Strange bedfellows and petitions galore!

anti-bike lane petition

In a funny twist, a handful of Harbord businesses have become bedfellows with a couple of activists, including one who previously fought for Harbord bike lanes, and are now trying to stop separated bidirectional bike lanes on Harbord. Meanwhile activist group Cycle Toronto has launched their own petition buttressing support for the lanes.

We the undersigned

On the anti petition side we've got a guy named Marko and a self-described "carmudgenly" cycling activist, Hamish Wilson. Their petition asks Councillors Layton and Vaughan to halt the plan for bidirectional separated bike lanes on Harbord, calling them "dangerous", citing Transport Canada (1). A reader sent me the photo above of the petition displayed prominently at Harbord Bakery and said they saw about 100 signatures (and there might be another hundred or so signatures captured elsewhere).

Meanwhile Cycle Toronto's petition in support of the separated bike lanes has over 220 signatures (here and in paper versions going around).

But even this isn't the only petition. In 2010, a petition for the separated bike lane network was sent to the public works committee and included the call to "complete and separate the Wellesley/Harbord bicycle lanes system and end the gaps in the system at Queens Park and on Harbord." It has about 150 signatures on it. A number of organizations and groups also sent letters of support at that time which if we counted all the people involved in those groups would add up to thousands of people (2).

Both councillors for Ward 19 and 20, Councillor Mike Layton and Councillor Adam Vaughan, have stated publicly that they support the separated bike lanes on Harbord. We'll see what these petitions mean for their continued support.

The centre of the battle

This is what it looks like near the Harbord Bakery currently: squeezing between moving and parked cars, and token sharrows. And where there are bike lanes they are typically treated by motorists as free parking.

I'm not alone in that estimation. People who signed the Cycle Toronto petition had similar comments. From Bradley:

I frequently bike on Harbord, and although it is a very good street for cycling, I don't believe Sharrows do anything to help cyclists, and separated lanes are the way to go to improve cycling in Toronto today and in the future. Bidirectional lanes are my preferred option for both safety and ease of movement, allowing easier passing and a mix of cyclists of different skill and comfort levels.

And from Jennifer:

I live in the West end and commute by bicycle daily along Harbord to the downtown core. Harbord/Hoskins is a well used biking route. While the current painted lines offer cyclists some amount of protection, the fact that cyclists must ride in between parked cars (which are often pulling out into traffic) and the busy roadway, and the busyness of the bike lanes, makes this route a perfect option for separated bidirectional lanes. I also use the Sherbourne Street bike route on occasion and the painted separated route makes cycling much more visible and predictable for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.

These responses are typical of people who are not "hardcore" cyclists used to mixing it up with the elephant herd. Most people, studies have shown, prefer separation.

Running with the elephants by

I don't think the anti group has clarified that they are fighting for a street that is already frustrating, unsafe and not even connected. Is that the kind of street they think most cyclists prefer? If so they're deluded.

Strange bedfellows

The businesses opposed to this plan seem to be led by the owners of the Harbord Bakery and Neil Wright, Chair of the Harbord BIA. They've been vocally opposed to bike lanes for decades. In the 1990s they fought off bike lanes in their domain and managed to do it again a few years ago.

I had thought that this opposition had softened when I attended a public meeting last fall organized by Councillor Vaughan, writing in my blog post that it was a mostly positive, albeit lukewarm, response from business. In fact, the owner of the Harbord Bakery even stood up to announce they have always been pro-bike, they had been one of first to install a bike rack! Alas, it was not to be. Instead a strange alliance formed to oppose the proposal.

Hamish Wilson was a key person in fighting for a complete Harbord bike lane in the 1990s. Wilson and a number of other activists worked doggedly for the bike lane. They measured out the street width to ensure that bike lanes could fit, talked to merchants, worked with City staff. But in the end City staff caved in to business concerns about losing some curbside parking and left two disjointed bike lanes to the east and west. And now the activist is fighting against bike lanes.

Why the opposition?

The BIA Chair and the Harbord Bakery seem to be dead set against bike lanes in any form, perhaps thinking that the bike lanes will hurt their businesses. But with New York City and elsewhere experiencing booming business revenues where bike lanes were built (revenues up 49% compared to 3% elsewhere), this has become more of an outdated notion. We now know that cyclists have more disposable income and shop more often).

