city hall

Major mayoral candidates are douches to cyclists

Mayoral candidate George Smitherman's office put out a critique of mayoral candidate Rob Ford's stance on cycling. Witness the video where Ford state's that his "heart bleeds" for cyclists who are hit, but that in the end he feels that it is "their fault" for being hit, presumably because they shouldn't be on bikes at all.

This was an easy swipe at Ford and the video is making the rounds. The fact is, Mayoral Candidate Rob Ford is just not as suave as George Smitherman or candidate Rocco Rossi, though their basic stance is the same: take cyclists off the streets.

Smitherman, in his transportation plan, for instance, claims (unlike uncouth Ford) that he "supports Toronto cyclists and will make it easier for Torontonians to choose safe cycling". In order to that he will "rethink" the cycling plan. Then the first thing he will do is indefinitely postpone / cancel all bike lanes on arterial roads (Smitherman announced this soon after Rossi made a similar announcement). There are two major bones that Smitherman is throwing to cyclists, and both of them have their own issue (I'm ignoring the others because they're not really new at all):

  1. build physical separation of existing bike lanes
  2. "expedite" bike "expressways" through hydro corridors and ravines

My responses:

Toronto to consider bike-specific traffic signals and bike boxes

Toronto transportation staff has been planning new bike-specific traffic control signals to go along the 30 km of new trails in our suburbs, and for downtown is planning bike boxes at five locations downtown on College, Bloor and Harbord.

The traffic lights will enable cyclists and pedestrians to more quickly cross the major arterial roads when on the trails and will allow cyclists to cross with their own crossing beside the crosswalk. If you happen to live near the new trails in North York and Scarborough, it wouldn't hurt to call your councillor to let them know you think this is a great idea. Let them know that you, as a cyclist, actually exist and happen to live in the suburbs. It's amazing how often councillors claim that no on cycles in their ward.

As for the bike boxes, take a gander at this video on how they work. Bike boxes allow cyclists to filter to the front so they can make quick left turns or merge easily back into the bike lane after the intersection instead of being stuck behind all the cars. There are no right turns on red allowed with bike boxes, but this matters little where there are lots of pedestrians crossing.

From transportation services:

Parking Exemptions vs Bike Lanes

After Councillor Howard Moscoe's prodding, City Council has released the previously confidential manual which explains who can get their parking tickets cancelled. I am glad that they did this, and it helps make things much more clear to everyone in this city. Many thanks to Councillor Moscoe, and the other councillors, who made this happen.

Before this manual was released, I had though that more enforcement would help to diminish the number of vehicles found parked in bike lanes. I had also thought that on-street separated bike lanes should be used sparingly and strategically.

I now realize how naive I was.

While I expect that some of the excuses to get one's parking ticket cancelled to be removed from the current manual, I have to expect that many, if not most, of them will remain. Because of this, I now find it necessary to add my voice to the many who are already calling for the conversion of existing bike lanes into on-street separated bike lanes.

The passive enforcement of barriers which would deter people from placing their vehicles in bike lanes seems to be the only remedy we have to keep those of us in this city who ride bikes safe from moving cars and trucks, and to keep bike lanes safe from becoming free parking or ad-hoc taxi stands.

And safer infrastructure will only encourage more people to ride.

Don Mills Centre to City Hall: Toronto Bike To Work Day

Join a group of cyclists for a fun, friendly, and casual ride from traditional car-centric suburbia (Don Mills Centre) to Downtown City Hall.

Date: Monday May 31st 2010
Departure Time: 7am (be there before 7am for a brief intro and speeches)
Meeting Location: Don Mills Road and Lawrence Avenue East Southwest Corner

City of Toronto Councillor and Budget Chief Shelley Carroll has confirmed her attendance, and has been warming up for the ride recently. So get ready for a beautiful cycling week in the sun!

Toronto Annual Group Commute from Don Mills

Live on the east side of the Don Valley near Lawrence Avenue? Riding across the Lawrence Avenue bridge can be challenging for some. There will be a pre-ride westbound across the Lawrence Avenue bridge departing from Lawrence Avenue East and Underhill (Northeast corner) at 6:30am.

