Sherbourne cycle track is getting plowed: another step closer to normalizing winter cycling

The Sherbourne cycle track is being plowed! In one sense this is banal and hardly anything to get excited over. But since cyclists are routinely ignored when it comes to city services, this could be viewed as an important step in terms of normalizing cycling infrastructure. Where Toronto's road services staff previously largely ignored bike lanes and paths, they now have specific equipment and directives to clear the Sherbourne cycle track. Because the City had started clearing the Martin Goodman Trail (started under Mayor Miller) and purchased plows that could fit the width of a trail, it meant that it became that much easier to start plowing the Sherbourne cycle track.

@larrylarry tweeted this photo of the freshly plowed Sherbourne cycle track, the day of the Christmas storm. Some people have pointed out problems. While these are valid issues with using the lane, I'm more interested in how the gears at City Hall are slowly shifting. And where we can best put pressure for further change.

It is rare to find a bike lane that is being properly plowed. Almost all of them suffer from either not being plowed at all, or where parked cars entering and leaving will push it full of snow again, making them largely unusable. Sherbourne cycle track suffers from some of that and a new problem of pedestrians using it instead of the unplowed sidewalk. But these are not problems inherent to a cycle track.

Sherbourne is a mixed bag - not everything is working well, particularly the issue of cars parking in the cycle track - but this isn't the end of the story. The City will tweak it and cycling advocates will push for improvements both on Sherbourne and for future cycle track plans. The major improvement is that the City is setting higher standards for cycling infrastructure and this will have bigger benefits down the road.


West Toronto Railpath is not being plowed. The Martin Goodman trail is being plowed. Plowng coverage for cycling infrastructure is spotty across the city.

West Toronto Railpath is not being plowed. The Martin Goodman trail is being plowed. Plowing coverage for cycling infrastructure is spotty across the city.

People are not supposed to dump shovelled snow off their sidewalks and dump it into the street. But they still do, when they are supposed to dump the shovelled snow onto their grass or private property.

Love your optimism here, I really do. Unfortunately, it looks from this photo, and others I've seen posted elsewhere, that the only portions being plowed are the bus stop bump outs...

I'd be really interested to read about any specific snow clearing plan that the transportation folks have put into play for this new cycle-strack infrastructure, and similar such as the Roncesvalles transit platforms that bikes are expected to ride over. Doesn't look good so far though :(

The Martin Goodman Trail is listed as a transportation corridor, therefore it gets plowed. West Toronto Rail path, Waterfront Trail etc. are listed as recreational, therefore they don't.
It is for this reason that when the Mimico Linear Park Trail was opened the city insisted it is a recreational trail. They are willing to build some off road trails in Toronto but don't want to believe any cyclist would use them in the winter

I was out for a ride yesterday (Jan1) and was pleased to see the Sherbourne cycle track plowed. I rode northbound from Carleton to Bloor and had a clear path the entire way, save one car parked in the lane!

This is great that they're plowing it. Something to be ready for is sometime in the future, the news media making a big stink about the bike lanes being plowed before the regular lanes. They did that in New York and here in Vancouver.
It's more trashy journalism, just trying to create divisions amongst the masses again but it'll probably happen there one day. Be ready to respond to it.

Eglinton Avenue West bike path still not plowed. Bicyclists have to use the plowed pedestrian walkway or use the road.

Off road paths should ALL be plowed. However, the Ford administration wants to separate bikes from cars, preferably far from the road. How about plowing them?

... the Ford administration wants to separate bikes from cars, preferably far from the road. How about plowing them?

Not a bad idea to get another foot in the door. Not all off-road paths are suitable. But bike paths that see good use in summer and that are in good enough shape so that mud, poor drainage and broken pavement don't create liability concerns for the City would be candidates.

This is an issue. Because it is a Transportation corridor, the MGT is cleared. The other off road bike paths are listed as recreational and therefore don't get cleared.

The most interesting is for those of us going to Etobicoke. Cleared until you reach the Thunderbird Bridge. On the other side it is the Waterfront Trail, a recreation trail therefore no clearing.

Toronto has plans to build more off road paths. They are multi use recreation paths which means they can be narrow and they don't get plowed. It is an issue the cycling community should be looking into

Plowing-out bylaw: how do we get it enforced?
Every year I make calls to nail down the details of the City's 'plowing out' bylaw. I hear it exists, but I cannot find it in print. That it is a $100 infraction to shove the snow from your prperty onto the street:
1) obstructs the street traffic (think 1999)
2) blocks street parking spots that people have paid permits to use
Another factor is that when property owners shovel their sidewalk snow onto the street, they are under the impression it is OK as long as they clear the sidewalk - which is the bylaw that the media trumpets. The common thread (I've had these conversations) "It's all City property, so who cares?"
I would really really REALLY appreciate input on this.

My calls to to Parking Enforcement resulted in a recommendation to 1) witness the act ('evidence') whereupon they might pay a visit to place a warning note at the property. BUT that took a lot of wrangling to pull out.

Google "toronto snow clearing bylaw". The bylaw will show, plus a raft of other considerations.

OMG, wait until the taxpayers find out!

Dancer, thou thpeaketh in riddleth....

Yes, there does seem to be a fairly good plowing job occurring on the new Sherbourne lanes. It's nice to see.

But in the other 99% of the City, including some bike lanes, the work is really inconsistent and is a deliberate endangerment of cyclists as it shrinks the lane width in a variable way. And while it is true that the City staff can do a nice job on a bike lane, only to have a delivery truck mess it up, in other areas - like the medians of University Ave. for instance - there's plain stupidity and piles of snow fully occupying the bike lane making a pinch point.

The TTC is absolutely part of the problem at their transit stops. Yes, the snow has to go some-wheres, but to completely fill the bike lane, or put out a perilous pinch point is wrong.

The City saved tends of millions by the warming-induced non-winter last year, and today there is a headline in the Star of the civic surplus being a surprise $232M.

There are small sidewalk plows. They are used by the City, including in many suburban areas on all the sidewalks.

There's no real excuse for not doing a better, safe job. They deserve lawsuits, and maybe less of the nice-nice that some groups/people give the city.

Thanks, Clark.

I've commuted by bike for about 15 years in Toronto from my house on the Danforth to the financial district. I've observed that in places where the sidewalk is directly adjacent to the road the city uses the painted bike lanes as a repository for both the road's snow and the sidewalk's snow. Bloor viaduct suffers this fate.

It is nice to see the new Sherbourne bike lane ploughed, but because it is now separated from the road I have noticed that the bike lane sometimes ices over overnight and does not benefit from the extra salt that is laid on the 'regular' road. Well, we can't have everything.

Unfortunately, when there's lots of fresh snow, it is often safer to ride amonst the cars, where the snow has been mashed to slush, rather than the painted bike lanes where the snow makes riding difficult, and hides ice patches and those nasty blocks of hardened slush that fall off of cars' wheel wells.

Bike commuters have a small voice in this city, but there are so few hardy winter bikers that I think the city regards us as the lunatic fringe who can be safely ignored.