It's easy to imagine why the Harbord businesses are opposed even though misguided, but I can't really understand the passion with which Marko and Hamish are fighting against this proposal. Perhaps it's fear of the unknown. In cities where bidirectional has been built I have found no such outcry.

Risky game

What the petition writers gloss over is that risk is always relative risk. We can't just label something "dangerous" and something else "safe". Is climbing a ladder "dangerous" or "safe"? It doesn't make sense to ask it that way. Instead we should be comparing the risk to something else. For instance, is climbing a ladder more or less risky than taking a shower? Likewise is a bidirectional separated bike lane riskier than riding next to the threat of car doors opening? To answer that question we need real data, not just opinion.

The UBC Cycling in Cities studies, for instance, are helpful in that they have shown that separated bike lanes are significantly safer than bike lanes next to parked cars. And Dr. Lusk's studies of separated bike lanes in Montreal showed that not only is cycling on bidirectional separated bike lanes more popular, they are** safer** than streets without any bicycle provisions (3). And this is despite the fact that Montreal's bike lanes lack many of the measures now used to make them even safer: green markings through intersections, set back car parking and so on.

The petition writers are just bullshitting if they claim they know a bidirectional bike lane is more dangerous than what we have currently on Harbord. They don't have the evidence to make such a claim. Transport Canada references a Danish study but no link to the study. We don't know the context, when it is relevant, how to compare it to other dangers, or how various cities have made modifications to make them better.

Furthermore, their claim of "danger lanes" begs the question, if they're so dangerous why do numerous cities still have bidirectional bike lanes and continue to build them? Montreal, New York, Vancouver, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and other cities all have bidirectional with no evidence of cyclists dropping like flies so far as I tell.

Bidirectional versus unidirectional - either is fine so long as we get them

Funnily, the anti petition could perhaps hurt the anti cause. The petition says they are "in favour of keeping Harbord's current unidirectional bike lane setup".

The bidirectional bike lanes remove fewer parking spots than a unidirectional bike lane. That's one main reason why City staff are proposing bidirectional: to save some parking. If some people are against the bidirectional, perhaps we should all push for unidirectional. If it means taking out all the parking between Bathurst and Spadina so be it. Isn't that a small price to pay for increased safety?

I wonder what would happen to the unholy alliance in that case?

The world has moved on

Meanwhile, we could have had this already (photo by Paul Krueger):

While we're still fighting old fights in Toronto the world has moved on. In the last few years we've seen North American cities move far beyond painted bike lanes by installing separated bike lanes all over their downtowns. New York, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Chicago and other cities are all building separated bike lanes. City officials have official guides. Studies show that separation is both safer and more popular. Dutch and Danish cities have had them for decades.

It seems to me that by teaming up with anti-bike lane businesses the petition writers are playing a dangerous game (or should I say risky?) that is going to make it harder to build bike lanes of any kind anywhere in this city whether it stops the bidirectional lanes or not.

1. The petition claims "According to research conducted by Transport Canada, experts conclude that bidirectional bike lanes are more dangerous than unidirectional bike lanes." I didn't receive any additional information, though I believe it's this link, which includes a reference to a Danish report that recommended unidirectional over bidirectional separated bike lanes saying bidirectional could create more conflicts at intersections. What the reference does not say is if the Danish compared bidirectional to painted or even no bike lanes at all.
2. Letters of support from: Cycle Toronto, the York Quay Neighbourhood Association, The U of T Graduate Student’s Union, University of Toronto Faculty Association, the Toronto Island Community Association, the St Lawrence Neighbourhood Association, the ABC (Yorkville) Residents Association, the Palmerston Residents Association, the Bay Cloverhill Residents Association, the Parkdale Resident Association, South Rosedale Residents Association, the Moore Park Residents Association, the Oak Street Housing Coop Inc., and Mountain Equipment Co-op.
*3. The study states: "our results suggest that two-way cycle tracks on one side of the road have either lower or similar injury rates compared with bicycling in the street without bicycle provisions. This lowered risk is also in spite of the less-than-ideal design of the Montreal cycle tracks, such as lacking parking setbacks at intersections, a recommended practice."


