bike infrastructure

Livable cities: thinking big

A recent commenter suggested we think big in regards to cycling infrastructure:

But why not think big? We have a wonderful pedestrian PATH system in Toronto: could we remove a chunk of retail and put in an underground bike highway? Yes, this is literally a pipe dream, I know. I've wondered what's stopping us from raised bicycle infrastructure as well

Though admirably pro-bike, this approach is misguided. It's part of that view that a cyclist is always better off on a trail rather than a street. The problem is that people on bikes need and want to be on major streets as much as drivers do.

I just came back from Calgary where they've installed numerous walkway bridges over the numerous multi-lane highways. This approach assumes that all the ground surface belongs to car traffic and that to deal with pedestrians and cyclists we must install infrastructure above or below ground to accommodate their needs.

This approach makes the actual street unlivable and forces pedestrians to detour far out of their way to find these bridges. It's much easier for a car to detour a kilometre than a pedestrian or cyclist.

We need to take the opposite approach: make our cities more livable, and improve our streets so that the needs of all users are included, what is known as complete streets. What makes many parts of central Toronto popular is that they feel relatively comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists.

If people are interested in this different perspective, I encourage them to sign up for the Complete Streets Forum, April 23, 2010 in Toronto.

Mississauga to build 30km of bike paths per year for 20 years

Mississauga's gonna put in 30 km of bike paths/lanes a year for the next 20 years. Wow. Meanwhile in Toronto, some people trying to get the top job are trying to stop the Bike Plan. What kind of topsy-turvy world do we live in?

This isn't that unusual. Mississauga is likely building most of its bike paths and lanes so they don't impose on car traffic lanes, whereas Toronto doesn't have this choice since the only choices often are to ride on major roads. Just take a look at their site, which puts trails front and center (which means it still has to grow up quite a bit to be a real cycling city).

The city currently has 350 kilometres of bicycle paths, but they’re mostly in parks. It wants to add a further 600 kilometres, at a rate of 30 kilometres per year over the next two decades, including bike lanes and paths connecting major arterial streets throughout the city.

The system would connect major transit hubs and other key destination points, the goal being to get people cycling to work, school and other major destinations. The project, which aims to put 95 per cent of residents within a kilometre of a major cycling route, would also include parking facilities at transit locations and city facilities.

Currently only about 0.3 per cent of all vehicles on the roads in Mississauga are bicycles; the city hopes to boost that to 10 per cent.

College Street Cycling Survey - Call for Participants

From the City and TCAT:

The City of Toronto is working with the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation (TCAT) and the Clean Air Partnership (CAP) to evaluate cycling conditions on College Street before and after the installation of a new bicycle pavement marking application - and we need your help.

What will I need to do?
Complete an online survey about your experience cycling on College St between Lansdowne Ave and Manning Ave on one day in April and one day in June.

When is the survey happening?
Part 1: April 19th to May 3rd, 2010
Part 2: June 14th to 18th, 2010

Who can participate?
Cyclists who ride along College St. during rush hour, for at least a couple blocks between Lansdowne Ave and Manning Ave. Rush hour is from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 to 6:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

All participants must be 18 years of age or older.

How can I sign up?
Contact us by email at to sign up. For all emails, please include "College Street Survey" in the subject line and indicate:

. your name,
. preferred email address for correspondence, and
. what section of College Street you cycle on (e.g. Brock Ave to Clinton St).

The City of Toronto will not be responsible for any injury or damage related to the completion of the survey form. Information will be collected in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Visit for more details.

Help us find survey participants by forwarding the text above to your email contacts.

Bikesharing: effective tool for encouraging citizens to cycle

In a recent email discussion on Bixi and bikesharing in Toronto, Mikael Colville-Andersen
of, made some good points about bikesharing: 1) bikesharing, to be successful, is aimed at citizens, not tourists, 2) bikesharing needs to be ubiquitous within the launch area, 3) the sudden surge of bikes makes it an effective tool for change and triggering better bike infrastructure. Just to clarify, Mikael is responding to some other comments that bikesharing was meant only for tourists, and it's not to imply that City staff were ever focusing on such a narrow demographic, quite the contrary.

