What would separated bike lanes look like in Toronto?
NYC's 9th Ave separated bike lane. Photo by James Schwartz of The Urban Country.
No definitive plans for separated bike lanes have been put forward in the Minnan-Wong announcement, and much will change before anything becomes reality if the plan is successfully passed. Much of the talk so far has been about putting both bike lanes on one side of the street. It shouldn't stop us from thinking about the different possible configurations, particularly since there exist a number of different ways to create separated bike lanes (also called cycle tracks - not really bike lanes or bike paths). For instance, one configuration would be just installing install flexible plastic bollards, which would provide a comfortable, but permeable, barrier between cars and bikes.
Another option would look a like what I'm guessing Minnan-Wong and Allan Heisey prefer, where a two-way cycle track exists on one side of the street with a substantial curb in between intersections. A lot of people would find this appealing and may be suitable to install on either Adelaide or Richmond, allowing the other one to be turned into a regular two-way street.
In Toronto examples of this include the path on the north side of Lakeshore East and on the south side of Eglinton and west of the Humber. These roads have fast traffic with fewer intersections, making it easier to install a cycle track off the main road.
Montreal has been building similar two-way separated bike lanes for years (thanks CycleToronto). More recently they've been installing more substantial curbs with gaps for intersections and driveways, presumably to increase the comfort level for cyclists and prevent driver incursion. Most of Montreal's two-way routes, however, still have widely spaced bollards, which don't really prevent drivers from parking right in the lane.
A two-way cycle track, however, can require substantial work to implement on some streets, such as on St. George/Beverly, so we should be open to other ways of increasing our comfort with minimal effort and upset.
In this configuration there is a thick boulevard between a one way cycle track and the car traffic. Presumably the other way cycle track is on the other side of the street.
This bike boulevard looks to be an older Copenhagen version, made with less care than the newer ones with better intersection treatments, though it still provides some comfort with grade separation. In some existing bike lanes providing a grade separation between the car traffic and the pedestrians may help, particularly when there isn't room for a more substantial barrier.
Washington DC contraflow separated lane. Photo by Dylan Passmore.
This contraflow separated lane looks like it works well: allowing cyclists to go against car traffic and has bright, plastic bollards to delineate the different travel lanes. Washinton DC has a lot of one way streets where this might be useful. I can imagine some of Toronto's existing bike lanes getting such a treatment. These plastic bollards are easy to install so it can also enable the city to experiment (like they were proposing to do with University).
Not every city has taken the same care in designing these facilities. Like anything they can be done badly. Whatever is chosen, I hope some research into the best practices of New York City, Vancouver, Montreal, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and elsewhere are taken into account. New York City just published a study of their Prospect Park cycle track and have shown that it has vastly exceeded their expectations: speeding car traffic has been reduced greatly; weekday cycling has tripled; sidewalk cycling has fallen to 3% from 46%; car traffic volume has actually increased; crashes and injuries have dropped substantially.