I thought part of Hamish's objection was that the money spent on 'expensive' separated bike-lanes on Harbord would alternatively fund more kilometers of "inexpensive" painted line bike-lanes in the rest of the city. While this is non-sensical on the face of it (If paint is truly cheap then why not have both?), there is a certain logic to those whose minds bend towards conspiracy theory. It goes like this... by promoting wide, safe & expensive bike-lanes as the only proper way to build that type of infrastructure the city is purposfully making it either too wide (it takes away too much space available to car lanes) or too expensive (to local rate-payers) so as to guarantee that the majority of Torontonians will oppose them and from then on the city will not have to build any more bike lanes because a): people don't want them, and b): the painted ones are just too unsafe.

I for one don't believe in such conspiracies, but I could imagine others may.

You don't really explain Hamish's anti-separated-lane position, aside from an oblique reference to cherry-picked Google quotes. Can you put a link or description in your post? Or am I missing something?

[Herb: I've updated the post with a bit more information. I don't have much more than just the wording from the petition to go on at this point.]

I too ride Harbord regularly, its a go to East/West route as I live near Ossignton where Harbord ends. I find it to be wide enough that even the parked cars in the bike lane are not too much of a problem (and there is even a coffee shop near my end of Harbord that tells motorists not to park there!) You can get "pinched" between parked cars and cars in the lane as mentioned, and I try to regulate my speed to deal with that. So for the most part the bike lanes work for me and seem to support pretty healthy cycling traffic.

However, anyone claiming that separated bike lanes are not as safe as painted unidirectional bike lanes is deluded. A separated bike lane prevents ingress by cars except in the most extreme of circumstances. Of course it is safer.

If it takes up less parking room (that I would have to see, because I'm not sure how it would work) that's just a bonus.

The thing to be remembered here is that businesses are not just thinking of the long term, they are thinking of the inconvenience of construction in the build up, and the fact that they very likely assume parking will be reduced. At the very least they will think it will be reduced near their business, which is all they really care about.

I have no idea why someone would advocate against a separated lane if it was in the offing, unless there were space concerns. Assuming that there aren't any, there is no question a separated lane is safer.



Without trying to argue his points (I'm not sure I fully agree), my understanding of Hamish's main points are (a) that there are too many road/laneway/driveway crossings of the proposed separated bike corridor for it to truly be safe and (b) bike flow that is in the opposite direction of the adjacent traffic lane is in danger from cars making turns across the bike lane without looking for bike traffic in both directions.

Based on my own experience, I can certainly believe the latter; that jibes with my own experience in places where existing bi-directional bike paths cross roads at intersections (e.g. Ontario Place, Lakeshore East). Cars will roll right into the bike lane to make their turn without once looking in the opposite direction to the left-to-right (from their point of view) car traffic they are trying to turn into. One reason I'm especially vexed to see new driveway crossings of the bikepath at Loblaws and Freshco at Leslie & Lakeshore.

Further, I have almost unlimited faith in the ability of Toronto to build unsafe cycling facilities. Look no further than the new separated bike lanes on Queens Quay east of Yonge, where the bike lanes are not situated far enough from the gates at the entrance to Redpath for a truck to pull up to the gates and not obstruct (or completely block) the bike lanes.

I believe Hamish is against separated lanes on Harbord because it is not Bloor
Hamish says he is against bidirectional lanes on Harbord
He doesn't say he would support separated unidirectional lanes on Harbord.
Hamish is undoubtedly reading this so why don't we stop speaking for him and let him tell us the answers

I actively partctpated in the establishment of the bike lanes on Davenport Rd between Dupont and Bay Streets, and saved the street from the damage which was threatened by a plan that would have eliminated vehicle parking on one side of Davenport, a design similar to what killed retail on Richmond St. years earlier.

As an avid cyclist, I favour the concept of a dedicated cycle lane, but not if it detracts from the viability of the business interests on the street. Also, parked cars form a buffer between auto traffic and pedestrians, which encourages pedestrian traffic.

Every attempt should be made not to alter the existing condition on Harbord with any plan that eliminates parking on both sides.

Brian, the bidirectional proposal will help keep parking on one side of the street.

Remember that people on bikes are customers too: in fact, they have more disposable money and shop more often (from TCAT study of Bloor Annex). And New York found that retail revenues where a bike lane was installed rose 49% compared to only 3% elsewhere.

If anything a bike lane can just as likely make businesses more profitable. With cyclists making up 30%+ traffic on Harbord this represents money that can be spent in the neighbourhood.

