cyclists, and it'll be just as bad as riding on the Goodman Trail. (In over 20 years of cycling, I have only ever had 1 accident in traffic, when I was deliberately hit. On the other hand, I have had 2 accidents - one serious - and several near-misses on the MGT.)

I had the same doubts as you at first, but when I rode the Dunsmuir lane for the first time (Vancouver) those doubts went away. It just feels so good!

Separated lanes don't imply caving in to car culture, in the same way that sidewalks don't. Why would they? Remember: the idea is to allow for people of all ages and abilities to be able to feel good cycling. That includes children.

It's not only North America that's building separated bike lanes. They're all over Europe, Asia, and parts of Latin America as well.

On a busy road, separated bike lanes are certainly safer. Yes, you feel safer, and you are actually safer as well. There are several studies floating around the internet to verify this. For a specific example, check the City of Vancouver's report on the Hornby lane. Collisions of all types (bike/ped/motorist) are down significantly since the introduction of the separated bike lane.

David Weil:

Have you ridden separated bike lanes in other cities? They are not the unwashed-masses collectors you fear. They actually work really well.

I have not ridden in very many other (non-Canadian) cities, and that mostly in Italy and southern France where the drivers are very good at sharing the road (and there were no separated cycle tracks).

Admittedly, I am arguing by anecdote, but the one time I tried riding on Sherbourne's wonderful new separated bike lane, I had deal with a cyclist who seemed incapable of riding so that anyone could safely pass him, squeeze by an oncoming jogger (fortunately past the rolled-kerb portion) who apparently saw no need to use the sidewalk, and avoid a skateboarder who was slaloming to lose speed (or maybe just because it was fun).

These people are not going to magically disappear when a separated cycle track is created. I don't understand how people think they will; wasn't it here that someone commented that at least one local running club is telling their members to run in bike lanes?

Thanks for this post Herb, it addresses a lot of the concerns I heard from veteran cyclists at the public consultations on Harbord/Hoskin.

The most common complaint I heard was "It will be too slow, how will I pass?". Even if this fear comes true, it is as they say a "Rich man's problem". As Yogi Berra might have said "nobody uses the paths because they're too crowded".


Just a note - debate and discussion online is great, and in person is even better.

But when speaking to local residents, politicians, BIAs, and media in a public consultation, please consider the impression you're giving. If the message is "The cycling community can't agree on what they want", then what we'll get is precisely zero.

The separated cycle paths in Vancouver are really good. I have rarely been slowed down by anyone on them. I've learned to ding my bell before I get close to them. Also I've learned to figure out who is experienced and who is a tourist on a rental bike and be able to predict what they might do. I keep to the right myself so faster people can pass me.
Anyway, separated lanes are not a problem for the confident people who are currently cycling and they make all the difference for others. I know grown men who only cycle on the separated paths and the seawall. They won't go anywhere else. They are the type of people who are the future cyclists and will be part of the change of politics about it all.
Cars are not what they were even a few decades ago. They're taller and more powerful and when you drive them you're more insulated from the outside and the effect you have on others. I'm capable of running with the elephants but I just don't want to. I'd rather have nothing to do with them. Having a separated cycle path is not giving in to car culture. Car culture will be up and down depending on gas prices and whatever other factors are happening. Taking a fraction of the street to dedicate to a certain mode of travel isn't going to effect it at all.

My advice for people in Toronto, work toward making sure the next wave of councillors and the next mayor are pro-cycling. Start cultivating potential politicians now. If anyone is making waves about throwing their hat in the ring, start talking to them and informing them of a large currently unserved electorate. It took many years in Vancouver but now nobody can hope to get in power if they are anti-cycling. It's still tough and there are still people out of touch and plugged into car-culture spouting off the same lies and misconceptions but things are much better than even a couple years ago.

It's not that separations aren't going to be good, it's really simply that the Harbord context and existing block configurations do NOT fit the criteria for good safe bi-directional lanes because there are too many intersections and the road is too tight, and it's two-way traffic vs. much of that bi-directional on one-ways in both Vancouver and Montreal.

The illlustrations in this post show greater width elsewhere, and downplay the pinch points that are proposed for Harbord, eg. at Queen's Park southbound and turning left southbound on St. George.

