parking

Bike lanes and quiet streets make cycling safer, but the safest of all are cycle tracks: study finds

The Cycling in Cities program at the University of British Columbia has published the results of their ambitious study and revealed that bike lanes and quiet streets make cycling safer, but that separated bike lanes (cycle tracks) provide the most safety. In their study of 690 injured cyclists in Toronto and Vancouver who ended up in emergency rooms, they've found that bicycle infrastructure had a positive effect on cycling safety. Not surprisingly people prefer bike lanes, bike paths and quiet streets to just regular roads (as discovered their earlier study).

The researchers also found that major streets with on-street parking were the riskiest streets for cyclists, and particularly for Toronto cyclists, major streets with on-street parking and streetcar tracks.

We found that route infrastructure does affect the risk of cycling injuries. The most commonly observed route type was major streets with parked cars and no bike infrastructure. It had the highest risk. In comparison, the following route types had lower risks (starting with the safest route type):

  • cycle tracks (bike lanes physically separated from motor vehicle traffic) alongside major streets (about 1/10 the risk)
  • residential street bike routes (about 1/2 the risk)
  • major streets with bike lanes and no parked cars (about 1/2 the risk)
  • off-street bike paths (about 6/10 the risk)

The following infrastructure features had increased risk:

  • streetcar or train tracks (about 3 times higher than no tracks)
  • downhill grades (about 2 times higher than flat routes)
  • construction (about 2 times higher than no construction)

The Toronto Star's story focused exclusively on the danger of streetcar tracks, but they missed the bigger story that it's not just the streetcar tracks but parked cars that make things particularly dangerous for cycling. Not only does Toronto have few alternatives to streetcar streets downtown, almost all of them allow car parking for most of the day, thus providing only a very narrow comfortable space between parked cars and streetcar tracks. Even though streetcar tracks are involved in a third of cycling injuries, half of those injuries were the result of parked cars:

Motor vehicles were involved in many injury events beyond direct crashes. For example, nearly half of crashes involving streetcar tracks involved maneuvers to avoid double-parked cars or cars moving in or out of parking spots.

It's highly possible that the danger of streetcar tracks can be mitigated in Toronto by removing on-street parking and providing bike lanes (or at the least sharrows). The researchers may have found much different results if that were the case.

The same researchers are applying their research to improving cycling education. For instance, no cycling courses currently cover route selection even though studies have shown that bicycle infrastructure make people safer. They also recommend that cycling education begin to cover the circumstances when motor vehicles are likely to pass closely. Their recommendations were to:

Include information about the relative safety of route types and route characteristics to help cyclists plan their routes, in particular:

  • decreased risk associated with bike-specific route types, including cycle tracks, bike lanes, and bike paths,
  • decreased risk associated with routes with low traffic volumes, including residential street bike routes,
  • increased risk associated with roundabouts or traffic circles at intersections, and
  • increased risk after dark on routes without streetlights.

Include information about motor vehicle passing distances, so cyclists understand circumstances when motor vehicles are likely to pass closer to them, in particular:

  • where motor vehicle speeds and traffic are high,
  • where there is motor vehicle traffic in the opposing direction, and
  • when the passing vehicle is a heavy vehicle such as a truck or bus

Parking in Sherbourne separated bike lane: will parking attitudes evolve?

A friend took a photo of a UPS courier blocking the entire separated bike lane on Sherbourne. I posted it to Twitter and got a lot of response. Some people related their own sightings of vehicles blocking the lane, including a school bus (@andyinkster : @biketo @CDL_TO I see your truck, I raise you a school bus, leaving Sherb #biketo lane http://twitpic.com/ayyv7q) and a line of taxis in front of the Phoenix. Lots of cyclists were hassling the taxis that night.

Blocking a bike lane, whether separated or not, is a major problem in Toronto. It is endemic among taxi drivers and courier drivers. Can this behaviour change? Will they get used to the idea that a barrier means they should stay out of it? A similar issue arises in areas where cars use the sidewalk to park. Thus part of the problem is a culture among drives that they have the privilege of using any part of the road or sidewalk.

