Has Buckley brought over his "relaxed parking" bike lane philosophy over from Philadelphia?

Someone asked me last week why our Transportation Services chief, Stephen Buckley, doesn't want—or seems very reluctant—to install barriers on the Richmond and Adelaide "cycle tracks" (despite council voting for them 39-0 and despite Buckley signing up to NACTO's bike guide which defines cycle tracks as being physically separated). I replied that I don't know but I poked around and I think I have some clues.

I present Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services.

Buckley comes from Philadelphia, a city which has done the bare minimum for their sizable, passionate cycling population. Philadelphia has done little to address the problems with painted bike lanes and Buckley appears to be doing the same here.

Philadelphia is a large city with a city-wide average 2% bike mode share (compared to Toronto's city-wide average of 1.7%). This is high for a large American city, though it's more useful to compare the downtowns: Toronto's mode share jumps to around 10% while Philly's is a more modest 5%.

Under Buckley's watch Philadelphia installed pilot bike lanes on Spruce and Pine streets which were seen as major additions to the cycling network (and a major victory of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia). Yes, bike lanes are great news, but Buckley and the City took a very loose view to motor vehicles stopping in the bike lanes.

Going to church or synagogue? God's on your side if you park in the bike lane. Need to stop for a latte? Stop with Buckley's blessing:

Buckley said the city would make sure there is a "relaxed parking situation" for churches, since the bicycle lane will take up parking spaces.

Under the plan, strict no-parking regulations will be enforced on the bike lanes. But taxis and residents' vehicles will be allowed to stand briefly on the curb sides of Spruce and Pine. Horse-drawn carriages will be allowed to use the bike lanes, Buckley said.

And this is the result:

Pine Street bike lane used for godly parking (Source: this old city). Note that the actual bike lane is under the line of parked cars; what you see is just the buffer.

And it gets even worse. The bike lane is too inviting for jerks as a quick way to pass a long line of traffic.

Source: this old city

And under Buckley's watch we've seen much the same with our completely permeable "cycle tracks":

Source: Ben Spur of Now Toronto who, in 45 minutes of walking the length of the Adelaide cycle track counted 27 vehicles in the cycle track, including 9 being driven in it.

(Ironic note: the Philly blogger posted a picture of a "bike lane" protected with planters in Toronto which turns out to be just the clusterfuck that is John Street.)

It's not surprising then that Buckley has carried this view over to Toronto. Buckley perhaps doesn't mind if cars end up stopped in the bike lane despite the fact that Toronto specifically created a new stricter by-law for cycle tracks that forbid all vehicles but emergency vehicles and utility trucks from stopping there.

You don't need barriers if you have no intention of preventing all vehicles from stopping in the bike lane. Buckley is working on improving enforcement, to his credit, but despite his naive quotes to the media he must surely know that it is quite impossible to promise a 100% car free bike lane with just a parking enforcement officer going back and forth.

The whole idea of a bike lane becomes untenable on really busy streets like Richmond and Adelaide where it doesn't matter if drivers are just stopped for a short time; multiply that by ten, twenty or thirty and the bike lane starts becoming completely useless as a safe commuter route.

And that's not even addressing the issue of couriers, cabs and tow trucks using the lanes constantly throughout the day. Enforcement won't work with them because these companies treat fines as just the cost of doing business. As Councillor Layton mentioned on Twitter: "earlier this term we doubled the cost of the ticket and made them so they could not be challenged in court. It still didn't deter."

Much the same happens in Philadelphia. A cyclist named Lucas described how a "stand briefly" policy becomes a solid line of parked cars:

I live on Pine, and when coming home tonight, I was forced out of the bike lane by a solid line of parked cars occupying it between about 19th and 16th (and not for the first time...). There are very clear signs posted saying "no parking at any time."

Enforcement didn't work in Phily, it's unclear how Buckley thinks it'll work in a city with a much busier downtown.

Buckley should be reminded that there is ample evidence that protected bike lanes (aka cycle tracks) make for safer cycling. And he should be reminded that it's not just about writing tickets to cars that stop in the bike lanes; the barriers on cycle tracks encourage more people to take up cycling. It's not just about abstract numbers that people are relatively safe, but that they feel safe enough that they'll leave their car at home and take up cycling. The vast majority of people will only take up cycling if they can bike on quiet side streets, bike trails or cycle tracks with barriers that separate them from motor traffic. Anything less is a failure in trying to bring more people to cycling.

It seems that Toronto was trying to slowly catch up to cities like Montreal and NYC with their expanding networks of protected bike lanes, but our Transportation chief seems content with emulating Philadelphia; a city with no protected bike lanes (this example is technically a river-side trail). That's not what I'd call having high ambitions of growing the cycling mode share here.