Read his comments below:

Interesting following the discussion from the sidelines.

One thing that is worrying is the focus on tourists.

Every successful bike share programme in the world is not aimed at tourists, but rather the locals. There are 26 cities in France alone with successful bike share programmes and the local population is the focus. In fact, there are cities that make it difficult for tourists to rent them. In Seville, in Spain, your application takes a week to process. The main reason is to discourage tourists from using it. Otherwise it'll just end up as a gimmick.

Another thing is that visitors to a city won't use a bike share system if they don't see locals riding around on the bike share bikes or private bikes. Especially without sufficient infrastructure. So it's unlikely that tourists will be the main users in Toronto.

Rossi: big fan of bike lanes, just don't build them anywhere

In case you haven't noticed, it's an election year in Toronto, and right-wing candidate Rossi in a bid to win some right-wing votes has made some bold statements about stopping unsafe and environmentally unsound bike lanes.

Rossi doesn't want bike lanes on arterial roads like University, Bloor and Jarvis. But apparently he's a big fan of bike lanes all the same, so long as they are only installed where they aren't needed: on cul-de-sacs and quiet residential streets, apparently.

“I’m not only OK with bike lanes, I’m a big fan,” Rossi said. “I do believe in an expanded bike lane network, but we need to do it on a grid basis and we need to use safer routes to travel.”

He’d prefer to have a fact-based discussion about bike lanes rather than a mud-slinging fight, and base it on getting everyone around the city safely and quickly.

Of course, Rossi isn't engaging in some sort of urban planning, based on studies and reason; he's engaging in vote winning and he's willing to say whatever it takes. Rossi is trying to shape the conversation with a "father knows best" approach: "You poor cyclists, why do you want to risk yourselves on the all those fast cars? Those city planners are so irresponsible by trying to put bike lanes there instead of quiet side roads."

Bikeway plan politically ambitious

City staff revealed a politically ambitious bikeway plan for downtown to a very packed house, Monday evening at Metro Hall. Even though the plan includes a number of items which don't require council approval, including bike boxes on Harbord and bike sharrows along streetcar routes, the most politically controversial may be such items as bike lanes on University (as the Post predicts as well). See the whole plan on the City's website (pdf) [this links only to the announcement and not the plan. oops!].

Councillor Joe Mihevc commended the staff for their ambition (even if it may still be just a stepping stone since some activists pointed out that it was still a fractured network). Then Mihevc explained how it was a really politically tough year; if cyclists present a strong, single voice to politicians, we may have a chance of getting this program implemented.

Cyclists seemed to be divided on whether this represented a turning point or not, but it is apparent that even if some cyclists see this as too little, there is a certain segment of voters and certain mayoral candidates (Rossi, and possibly, Smitherman) who see this is way too much "coddling" of cyclists.

More and more Torontonians cycle: up to 54%

Us cyclists have been saying for awhile: "Doesn't it look like there are more cyclists out there?" Well it's true. Cycling in Toronto is up 13% over the last decade - from 48% to 54%. The number of utilitarian cyclists - those who use their bikes to get to work, school, visit, or run errands - rose an astounding 45%: from 20% in 1999 to 29% in 2009. How do we know this? The City of Toronto has released their 2009 Cycling survey and all the numbers are up.

Will we have to wait another 10 years for an update? The plan now, says Dan Egan of Transportation Services, is to do the survey every 3 years, timed to coincide with municipal elections. Get the numbers out just before an election and you've got some good fodder for pushing politicians.

Some other interesting finds: motorists and cyclists feel that there is more respect for each other, despite the proverbial "War on Cars"; the largest increases in utilitarian cyclists is in the burbs: up about an average of 83%!

The War On The Bicycle (Hungarian Style)

There was a lot of trash talk about the supposed 'War on the Car' this year. There will be more next year I am sure. Last time I checked it was you and me and dare I say even those who drive
who suffer the effects of car culture, or shall we say, high-carbon consumer capitalism. So get ready for the next stage when car drivers fight back against bike lanes. You know it's coming.

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