bike infrastructure

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):

Most Torontonians support bike lanes on major roads

It appears that Rocco Rossi may have miscalculated in coming out strongly opposed to bike lanes: almost 60% of Greater Torontonians strongly or moderately support bike lanes on major roads like Bloor and Jarvis, as discovered in a new Angus Reid poll of residents of the Greater Toronto Area. If one were just following the pundits and media comments one would have arrived at a much different conclusion than from this poll.

In the burbs support for bike lanes and transit is lower, but in the city proper (where Rossi and crowd need to get votes) support is strong:

“Commuters who are concerned about threats to the smoothness of their commute overall have less support (for tolls or bike lanes). Whether it’s, ‘I have to pay money to drive my car into the city’ or ‘I have to contend with bikes on major arteries,’ support is lower in those regions,” [Angus Reid senior vice-president] Shanoff said. “But in the city proper, support for more bike lanes is 59 per cent.”

Candidates seeking support from younger voters might want to look at expanding bike lanes, she added.

If a motorist hits a cyclist...

If a motorist hits a cyclist, they often try to excuse themselves by claiming they "didn't see" the cyclist.

Why, therefore, do any motorists expect us to take them seriously when they oppose bike lanes because they claim they "don't see" many cyclists using them? Personally, I think the best answer to a motorist who claims not to see cyclists in the bike lanes goes like this: since you need to look where you point your car, and you shouldn't point your car into the bike lane, your not seeing cyclist in the bike lanes just proves you drive carefully. It does not, however, prove anything about the number of cyclists using those lanes.

You can't take a census and drive at the same time. Even Statistics Canada doesn't drive and take the census at the same time; they get out of their cars to take the census. Why some motorists think we should believe they can take a census of bike lane users as they drive I don't know.

Separated bike lanes proposed for center of University Ave

University Ave bike lane: proposed summer pilot project

Separated bike lanes are planned as a summer pilot project for University Avenue. It should prove to be the new scapegoat for traffic congestion by the media, and a new focus for the so-called "war on cars", despite staff showing that traffic capacity will not be affected at all (just as many cars will flow up and down University as before). But reason be damned.

City staff have submitted a bikeway network report to public works proposing the University Ave project along with a number of other items, including sharrows on Spadina, a short bike lane on Bay, and so on.

The pilot University lane will start at Hoskin's on the north side of Queen's Park and down to Richmond. At the end of summer the bike lane will be removed and the results analyzed. It will then be up to the new city council to approve a permanent bike lane.

The Star reports:

University currently has four traffic lanes in each direction with a centre median, but it could be reduced to three lanes, with one lane given over to bicycles, a staff report says.

Having bikes run in the centre lanes beside the median would allow the curb lanes to continue to be used for stopping, parking, vendors and taxis, the report added.

John Forester: the "vehicular cycling" approach, or behave just like a car

John Forester: from Momentum

John Forester is a "cycling transportation engineer" and the father of "vehicular cycling", the concept that cyclists are safest when they behave as a vehicle. Vehicular proponents tend to be vehemently against most bicycle infrastructure - bike lanes and paths - as opposed to the "facilitators" who are in favour of special infrastructure for cyclists.

Most people likely don't identify with either view since they don't see them as being mutually exclusive: cyclists need to learn some skill as well as be given infrastructure to make them feel more comfortable and safer on the road. Forester, however, takes an extremely negative view to any special favours for cyclists. It's interesting that Forester calls himself a cycling transportation engineer yet seems to never propose any actual unique cycling infrastructure. (It strikes us as similar to laissez-faire government - governing by not governing).

Darren of Toronto Cranks and I will be exploring Forester and his views over a few blog posts. We'll look at some of his central views such as:

  • "cyclists fare best when they behave like regular traffic"
  • the belief that education alone is needed
  • no special treatment should be given to cyclists

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.

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