Separated bike lanes provide a buffer for pedestrians just as well. And don't people on bikes deserve a buffer?

I'm a bit irate at some of the slagging, and a narrow selection of "facts" vs. some inconvenient truths cited in a set of previous comments, where Herb threatened to close the thread instead of responding to them. But themes are: safety, cost, the viability of the street as a place and the politricks.

With safety - while imperfect in some ways, Harbord historically has been less dangerous than other E/W roads, even before bike lanes. Yes, the bike lanes helped when first installed, and yes, we were undercut by the BIA/Wright and staff. But when the opportunity came up for repaving, actually, I was the one pushing for full bike lanes in the gap, and the Bike Union head of the time, Yvonne Bambrick, was quite okay with the compromise now on the road of 24 hour parking on both sides, and a wider travel lane with frequent sharrows.

Herb glosses over or ignores that Cycle Toronto was OK with what is there now, and while imperfect, it still made it better.

And in comparison with all sorts of other streets/places, Harbord is the best bike lane in the west end. Oops, best and only bike lane in the west end. If many of the users were asked about this facility, I think they'd tend to see it as OK comparatively, but it ends at Ossington.

The fussing for Bloor bike lanes - c. 8 years so where did Herb get that the "activist is fighting *against ** * bike lanes? from - is compromised by having a good bike route for commuting along Harbord, but again, it ends at Ossington.

In digging through old papers I found a faded fax, - then copied, then digitized but I am unable to figger out how to upload pics here - of an idea put forward by then-Futures owner Boris Wrezenskyj to take a curb lane of Bloor in the Annex area and put bi-directional lanes on it, but it was deflected by staff etc. on the grounds that there are too many short blocks along Bloor that provide too many conflict zones as they're called with all the turns - so that it was not going to be particularly safe.

Bloor has the same configuration of blocks as Harbord ie. lots of short blocks c. 75M.

So let's now refer - again! - to two design manuals/compilations. One is from Quebec, another from Denmark. The Velo-Quebec Planning and Design for Pedestrians and Cyclists of 2010 pp. 80-81 says bi-directional is ok when
- on a street without intersections or without access on one side (e.g. along a waterway or rail line, where the lack of intersections and access eliminates conflict with automobiles
- on one-way streets with a limited number of intersections and driveways (ideally, not more than one every 300m) and preferably a single motor traffic lane
- on two-way streets where left-hand turns are prohibited and with a limited number of intersections and driveway entrances (ideally, not more than one every 300m)

The Danish Collection of Cycle Concepts p. 85 has this: "Two-way paths give the individual cyclist more space, but are not as safe as one-way tracks at intersections and driveway entrances and exits.... 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."

These bi-directional lanes will be new to TO - so odds are there might well be some "getting used to" from the motorists; so yup, high potential for crashes and what if a cyclist wants to be travelling on one side of the street to actually get to a south-side destination? Will that be permitted?

I also see real issues with rightwards turns onto Spadina, Huron and St. George St. in the mornings, ie. going to the core/College St. If done, the bike rider will have to cross over the two-way vehicular traffic somehow, or wait in the middle of the bike lane/road for the light to turn whilst having other cyclists behind, or passing etc. etc. It's likely more time, and conflict, and with cyclists.

Perhaps staff was aware of these safety issues - and thus they urged leaving Harbord alone, only to be over-ruled by Council? (Dtls in a June 11 PWIC)

Part of the reason for not doing anything was that the upgrade just done cost a good $342,000. As it's only $100,000 to repaint a road for bike lanes, redoing 4kms of Bloor from Spadina to Dundas St. W. would be a deal, right?

As with Sherbourne, the Harbord reworking is likely going to eat a million? Or is it just $500,000? What could half a million do for the west end, if we thought about it? (I sent out a shorter list of small things that would improve the feeble network and biking conditions in the core to some folks - and yes, let's deflect Harbord to improve things for many of the rest of us, beyond the core.

And that certainly includes Bloor St. where it's hard to get answers about what, if any, measures there will be to improve bike safety in the repaving sorta now underway. That's where we truly need a batch of changes, and it's logical, but it seems logic doesn't apply to either the City nor some cyclists "advocates".

I do wonder how the liability insurance is of Cycle Toronto and Herb and Al Heisey - if done, I am quite sure that there will be injuries etc., and there's a pattern of avoiding looking at the crash stats in the advocacy priorities of Cycle Toronto eg. Jarvis vs. Bloor/east-west, and the west end of the core.