I'm sorry I no longer have enough respect for City staff to do things right, but for those who do, staff weren't recommending this be changed, but it's the politics of ensuring a square peg gets hammered in,

There were almost 350 emails of support for doing Richmond/Adelaide at the Nov. 3, 2011 PWIC meeting - and how is that coming along? Only two years ago? Hmmm. no bike lanes yet, though R/A has been within the Bike Plan for a good 12 years and there's a clear set of dangers in that area and we need that east-west lower core safety just as we do further north, just that Harbord ends at Ossington and then what?

Harbord already has a pretty good bike lane, yes, it's imperfect in spots, but the dangers did decrease a mere three years ago with the deal that the Bike Toronto folks brought in, though I did push the fuller bike lane connection but Yvonne was also working for Mr. Vaughan's re-election I believe. And he's on the whole pretty good, just with bike issues, like John St. and R/A, he's more on the wrongheaded side.

The proposed bi-directional on Harbord will be a detriment to the route being such a good facility, it'll be more dangerous I think, and the push should be for more/new bike lanes elsewhere, including by not overloading staff. The unified stance should be, "Low priority; knock this back by a couple of years; clear up the backlog from approvals in 2009/2010 that aren't done yet; R/A. and what about Bloor?"

Again, I'm not opposed to bi-directional eg. maybe it could work for much of the Danforth, starting even at Sherbourne with the one Big Problem area being Broadview to Pape with all the short blocks; and there's another segment east too that has some of that problem.


I like you and respect you, but you are being very counter-productive here.

If there is something that we might actually get and we ever start to communicate a message "Low priority; knock this back by a couple of years..."

Then guess what? We get NOTHING.

Harbord could look like this:


But only, of course, if we stop whining and undermining the leadership of Cycle Toronto and start pulling together.

Kevin Love

Oh dear, I'm not with the program!

Does Cycle Toronto have good liability insurance for the crashes that will occur in what's proposed as it does seem unsafe/inadvisable according to the criteria from the Velo-Quebec folks, and they have a lot of experience with bi-directional.

The leadership of the CT/Bike Union may well have brought us Mayor Ford btw. in that pushing for bike lanes on Jarvis, with needing-fixing parallel bike lanes on Sherbourne, helped that "war on the car" rhetoric, and while yes, it made sense to get some changes happening with a road rebuilding etc., we don't always have to have full bike lanes to improve a sense of safety, and a middle group there of a wider curb lane would have meant pedestrians would have taken the friction.

So much of the rest of the City, (going beyond Bloor for a change, but still being guided by mere crash stats) needs to have something done for it, that it is a waste of money and staff time to change around a relatively good, and existing bike lane recently fixed up. So given how delayed getting to things are in this City, focus on the backlogs, get Richmond and Adelaide done in this term, and chill out on this push for an unsafe facility.

But where would a good transition point be between the Wellesley lane and the Harbord/Hoskin? I think at Queen's Park is an obvious spot, but I am also very tired of all the film trucks endangering cyclists by occupying the south side of the eastbound travelling, so maybe a north side extension to St. George St.? - but I'd really like to see good detaild drawings first.

I've just found some Danish opinion on the two-way option from **Collection of Cycling Concepts 2012 ** on p. 85 as we mostly like Europe I think.
"Two-way cycle paths along the road should not be placed where there are many side roads or driveway entrances and exits crossing the path, eg. through cities."

It continues: "Safety issues arise when the two-way path crosses a side road because motorists often don't realize that there may be cyclists coming from the "wrong" side. The solution here is to establish a one-way cycle track on each side of the road instead."

Thank you Clark - good advice from Vancouver.

It really helps to get some first-hand experience with these different types of infrastructure. I just returned from a trip to Vancouver and experienced first-hand their uni and bi-directional cycle tracks (I've previously also used Netherlands extensive network of both).

Cities like Vancouver are installing some bidirectional, Amsterdam and Rotterdam have existing bidirectional cycle tracks, and NACTO is offering it in their guide, because bidirectional is considered safe. There may be ways to make it even better by splitting it up into unidirectional but it isn't required to create a safe cycling route.