While most people were angry with vehicles blocking the bike lane, one cyclist @ErinForks took the position that we should expect the lanes to be blocked now and then:

@biketo where exactly did you want him to park? R you saying bike lanes are to be clear all the time? Life isn't perfect either...

‏@r0607ninja responded:

@ErinForks @biketo That's pretty much the point of having physically separated lanes

It might look like the separated bike lanes aren't working, but perhaps the barrier is already having an effect, since it's not clear just how bad the bike lane blocking was prior to the installation. The rounded curb still allow cyclists to cross over into the next lane to pass the obstruction. It might not be as easy as without the curb, but from Twitter my sense is that most cyclists would see that as a trade-off they can live with.

Perhaps the to-be-adopted new by-laws for cycle tracks with a $150 fine for blocking will help change the attitude. Toronto could also look towards other cities to see how they've dealt with the issue with cycle tracks. It's clearly not a Toronto-centric problem. From what I understand part of the cycle track on Sherbourne will be raised which may both provide a better psychological barrier for drivers while also making it easier for cyclists to pass blockages. This may be a possible solution.

Side note: for a happier view of the bike lane jnyyz posted Critical Mass photos. Here's them riding down Sherbourne:

The Toronto Parking Authority exists solely to subsidize drivers of private automobiles


Photo by phototouring.

I'm no fan of privatizing government services as a panacea, but when it comes to the Toronto Parking Authority I waver. The TPA, as the Toronto Star notes, was explicitly created to undercut the prices of private parking lots. The TPA was created in the '50s "after department stores complained customers weren't shopping downtown because of price gouging by private parking lot operators". I wonder if they bothered to measure and define "price gouging" versus a fair price, or if drivers just felt they were paying too much.

But then driving is not a cheap pastime and parking lots downtown aren't built cheaply. A parking operator downtown must purchase the expensive downtown land, and must make enough money off of parking to make it worthwhile. The owner of the land would probably also consider the alternative uses of that land. We can see that parking is just not as profitable as alternative uses by seeing just how many downtown parking lots are being turned into condos or commercial buildings.

The City has a by-law that limits what the TPA can charge drivers for on-street parking at $3.50 per hour. There is no such limit for public transit fees.

Modifications to Rogers Road bike lane will not allow parking in bike lane

Daniel Egan, Cycling Infrastructure and Programs Manager, Transportation Services, has clarified the modifications to the Rogers Road bike lanes, stating that it does not mean, as some have thought, that drivers will be allowed to park in the bike lanes (Councillor Layton, in particular, had expressed his concern in a letter to Councillor Palacio and staff):

"It has come to my attention that there is a public perception that the proposed modifications to the Rogers Road bicycle lanes will allow drivers to park in the bicycle lanes. I want to clear up this misunderstanding.

For those who don't know Rogers Road, it currently has a wide painted centre median in the sections where there was left over space when the road was restriped with bicycle lanes. We're proposing changes at two locations to improve parking and/or traffic flow. Just west of Bronoco Avenue, we are removing the painted median and shifting the bicycle lane over so that we can provide some short term parking spaces in front of St. Nicholas Di Barri School. This change will enable parents a safe place to stop to pick-up or drop-off their kids without obstructing the bicycle lane. There will also be a short left turn lane added to facilitate turns onto Bronoco Ave.

At the second location, we are eliminating one parking space just west of McRoberts Ave and the painted centre median east of the intersection to provide a short left turn lane. In both locations the bicycle lanes are being maintained with minor adjustments. And parking will not be permitted in the bicycle lanes.

Developers losing money on required parking

More buildings in Toronto are being built with less car parking, and most are finding that they just don't need it. The mainstream media highlighted a new condo no car parking on the site of the Royal Canadian Military Institute. The developer needed to get a special exemption from the city even as the city's planners opposed it. It's not the first development with little to no parking in Toronto. The Wychwood Barns were rebuilt with no extra parking. The Brick Works is being rebuilt with less parking. Can they still be successful with so little parking? Will they be even more successful?

When the opportunity to develop 426 University Ave. first crossed Stephen Deveaux’s desk, he quickly realized the 38 x 16 metre site didn’t even have enough space to accommodate a proper ramp for an underground parking garage.