And this gets on to another damaging aspect of the Harbord push: it's now an Ok fairly safe bike lane, but gee, where is the new bike lane on Richmond and or Adelaide? It was c. 2 years ago to be approved for an EA; I totally support doing something there - finally - and yet Harbord with its best in west end feel and function is surging ahead, and eating up staff time.

And what about the 2009-ish set of things approved for the west end bikeways that ignored Bloor because it was a separate study? Gee, nothing yet.... as tepid and self-selecting away from the main streets as that all was.

More inconvenient truths: the Cycle Toronto/Bike Union folks are unable to see that they are being played by the Fordkers as I call them, and they've done a deal where they/"we" get one-so-far high-visibility and high-cost separation on Sherbourne St. where it did need upgrading, and talk of more Great Things to Come, but in the meanwhile, let's remove other old-style bike lanes and not do anything about Bloor, where there was a 5800 name petition in support of bike lanes a few years back. Heck, we haven't even managed to do a tiny bit of wide Bloor between Church and Sherbourne that IS in the 2001 Bike Plan yet for c. $20,000....

Harbord eats staff time and resource, and the end-result won't be safer unless there's a lot of other changes.

Having the push for separated lanes lets the Fordkers get away with grossly imbalancing where bike infrastructure money is allocated, ie. $50M proposed for off-road trails etc. (which are inherently less safe for women) and c. $5M for on-road rebuilds over 4 years.

So I'm not with the herb o'velofanz - and some slight is intended as there was a set of implications and opinions that are untrue, and almost actionable.

I have had NO contact with this Marko apart from seeing him at the one open meeting, and had no hand in the brochure production. Yes, I have signed the petition, but Harbord isn't that dangerous compared to the rest of the crap in the west end! Like what about 5 lousy meters of separated lane where Jenna Morrison was killed?! (The City doesn't want to adjust the road geometry as I think that means acknowledging that it's dangerous ie. Big Liability, but in the meanwhile, they've removed Sterling Road from the Bike Map as a suggested bike route after about 12 years, I was wrong on the date seeing it now in 2000.

But it's also fascinating to have seen the picture at the top of the piece of work here that shows a rather edgy cartoon I put onto the technical Danish info of a guy inhaling a car exhaust saying I can quit any time I want.... Update to some of you: the Harbord Bakery does have cycling customers; they might actually care about their safety and overall well-being of the area.

The way forward is to deflect this all back to a further year and let the City catch up with many repairs and previously approved projects like, like like.... and have some regard for what is actually wished for/sought. Arguably the push for Jarvis helped get Ford elected....

Sorry for length: but details matter; inconvenient truths need airing; I was somewhat defamed; and it's a bigger waste of time, staff and resource to redo Harbord at this time.

Brian, I bike that stretch of Davenport everyday and it is the most dangerous part of my commute. I often think it might be safer to tear out those lanes then leave them as is.
The parking spots you saved are way too narrow and the cars are often parked with their wheels at least on the bike lane strip, or well into the lane. The non-bike lanes are very narrow (I also drive this strip from time to time) and that leaves cyclists with the choice of either riding in the bike lane and risking a dooring, or riding just inside the non-bike lane and risking the ire of motorists. Terrible design. I can't believe no one has gotten seriously hurt on that stretch yet. Maybe I just haven't heard of it.

CTrain - not gonna bother looking up my forgotten password.

Interesting comments.

On the subject of cars crossing the bi-directional bike lanes:

“Cars will roll right into the bike lane to make their turn without once looking in the opposite direction to the left-to-right (from their point of view) car traffic they are trying to turn into. One reason I'm especially vexed to see new driveway crossings of the bikepath at Loblaws and Freshco at Leslie & Lakeshore.”

I also have problems with motorists that move their cars out into the bike lane while waiting for a break in the traffic, and motorists that don’t look for bikes coming from any direction, and that’s for unidirectional non-separated lanes.

And if I’m not mistaken, the bidirectional lanes on the lakeshore are not separated, which makes a big difference. If you are motorist and you are pulling out to re-enter traffic while crossing a non-separated lane it’s fairly easy to fail to notice the lane at all, but with a separated lane the bike lane is much more obvious.