The cycle track will be plenty wide to allow for easy passing, even wider than Vancouver's bidirectional cycle tracks (which is about 2.5 m according to my rough estimate). With 3.5+ m width the cycle track would be more than two of me put head to toe. That's pretty wide.

Regarding Richmond/Adelaide, there is an ongoing Environmental Assessment. There is no way around it. It will be completed by the end of the year and Cycle Toronto is going to push to get it installed before the next election. Note that public works Chair Minnan-Wong is also pushing hard to get both Harbord and Richmond/Adelaide done soon. It's good politics and it's good for cycling.

Note that some comments here tend to be just merely repeating the exact same arguments over and over so I might close the thread if it starts to get boring and repetitive.

An Environmental Assessment for a bicycle lane? Someone might be afraid of the damage bicycles might do to the pavement, the air pollution from bicycles, and health of the riders, I guess.

I'm not really for or against separating lanes on Harbord, though it seems to me that Hamish has raised some realistic problems (and a couple of suggested solutions) that do not merit the vitriol spewed in these comments.

The real issue, IMO, is that there's no pressing need for or advantage in all the fuss, energy and money being thrown at this street. It works not badly as it is, though probably not at full potential.

What there is a real need for is bike lanes on Bloor, the longest and easiest potential to greatly improve cycling south of Eglinton. This is not a pipe dream as it is relatively inexpensive to implement in most sections, particularly as (unlike St. Clair, College, Dundas, Queen and King) it has no streetcar tracks. In fact, it would complement the subway underneath.

Thus, IMO, the Harbord lane separation amounts to a diversion of time, energy and money from the real cycling need: just two blocks away, and much, much longer BIKE LANES ON BLOOR.

Great dialogue, gang. Intriguing points on all sides. Sorry I'm a little late to the party.

My thoughts:

1. The Harbord cycle track is a priority for DMW, PWIC, Cycle Toronto and much of the cycling community, and will be built.
2. We should move beyond the "should we/shouldn't we" debate.
3. We should focus on making sure it is built to the highest standard possible, with specific solutions to specific problems.

Unabridged version:

The cycling community may not be 100% united in favour of the cycle track, but we will never be united against it. With the support of Denzil Minnan-Wong, PWIC, Cycle Toronto, and many cyclists, this project will be built. In the end, cyclists will mostly support it, but be better informed about its limitations (and the limitations of the city) thanks to dissenting voices. Therefore, I believe the smart approach at this point is to move beyond "should we/shouldn't we", and focus our efforts on safe design.

Now, Toronto's off-road trails are different from the proposed bi-directional Harbord cycle track for much of their lengths, but at intersections they are very similar: 2-way bike traffic crossing in proximity to a ped crosswalk and arterial roads. A few thoughts from a cyclist who commuted the length of Eglinton through Etobicoke for a couple years:

