urban planning

Cycling versus parking on Dundas West

(Photo: Dundas West BIA)

Dundas West merchants really want their rush-hour parking, even as the new businesses readily admit they don't really need it. Their "NOPE" posters villifying Councillor Giambrone are still hanging in the windows of shops along Dundas West. Their campaign "Our Neighbourhoods are Destinations not Highways!" got a bit of press this last spring, and some renewed interest now. A few weeks ago I wanted to find out why the BIA is fighting to keep rush hour parking despite the needs of cyclists and transit users. What I found was a bunch of self-described progressive merchants, some of them even calling themselves cyclists. They are definitely a bunch of nice people, even if their rhetoric is disproportionate to the issue at hand. Lula Lounge's recent fundraiser, "Save the Dundas 71", is a case in point given that Lula isn't open until long after rush hour.

How do you like your streetcar tracks?

San Francisco is looking at how Toronto cyclists deal with streetcar tracks. The answer: not very easily. Toronto streetcar tracks have been the bane of many cyclists, both experienced and green. Being one of just a handful of North American cities with streetcars, Toronto could provide valuable information.

What can San Francisco learn from the Toronto experience? What ways can cities improve the safety for cyclists crossing tracks?

Experienced bicyclists tend to figure out the best way to navigate the tracks, but what can be done to prevent less-experienced bicyclists from getting stuck in the rail depressions so regularly?

In Toronto, where bicyclists also have to contend with a maze of tracks, several at-grade railroad crossings are equipped with a rubber flange filler that is jammed down into the cracks of trolley tracks. The rubber is firm enough that it doesn't compress when a bike passes over it, but when a streetcar comes it squishes down and doesn't cause the train to derail.

The material is not used for Toronto's extensive network of streetcar tracks in the city's core, however, and bikes routinely get caught in the tracks. "The at-grade railroad crossings do have some of that incorporated, but certainly not the main hazards to cyclists, which are the arterial road streetcar tracks," said Yvonne Bambrick, Executive Director of the Toronto Cyclists Union.

"There’s a lot of places where several tracks meet and turn. They’re trickier to navigate, but folks that have been at it for a while have figured out how to do it. It’s not that hard: you pay attention and learn how to do it, it’s all good. It does catch people fairly regularly."

Railpath is open!

After at least eight years of dreaming the West Toronto Railpath is officially open! This last weekend an opening party was held. Twitter user, skubie, provided the photo of the path from the south end of the trail where it meets Dundas, just north of College.

It's not a long path right now but there is potential for extending it to at least Dufferin, according to Metrolinx' plans for the rails next to it. After Dufferin it's all up in the air.

West Toronto Railpath Launch

The West Toronto Railpath will have its official launch on June 20, 2009, 2pm with a Party Parade! It starts on Wallace Ave., west of Perth (at the pedestrian rail overpass). Bring your bike, blades, strollers and kids to a party for the railpath.

Brought to you by: Friends of the West Toronto Railpath, Bike Pirates, Cyclops, Yasi's Place, Big on Bloor, and by the Letter D.

Ghettoes, Sanctuaries and War Criminals

–noun, plural -tos, -toes.
1.a section...inhabited predominantly by members of an ethnic or other minority group, often as a result of social or economic restrictions, pressures, or hardships...

–noun, plural -ar•ies.
...7.any place of refuge; asylum.

(Courtesy of dictionary.com)

Typically the popular imagination assigns these places opposite ends of the spectrum. Simply put, sanctuary is for the worthy few; a ghetto, the base underclass. You're expected to want into sanctuary, and expected to want the hell out of the ghetto. But things are rarely that simple.

There can be comfort and security among your own kind --no matter how low they may be -- and in 'knowing your place' though it be at the cost of greater possibilities and inclusiveness. The arrangement can also be expedient to the wider world: marginalizing problems is easier than confronting and resolving the dilemmas at their heart. Ask any politician. Just don't expect an honest answer.

Stripped of connotations ghettos and sanctuaries can appear as one and the same. And what would that look like? How about something like this?

Bikes on the brain: Bike Summit 2009 Wrap-up

Way back on May 28, Toronto had its Bike Summit. Better late than never. The presentations are now all on the TCAT website. You can also see a few photos on flickr. Instead of an exhaustive review, I'd like to provide a quick montage. There were other interesting speakers and ideas.

The above photo of a cyclists brain is from Keven Krizek's who emphasized the difficulty of getting accurate statistics of the benefits and costs of cycling infrastructure. The bike modal share in North America is just so low that a 100% increase would only bring it up to about 2%. There is no big impact on CO2 emissions or reduction in car use. The one statistic that we can be certain of (confirmed by Northern European experience) is that separated bike facilities increase the perception of bike safety --> which results in increased bicycle use --> which results in safety in numbers.

The big question (as we've learned with the fight for more bike lanes in Toronto) is: How do we convince the 94% majority that the effects are benign and allow better cycling facilities for the 6% that are going to use them? (Exact numbers may differ depending on location.)

Hope for Bloor / Danforth Bike Lane?

The Globe and Mail reports that a feasibility study is close to being complete regarding a city-spanning bicycle lane from Victoria Park Avenue to Kipling Avenue, passing through Greektown, the Annex and Bloor West Village, among other neighbourhoods. plus other ideas like a bike lane on Avenue Road and University. That is to say, east/west/north/south.

I will get back to you when the paint is dry and we can go for a spin on it. Glad they are looking into it.

Transit, like Bridges, should connect our communities -- not divide them

Transportation is important to us because it's not only how we get around, but it's also how we move goods. I like to eat, so I'd like to get food in to the city somehow. We like to trade and have things to buy, and so we have to move goods in and out of our city.

Long ago, the waterways were our major highways. In Ontario, we still have the Trent-Severn system, the Rideau Canal, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Welland Canal as great working examples from our history. We still move people and goods on these, but to a much lesser extent now than in previous years.

But as much as our rivers and canals connect our communities, it also divides them. At least they did, until we built bridges. Bridges over the rivers connect our communities closer than ferries ever can.

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