Bikeway network approved but University bike lane in limbo

City Council debated late into the night on the bikeway network plan for 2010, which was passed 26-8, with one caveat: it was amended by Councillor Hall (Ward 1) to remove the pilot University Ave bike lanes from the motion. The vote to amend was 15-13, but apparently Councillor Fletcher, who has been quite pro-bike lane, made an error in her vote (or some have said there was a technical glitch). A re-vote was requested but apparently there is a bizarre council rule that a re-vote cannot take place if it will change the result (one is not sure why else someone would want to re-vote). So no re-vote and this council session is now complete. The next one is June 8 and 9.

Damn council. Not even willing to try something out. You could have voted to take it out after the pilot project. We've tried the whole car thing, folks. Just look how well that worked. Just look.

It was a very close vote to remove it, but it doesn't mean that it might not show up in June. The chances are that it will be a close vote again if it is put on the agenda of the next council session. The results of the vote are here, start calling your councillors to get them to wake up and support it.

Bixi Toronto and University bike lanes: tomorrow is decision day at City Hall

Tomorrow is do or die. Either council approves the loan guarantee and contract with Bixi, or it will be a long, long time before Toronto gets its own bikesharing program. Please go to City Hall at 10 am with your bike helmet on to show your support. The Mayor is making a special push for it!

The 2010 Bikeway Network will be coming up at a later time, possibly on May 12th. That's when the University bike lane pilot will up for vote. This item will be likely even more contentious than Bixi. Follow the bike union's Twitter feed @bikeunion to see when the item is coming up, then rush down to City Hall with your helmets!

I've got a lot of hope riding on Bixi. Way back in 2000, my roommate Todd Parsons first brought back the idea of yellow bikesharing back from his trip to Austin, Texas. This brought forth Bikeshare, which populated Toronto with lots of yellow bikes for 6 great years. Now I'm hoping that Bixi will more than fill the hole that Bikeshare left. I hope that all cyclists and other folks can jump to show the politicians that this is a great idea! We can't let Montreal have all the fun.

From Yvonne at the bike union:

As per my email last week about the City Council meeting taking place May 11th & 12th in Council Chambers - you are invited to attend whenever you are able.

Although I don't have specific details around timing, I now know that Item PW 32.8 – The Public Bike (Bixi-Toronto) Program (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2010/pw/bgrd/background...) will be one of the Mayor's items! Good news indeed.

Will Adrian Heaps try to sabotage Bixi?

Is Councillor Adrian Heaps going to try sabotage Bixi Toronto at City Council next week? Given his recent performance at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting, I'm a bit concerned. Does he want a public bike program that could be flourishing by next year, or does he want to delay it a few years just so his favourite company, Astral Media, can run it? And does Astral Media even want it?

If you go to the bike union website you can use their friendly green button to contact Adrian Heaps (on the right side) to ask him these important questions before next week.

A bit of history: Transportation Services and City Manager staff have been negotiating with Bixi for many months now. They finally came to a deal for 1000 bikes in 2011 (a realistic compromise that the city could safely support). At the last public works meeting Heaps made a motion to go back to square one, drop the deal with Bixi and try to negotiate with Astral Media a second time, even though it was dropped at least a year ago. As Chair of the Cycling Advisory Committee, you'd think that Heaps would have more sense to just let his own agenda die and support Bixi.

Why is Heaps stuck on having Astral provide this service? Does he still not know that Astral will not provide a public bike program for free? Jonathan Goldsbie confirmed back in 2008 that Astral would likely only want the program if the whole streets furniture for advertising contract was re-opened and renegotiated. Who knows how long that would take - years?

Goldsbie said:

Toronto's first separated bike lane approved by committee

The public works committee approved today the pilot separated bike lanes on University. I had to duck out of the meeting early in order to do some real work, but the room was full of citizens and media, waiting for the decision on this and the public bike proposal.

The pilot project will begin after the G20 summit and end in September, going along the center median of University Avenue. The committee compromised on the length, agreeing to make it go from Queen to Hoskin / Wellesley. If it is successful, and the Richmond bike lanes are installed, the bike lanes will be extended to Richmond.

The move has been a long time coming, bike advocates argue, pointing to cities around the world that have experimented with dedicated bike lanes that set up barriers of some kind to keep them separate from motor vehicle traffic. Yvonne Bambrick, executive director of the Toronto Cyclists Union, said this will make the large, often high-speed artery safer for both motorists and cyclists.

Councillor Minnan-Wong, who just learned to balance on a bike last year, and is already an expert on all this bicycling, proposed a network of "secondary bike lanes", which will presumably have to either be built on top of the buildings or underground (says I who has biked just about every street in downtown):

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