1. No right turn on red: this is the single most dangerous part of the bi-directional cycle track intersection. Right-turning cars simply do not expect bikes to be coming from their right side. If right turns on red are allowed (as they are on Eglinton), southbound cars pulling up to make a right on Harbord are going to glue their eyes to the left as they blindly roll through the crosswalk and bike path. Cyclists coming from the right will be invisible, and, unless they have Joey Schwartz-calibre shouting skills, they will have a difficult time getting noticed. No right turn on red should be implemented on southbound streets at Harbord, westbound Harbord, northbound streets at Eglinton, eastbound Eglinton, as well as other locations.
2. Turning/proceeding at stop signs: the same "blind roll" issue exists at southbound stop-sign intersections (in this case, Jersey Ave, Markham St, Robert St, and Devonshire Pl). The stop sign, stop line and STOP HERE: CHECK FOR BIKES <--> on-road paint should all be placed before the crosswalk, not at the intersection with Harbord St. Southbound cars will (theoretically) come to a complete stop, then proceed with caution across the crosswalk, bike path, and Harbord. This will require police enforcement, as Toronto drivers (and cyclists!) tend to roll through crosswalks 1B% of the time. But how to prevent SB cars from blocking the path as they wait to turn onto Harbord? One solution would be to simply make the four southbound stopsign controlled sidestreets on the north side of Harbord into one-ways heading north, so all southbound traffic would be stoplight-controlled (already the norm by far). Even with this, though, we'll still have lots of southbound vehicles coming from driveways and laneways, so that CHECK FOR BIKES <--> paint and police ticketing may still come in handy.
3. Clear bike path markings through the intersections: the key is to make an unexpected piece of bike infra OBVIOUS to an unskilled, first-time Harbord driver. Sherbourne's green lanes are a good start, but I'd love to see some white chevrons in there, too, so drivers know to expect bikes coming from both directions. Eglinton's "dusty red stone" is hilariously useless considering the context; they are slightly prettier than a sidewalk, but absolutely nothing about them suggests "bikes here", even to cyclists.
4. Put the bike path in the right place: the layout should be Car-Bike-Ped, not Car-Ped-Bike, meaning the bike path should always be between the street and the sidewalk. This is not an issue on Harbord, but it should be changed on the Martin Goodman Trail near ON Place, Eglinton Trail everywhere, Windermere crossing Lake Shore Blvd, and others. Bad form, Toronto!
5. Why not put it on a "bump": when the bike path crosses minor side streets, it could be placed on top of a trapezoidal speed bump (like the crosswalks on Glen Cedar), forcing drivers to slow down and confront the infra in a direct, focused way. It would also provide a little physical separation WITHIN the intersections. The crosswalk should be included on the bump.
6. Why not give bikes and peds a "jump": advanced greens for bikes and peds would force stopped drivers to notice the cycle tracks, and allow bikes/peds to establish ourselves in the intersection (rather than the typical "ready-set-go", cars vs. bikes vs. peds, battle royale...BTW I believe we could eliminate 90% of "scofflaw cyclists always running reds" if advanced greens were more common at heavily-used intersections). This will require bike specific signals.

I don't personally know whether uni- or bi-directional lanes/cycle track make more sense on Harbord. I do know that whichever is there at any given time, it should be high quality and well-designed. The current layout is not that; one of Mr Wilson's concerns is that the cycle track will not be that. But instead of scrapping the whole project (which is unlikely to happen), I propose we iron out as many "Harbord kinks" as possible.

Given this cycle track is going to be built, we, as leaders in the fast-growing Toronto cycling community, should demand the city build a high quality, safe, intuitive, idiot-proof, physically separated cycle track, and we should tell them exactly what we expect that to look like.

Now, who wants a bagel?

I would expect that a bicycle-only signal phase will be used. No right on red would still be required. Hopefully the bicycle phase will be reasonably frequent and last a reasonable length of time.

Actually, with the number of side street lights that only change due to someone pressing the button, or a car sitting over the detector loop, when and how would the bicycle signal be activated??

As you point out, no right on red would be required on Harbord/Wellesley as well. However, what happens when the light is green for Harbord/Wellesley? That's why I'm thinking of bike-only signals, which are green only when all other directions are red.

How do other cities implement bi-directional bike lanes that are on one side of a busy street, with lots and lots of intersections?

I strongly agree with the idea of forbidding right turns on red when traffic would cross a bike path - this is the single largest source of danger to cyclists at the (generally badly designed) Ontario Place/MGT crossings. That, and somehow explaining to drivers what a "stop line" is, and what it means.

My preferred way to achieve this would be to install those "severe tire damage" spikes to pop up on the red phase of the signal. Presto, no more bike path incursions! :)

I don't know why no right turn on red isn't an automatic policy; except for saving a very few drivers (those few who don't get stuck sitting in the bike lane until the green signal because they can't make their turn for all the traffic) a few seconds that it would take the light to cycle, allowing right turns on red only makes the intersection more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians.

I'm not sure I agree with the idea of a special bike lane signal phase; it effectively serves to reduce the capacity of the intersection by 1/3, and I'm not sure anyone would go for that. (I've seen some vids - posted on an entirely different kind of board - of the delay that adding transit-only phases can cause for an intersection, and that was only happening on demand, not on every cycle. The point there was that it wasn't even good for a smoothly-running transit system.) I've ridden a couple of places with a 2-second head-start for bike/pedestrian signals, and I thought that worked well (coupled, of course, with no-right-turn-on-red).

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