Reluctantly thankful Toronto cyclist

It's easy to be negative. I've often had interactions with people who seem to have little to offer but criticism about the (lack of or poor quality) bike infrastructure in Toronto but also the City staff, politicians and even the volunteer activists. Heck, I'm often quite critical myself given the slow progress and occasional backwards steps. But it's healthy to focus on our blessings now and then. This is the day after all when Canadians are supposed to do count them up. So here goes. (Photo: Thank You letter from student to Mike Layton regarding Shaw Street)

I'm grateful that a lot of people have decided to use bicycles in Toronto for everyday transportation, particularly in downtown where some parts have up to 16% of people commuting to work by bicycle (according to Statscan's 2011 National Household Survey). According to recent counts by some Cycle Toronto volunteers, there are times of the day where cyclists make up about half (50%!) of all traffic on College Street during rush hour (see for yourself). Nearby streets such as Harbord and Queen have traffic mode shares that are above 40% and 30% respectively at rush hour.

Clearly there's a lot of latent demand for better cycling infrastructure.

I'm grateful that we finally might get a good east-west route through Toronto's core on Richmond and Adelaide. The environmental assessment is finishing by January and we'll hopefully get it approved and installed in 2014/15. Likewise, things are moving along on Harbord-Hoskin-Wellesley to provide a second safe cycling route through downtown. We'll finally be able to fill in the gap, have a showcase protected bike lane and provide a safe crossing at Queen's Park. And maybe we'll actually get the environmental assessment restarted for Bloor Street! (Word is that staff are suggesting it get rolled into the Dupont EA).

I'm grateful that even though it has been tough to convince enough politicians to support cycling (it's even been quite hard to get some so-called progressive councillors to override business fetish for curbside parking), we have a couple key bureaucrats who are quite supportive of cycling infrastructure. The General Manager of Transportation Services Stephen Buckley came from Philadelphia where he oversaw a number of new bike lanes. And Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmat understands the importance of safe, connected infrastructure and has fully supported protected bike lanes. She was key, for instance, in getting protected bike lanes on Eglinton for the LRT project.

We're even getting in some bike infrastructure right now. The contraflow bike lane is almost finished on Shaw Street. The bike trails on the Finch hydro corridor are being completed. Bike racks are being installed all along Queen Street between Gladstone and Manning as part of the City's pilot of intensifying available bike parking in key areas. And protected bike lanes on Wellesley will be built this year. It's more than nothing, it's something and it's useful.

(Photo by Tino of College Street bike parking that looks kinda like a car just to taunt those motorheads)

We've got bike tours of art in Art Spin and music fest in the Bicycle Music Festical. And we've even got a big Ai Wei-wei sculpture of bikes at City Hall. Lots of art and bike stuff going on.

The thing that makes me the most hopeful, however, is that cyclists are finally getting organized and becoming vocal. I'm grateful for all the people who put in lots of time to create a strong organization, Cycle Toronto (ne Toronto Cyclists Union). And I'm really grateful to my GF who spent years building the organization up, ensuring that it wasn't just a bunch of complaining cyclists but a savvy, strategic and well-organized group. Which brings me back to my original point. Cyclists who can also focus on the wins, big or small, are also healthier.

Comments

Great post Herb, accentuate the positive!

I recently rode the Finch Hydro Corridor from Jane to Younge, it was a nice ride and there was a decent amount of cycling traffic. I recall seeing a proposal to develop a bike trail along the tracks between Keele and Dufferin (the tracks run N/S parallel). The more railway and park trails they develop the better as far as I'm concerned. They don't get as much traction in the cycling community as they tend to promote separation between cars and bikes (and thus to some "ghettoize" the bicycle and support the dominance of the car on traditional roads), but I think we have a lot of undeveloped potential with this form of infrastructure.

And I'm really happy to hear about a contraflow bike lane on Shaw. Toronto cyclists have been cycling the wrong way on Shaw en masse for years, creating a real traffic hazard. The lane will make it clear where cyclists are to be, and will legitimize a route that is enormously popular with cyclists right now.
(much to my bafflement, Ossignton is much wider and much better paved with fewer stops, so I have no idea what the appeal of Shaw is, particularly North of Bloor).

Cheers,

Ian

http://cyclinggotham.blogspot.ca/

I am glad you mention the work along the Hydro corridors: it's one way to get east-west connections that go long distances. And they are enjoyable and safe, just what's needed to get the suburbanites onto their bikes and use them.

These corridors also spawn off new infrastructure, like the North Scarborough Green Loop: https://maps.google.ca/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=2021689589640508...

Designed to form a 12km of bike route for local use, it lets folks take the bike instead of the car to the 3 commercial centres of the area, over 20 schools, a ton on various sports fields and parks. Local councillors are on side and the City infrastructure folks have been great to move this project along. And it's a great route to just head out after work to get a short hour's worth of workout and wind-down time.

Right now, signs are going up to mark the route and promotion can switch into high gear.

How is the connection to the Finch Subway Station? A proper connection would feature the protected cycle path leading in a straight and unobstructed route to secure commuter parking.

Knowing Toronto's ability to foul up this sort of thing, I would be pleasantly surprised if they got it right.

We'll have to wait. Now they are working their way towards Bayview, then probably another two years before they reach the section in my area, at Birchmount. If I cycle to Yonge now, I can parallel McNicoll on the path for a while and then switch to McNicoll itself which turns into Cummer. Not bad, but I am looking forward to an all bike trail route.

I can't say for sure, but it looks like they may have opted for a sharrow rather than a contra flow bike lane on Shaw.

I took photos of the sharrows this AM (they can be found on my blog - http://cyclinggotham.blogspot.ca/ - I couldn't post them here as I don't have a flicker account), they are NOT painted lanes, they are not separated lanes, they are sharrows and they point South, not contra-flow.

Unless this is some sort of stop gap, they have not designated this a contra-flow lane.

Cheers,

Ian

http://cyclinggotham.blogspot.ca/

It's a contraflow. There's just a delay in getting the painted line. I happened to be talking with a planner today and brought this up. The sharrows are only to mark the intersections.

Well, I'll take your word for it, but the sharrows are pretty clearly pointing south (check out the blog pics) so if they plan on making this a contraflow lane it's going to look pretty odd with all the arrows pointing in the direction of the one way.

Still, its good to hear they are going with the contraflow lane

Cheers

Ian

Or you can check the City's website: http://www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/shaw/index.htm

Your photos don't indicate what portion of Shaw. There will be a contraflow for the whole extent of Shaw where it is currently one way. South of Dundas it will be sharrows.