I think this problem creates an argument for some sort of light to transition the traffic. If you go down the lakeshore trail to Ontario Place there are lights at the intersections that cross the path that work relatively well.

Having said all that, if you are relying on motorists to look for you then you’ve lost the fight already. When I’m in a bidirectional lane and I’m approaching from the “opposite” direction I will always slow down until I’m sure the motorist has seen me precisely because they often would not think to look for me. You have to think like a car sometimes if you want to ride safely on a bike.

Intersections are the place you are the most likely to get into an accident, the stats support that pretty clearly, so no matter what design you choose (separated, non-separated) there will be risks at intersections. Separated lanes prevent one kind of accident (motorist transgression of the bike lane from the regular traffic lane) except in the most extreme of circumstances, so for the most part I prefer them.

“I actively participated in the establishment of the bike lanes on Davenport Rd between Dupont and Bay Streets, and saved the street from the damage which was threatened by a plan that would have eliminated vehicle parking on one side of Davenport, a design similar to what killed retail on Richmond St. years earlier.

As an avid cyclist, I favour the concept of a dedicated cycle lane, but not if it detracts from the viability of the business interests on the street. Also, parked cars form a buffer between auto traffic and pedestrians, which encourages pedestrian traffic.

Every attempt should be made not to alter the existing condition on Harbord with any plan that eliminates parking on both sides.”

This I disagree with. I understand the concern about reducing parking, but non-separated bike lanes near parked traffic are far more of a safety concern for me than a separated bike lane. And as for the businesses, I get their concern about losing business if the parking is reduced, but I would need to see some sort of evidence that the overall amount of parking is actually reduced by separated bidirectional lanes (I don’t know one way or the other by the way, I’m looking for evidence). I can see why it might appear to reduce parking (as it is only on one side of the road) but non-separated bike lanes have to go around parked cars and back in, a kind of looping path that is surely a waste of valuable road space, paired bidirectional lanes are significantly more efficient from that perspective, and might just allow more parking.

The other issue is that this isn’t Toronto in the 1970’s, there are visibly larger numbers of cyclists on the road in the city, business owners are noticing this just like everyone else, so the reduced parking arguments need to be tempered by a realization that the realities of inner-city transportation are changing rapidly. Not to mention that this becomes a chicken and egg problem, more cyclists would be on the road and coming to the area where these businesses are if there were separated lanes, as separated lanes are preferred by novice cyclists.

Finally, as a motorist, I would vastly prefer to have one side of the road dedicated to parking and the other to bikes, as that would remove the majority of cyclists from the area where my car is to be parked. With bike lanes on both sides of the road there is nowhere that I can park without having a steady stream of cyclists going by.

“Brian, I bike that stretch of Davenport everyday and it is the most dangerous part of my commute. I often think it might be safer to tear out those lanes then leave them as is.

The parking spots you saved are way too narrow and the cars are often parked with their wheels at least on the bike lane strip, or well into the lane.

The non-bike lanes are very narrow (I also drive this strip from time to time) and that leaves cyclists with the choice of either riding in the bike lane and risking a dooring, or riding just inside the non-bike lane and risking the ire of motorists. Terrible design. I can't believe no one has gotten seriously hurt on that stretch yet. Maybe I just haven't heard of it.”

Yes to all of this. I recently posted on my blog ( about the dangers of bike lanes in areas where the roads are narrow, and I also agree that I would probably prefer to remove a non-separated lane on a narrow road rather than leave it in, for precisely the reasons you cite. Motorists LOATHE when you are on the road where there is a bike lane present, even if someone is parked in the bike lane. I would conservatively estimate that 90% of the time I am honked at on the road is in this situation, someone is parked in the lane and I have to re-enter the road, it really irritates motorists when this happens. Bike lanes on narrow busy roads are very dangerous.



Just put them in and see what happens. Only way progress can be made when everyone talks but does nothing about it


Thank you for responding here with some further points about your position, it is helpful to hear both sides. I find that the cycle advocacy population in Toronto is very polarized, so constructive discussion is difficult.

As I said further up, I am comfortable with the current arrangement on Harbord, yes it has its hazards, but I find I can negotiate them well enough. But I have to remember that I am an experienced cyclist, I’ve been cycling in Toronto for many years, and daily cycle commuting year round for about 5 years now.

Less experienced cyclists will find regular non-separated bike lanes in situations like this to be less desirable.