“Most developers would look at the site that had a challenge like this and say: ‘We’re going to pass,’ ” says Deveaux, vice-president of land development for Pickering-based Tribute Communities. “We looked at it as an opportunity to do something new and different and progressive.”

Granted, it was also an opportunity to save a little coin. It costs about $27,000 to build a single underground parking space in Toronto.

Car-free condo: a novel idea for downtown Toronto

A proposed downtown condo will have absolutely no parking for private motor vehicles, if City Council approves it. Instead it will only have spots for car-sharing vehicles and 315 bike parking spots. The innovative project, which will be built on University Avenue at the site of the Royal Canadian Military Institute, is going one up on the new draft parking by-law which will reduce the number of required parking spots for residences, stores and offices.

The East-York / Toronto Community Council overruled City staff, which insisted that the project goes against expertise and experience. It's uncertain what kind of expertise they are drawing on when downtown developers insist that the majority of condos downtown sell without parking:

"If you look at the evidence of what sells downtown, the majority of units under 750 square feet in the downtown core sell without parking,'' said Stephen Deveaux, a vice-president with the developer, Tribute Communities. Parking spots typically add $20,000 or more to the cost of a downtown condo.

It will be interesting to see if the market is strong for no car parking or if the staff are correct that it is still a necessity. The staff's position:

Normally, building plans follow a formula for how much parking space should be allowed; current standards, if applied to the building, would provide approximately 140 parking spaces for residents.

"To assume a residential development of the project's scale might be totally car-free runs counter to expert study and experience," the staff report stated. "Although there are many households in the downtown (area) without cars, it would be highly unlikely to find 315 of them permanently concentrated in one building."

It also stated that, "exempting the project from the city's parking standards would create a negative precedent that undermines the integrity of the parking provisions of the zoning bylaw."

Bike Lane Parking Enforcement

Annette St.: All plugged upAnnette St.: All plugged up
A few days ago, the Toronto Star's fixer got excited about getting the Annette St. "No Stopping" signs added next to the new bike lanes. Cyclists everywhere rejoiced, and all was good.

However, upon further inspection, not all of Annette Street's signs have been updated, so in many sections motorists still feel they have the right to park in the bike lanes. And although other sections of Annette St. have the proper signage installed, motorists continue to park wherever they darn well feel like it.

Ah, but we have parking enforcement officers! They will help!

To be honest, I lost my faith in the police and parking enforcement when it comes to enforcing bike lane parking violations a long time ago. I have seen PEOs and police officers cruise right past bike lane parkers without blinking. I have even spoken directly to officers and pointed out illegal bike lane parkers, but they usually come up with excuses for the motorist.

So, as a final nail in the coffin, I present you with these photos of a City of Toronto Parking Enforcement vehicle parked in....you guessed it....the bike lane. The officer was not in the vehicle, nor anywhere that I could see on the street. It looks like the officer was probably popping in to one of the local businesses for a quick breakfast or coffee, while blocking a lane of traffic.

Dundas West a dangerous highway?

According to the National Post and this Dundas West BIA poster, Councillor Giambrone is looking into banning rush hour parking from both sides of Dundas West in order to make streetcars run faster.

The BIA claims that there will be an April 29 City Council vote on removing rush hour parking on both sides of Dundas street. It goes on to argue that "This will turn our streets into dangerous highways, hurting pedestrians, cyclists and small businesses."

I really wish BIA's would actually do some research or consult cyclists and pedestrians before declaring the danger of whatever the city wants to change. I'd find it hard to believe if the BIA has any experience biking on Dundas West. After much biking along its narrow curb lanes, squeezed between streetcar tracks and badly parked vehicles I'd say I'd much prefer to zip alongside moving traffic rather than be constantly afraid that I'll get doored.

But then the Dundas West BIA has a history of trying to get more car parking in the area. Since 2006 they've been lobbying community council to allow for off-side rush hour parking on Dundas West. In 2008 Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone supported the initiative on Dundas West to Bathurst.

It's all spin. All along this was about increasing car parking on the major streets, rather than worrying about the dangerous nature of traffic to pedestrians and cyclists.

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