This is a good post. It helps to have the background of Mr. Buckley shared. But the friction about not getting the Council directives followed and making it easier to have motorists to drive and park atop a new "separated" facility, must also be viewed in the larger context of his department, and yes, the Councillors.
Councillors can often vote in unanimity or majority for many things, but the followthrough is pathetic, if it happens at all, because implications of doing things and following through mean change, real change. There was a vote to be doing far more for the Toronto Target/greenhouse gas reductions for instance, back in 2009 maybe? - and with a rightful focus on transportation as it has led our GHG emissions as a sector. (It remains salient as noted in the fresh ECO report on Ontario GHGs called "Looking for Leadership"). Some of the measures in this 2009 initiative/approval of Council related to bikes and the "short-term" measures for change, some of which still need doing.

Like Bloor being studied/done.

The 1992 report analyzing where to put bike lanes in the old City was also a response to the climate crisis and trying to do something about the Toronto Target, which has become far more like a breakthrough banner for car ads and spectacles rather than any real reduction as there's indicators that we have a complete Fail on the 20% reduction and are 20% over baseline . Sigh.

And in some ways, I think we're lying about our actual emissions levels - but that is a topic few wish to explore - and to be fair, it is quite complicated.

But Bloor was #1 in 1992; we haven't even managed to spend the $20,000ish to repaint that bit of Bloor St. E. that made it into the 2001 Bike Plan, that bit between Sherbourne and Church.

So any slipperiness and evasion and EAvasion in case of Bloor St. in Yorkvile etc. has to be seen as just part of the normal practice of the City, and I think all of the Councillors including the progressives sold us out on central Bloor.

Hmm - maybe somebody could scoop up a bunch of orange cones from a lane-occupying movie shoot and put them along R/A and Simcoe?

And how much would these bollards cost? The bike symbols are only $200; so how much for each bollard?

Philadelphia it made it to number 17 of 20 in 2012 in Bicycling Magazines top US cities for cycling.

The US is a country with some of the worst cycling infrastructure in the developed world.

Chicago , New York , San Francisco and Washington are well in front of this American backwater for their separated cycling infrastructure.

You're comparing apples and oranges Hamish. Those twenty year old resolutions were vague and only in principal for the most part. It's not the same as a specific resolution to build a bike lane.

And what does it matter what a bollard costs? First, aren't we a "world class" city with lots of money dedicated to transportation? Can't a small portion be assigned to cycling? Second, a bollard is very likely going to be cheaper than enforcement. Third, are you in favour of barriers for protection or do you also see it as unnecessary?

I was hoping to see this kind of research into Buckley's past experience. Thanks.

Mr. Stephen Buckley, in reviewing your performance as Transportation Services Chief for the City of Toronto, I personally find it UNSATISFACTORY. Your contract should not be renewed, and any severance package should be withdraw, "with cause".

Unfortunately, with Denzil Minnan-Wong as chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, backed by Ford Nation, that's not going to happen.

Minnan Wong advanced physically separated bicycle lanes on Richmond Adelaide with the support of Ford.

Except their "physical separated" must not be at the loss of road space or road lanes to the car. Rob prefers to keep them off-road, in parks and river valleys, away from the roads.

You are correct generally.

In the specific here however Minnan-Wong supports taking out a lane of traffic from both Richmond and Adelaide.

The real mistake is that we've hired someone to run our transportation services from the US, when we should have hired someone from Europe or Asia.

So what can we do to get rid of this guy?

It's interesting to see the difference between what Transportation Staff has been saying to the media and what they say in today's letter to Cycle Toronto.

To the media, senior officials often said they thought enforcement was a model that could work, that they saw few infractions or that bollards caused more problems than they solved.

Now they explain there is an ongoing formal study of the enforcement model.

The difficulty is that senior staff betrays their bias by defending the enforcement model before the data is in.

The fight for full separation in Toronto has only just begun. Our transportation staff remains stubbornly attached to sub-par road design; even when the successes of separation are painfully obvious in other North American jurisdictions. (And as Herb notes, Toronto following the Philadelphia model is like Chevy making and selling Gremlins).

This EA is an opportunity to prove physical separation works and it's necessary in Toronto.

We must record as many of these infractions as possible so that we have our own anecdotal data to contribute in consultation through the EA process. As cyclists, we know from experience that enforcement does not work, but we still need the evidence to back that up in the form of pictures and a record of infractions.

Let's remember city staff made a complete mess of studying John Street for that EA. That mistake caused a 6 month delay, eroded trust and resulted in the current cycling debacle on John Street. Let's prevent more debacles.

Regarding couriers, cabs, and tow trucks, you need dedicated loading zones for 'em. That means getting rid of general-purpose parking to make room for the loading zones.

The alternative is the double-parking nightmare of New York City.