I am always open to the suggestion of adding a feature to the road that will make it safer.

The question here isn’t separated bike lanes or nothing, its separated bi-directional bike lanes or uni-directional non-separated lanes (as are currently in place).

When you mention that the frequent intersections along Harbord make it a bad choice, as intersections are a problem for bidirectional bike lanes, I would respond that intersections are a problem for all road arrangements, with or without lanes of any kind. Most bike accidents happen at intersections, so what I need to see is evidence that the number of intersection accidents for bidirectional lanes exceeds the average for roads with no bike lanes, or with unidirectional non-separated lanes.

No matter what, whether there are many intersections or few, some sort of system is necessary, and the current system, even if there was no bike lane there, would still require cyclists to stop at stop signs, lights, pedestrian crossings, etc. A dedicated bike lane, separate or otherwise, does not change the reality of intersections requiring you to stop (unless of course there are no stop signs at the intersection), and neither does it remove the risk associated with crossing one. The relevant question is whether or not it magnifies the risk.

So I’m less concerned about that issue until I see some evidence that somehow there are more intersection accidents on bidirectional separated lanes than there are on roads without lanes or roads with non-separated unidirectional lanes. I will be checking the references you provided.

And then I would have to see stats that showed how TOTAL accidents changed. It is entirely possible that separated bidirectional lanes are LESS safe at intersections than say unidirectional lanes (say the argument that motorists don’t look for the contraflow bike traffic holds true), but it is also conclusive that they are more safe with respect to crossover collisions and door prizes from parked or moving traffic. So we need a sense of how this all balances out.

If people are going to sling around quotes from studies they have to be critiqued and considered in context, not just accepted, quotes on their own don’t make an argument.

Thanks again for the response, and the references.




Two points:

  1. The costs are insignificant. Toronto City Council just spent an eye-popping $505 million to rebuild the Gardiner so that multi-millionaire Rob Ford has somewhere to drive his Cadillac SUV. As soon as $505 million gets spent on cycling, then we can talk about costs.
  2. If you want lanes on Bloor then one of the best ways to get them is protected lanes on Harbord. The more cycling that there is, then the more demand there will be for lanes everywhere. That includes Bloor.

Kevin Love

[Double-post alert! Wanted to sneak this onto this thread, too!]

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'm not sure what you think "separated" means, if you don't think the MGT on the north side of Lakeshore between Coxwell and Don Roadway is separated. A grass boulevard is sufficient, in my books, for it to count as "separated." (For that matter, the path on the south side of Lakeshore from Coxwell to Leslie, from Cherry to Parliament, from York to Spadina, from Strachan to... well, to Norris Cr. in Mimico is all also separated. In fact I can't think of a single place where there's a bidirectional bike path along Lakeshore that's not separated.)

And if you think the MGT crossings at Ontario Place work well... I guess we're just not living in the same world; I have trouble imaging how they could have done a worse job of designing those crossings. ("Let's bend the trail between a set of gates, aim it at a light-post and suddenly create meaninglessly distinct "pedestrian" and "bike" crossing areas! Oh, and let's stick a bunch of pylons in the middle of the path where it turns, just to crowd people into one anothers' way!)

Unless you want to ride at a running pace, you can either pay attention to how far into your path the joggers are going to veer in order to cut off the bend, or you can try to figure out where the guy with the tinted windows is looking. Personally, I have more success with the former, and just try to be ready with some contingency if the car moves suddenly.

I looked over Hamish's argument again and something sticks out for me, the question of what to do when making a left turn. If I'm in a bidirectional or unidirectional separated lane and I decide I want to make a left turn, do I stop at the intersection and signal the turn? If so, what about cyclists behind me? There is not enough room for them to pass me, so they would have to wait, yes?

Similar problem if I want to make a right turn, I would have to wait and signal if there was oncoming traffic, what about cyclists behind me?

What I currently do when there are non-separated lanes is make my way over to the left turn lane like regular traffic. I can't do that in a separated lane, so I suspect I would probably have to cross the intersection, exit the bike lane, dismount and cross with the pedestrians, then get back on the road.

I don't see many cyclists having the patience for this, but I'm not sure how else one would do it.

Unless someone can suggest that I'm missing something obvious, this strikes me as an argument against separated lanes when there are many intersections.

Anyone have any insight on this?