My Richmond/Adelaide bike count: people love protected bike lanes as bike traffic surges

Because I'm nerdy I've rolled a bike count into my neighbourhood walk. I've now done three counts on Richmond and Adelaide on the western end of the protected bike lanes to get a sense of the breakdown in traffic. Here are my results.

52% cyclists! Richmond at Bathurst, 5-5:30 Sept 24. Sunny and warm.

25% bikes. (108 cars, 35 bikes) 10pm Oct 1. Cool, dark but dry. (No screenshot)

48% bikes on Adelaide near Portland. 8:30 am Oct 2. Sunny but cool. For this count I used the Counterpoint App on the suggestion of a someone on Twitter. The data gets shared so anyone can download and do fancy stuff with it.

It's a huge jump from before the cycle tracks. In the City's one and only cordon count of who travels by bike into and out of downtown, Adelaide and Richmond were very low. The count, which took place on late September 2010, counted 160 bikes over an entire hour at 8am on Adelaide. If I used my count this morning as an average for the hour, we have seen a 450% increase to 700 bikes!

On Richmond the jump is even higher, from 85 bikes per hour at 5pm to 900! That's over 1000% increase!

This is what it looks like now:

(No, I didn't add a sound track. I was sitting outside a cafe with some "calming" electronic music.)

Next step: get an estimate of the 7am to 7pm bike count so I can compare the volume over the day to the 2010 cordon count.

Can a bike be parked in curb parking on the roadway?

I recently got this excellent question about parking a cargo bike on a residential street's parking.

My primary source of transportation is a bakfiats, and I've just moved to a new house where I don't have parking for it, and I've been parking it on the street (the back wheel has a wheel lock) during the day, then my husband helps me carry it up on to our front yard at night (because permit parking starts at midnight). I've just had a neighbour come and complain that I can't park a bike on the street. Do you happen to know anything about bylaws that would hinder a bike from being parked on the street during the day if no permit is required?

Angelique told me that she had also followed up with Councillor Paula Fletcher's office and her assistant Erica Wood investigated:

Dear Angelique,

This has proved to be quite an interesting question that bounced from Permit Parking to Transportation Services to the Cycling division. As you can see in the response below, Jacquelyn Hawyard Gulati of the Cycling Infrastructure & Programs division has indicated that bike parking is legal when the bicycle is parked parallel to the curb.

I hope this is helpful to you.



Jacquelyn said that Chapter 950 of the Municipal Code actually does allow "bicycles to be parked on the street, parallel to the curb". Section 950-201 B:

"No person shall leave a bicycle on a highway except in such a manner as to cause the least possible obstruction to pedestrian or vehicular traffic."

Now we know. Thank you Angelique for raising the question!

So, in terms of getting a permit, it would exclude bicycles under Chapter 925-4 D but Angelique was just hoping to park her bike during the non-permit hours. So looks like we're free to park where we want during those open times.

Mind you, it's still annoying that we can't just purchase a parking permit for our bicycles. Or even better, a permit to place a semi-moveable bike rack next to the curb so we can lock up a few bikes.

A new traffic light for cyclists at Lakeshore and Strachan

It only took twenty years from when Nancy Smith Lea first asked then-councillor Joe Pantalone to make the Lakeshore/Strachan intersection safer for cyclists, but finally, thanks to the advocacy work of Cycle Toronto's Ward 19 group, we've got a traffic light for northbound cyclists; liberating cyclists from taking the crosswalks in two stages.

This blog post is more about the power of strategic advocacy than about just one traffic light, so I'll be digging into the history of the advocacy around this one, simple improvement to the Lakeshore/Strachan intersection.

Smith Lea, local citizen, director of Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, and fastidious recordkeeper, recounted to me how she had notes about "conversation I had with [Councillor Joe Pantalone] from 1996 where he told me that a new road (Remembrance Drive) had just been approved to provide direct access to Ontario Place and once that was finished they were going to "clean up" the Strachan/Martin Goodman intersection for peds/cyclists. "

Well, that never happened. So ten years later (!), in 2006, Smith Lea sent another email to Pantalone who replied:

Hi Nancy
Thank you for writing to me. I understand and sympathize with the frustration that you are feeling with regards to bike lanes on Strachan Avenue and in the City.

Firstly, as part of the Princes' Gates area revitalization, which I led, the area to the east of the Gates was transformed from a "no go" area for pedestrians and bicyclists to an attractive place for both. Furthermore, again as part of this approval, a detailed plan to have dedicated bike lanes all the way to King St West (from Lakeshore) was also approved and I am told by Dan Egan that it will be in place before the end of 2006.

Despite, the above mentioned improvements, the Lakeshore/Strachan Ave/Marting Goodman Trail intersections were not part of this plan and need addressing. The good news is that the Toronto Waterfront Corporation (TWRC) has just completed the rejuvenation of the Trail from Marylin Bell Park going west AND the next section to be done is the section between Ontario Place and Exhibition Place. I am hopeful that TWRC will address the Strachan/Lakeshore intersection so that it will work better for cyclists and pedestrians (by copy of this e mail I am making aware the TWRC'S K Jenkins and Dan Egan, of the points you raise and with which I agree).

For such a low-risk project—one that we can safely assume would elicit zero public outcry and burn zero political capital but at the same time is such a key improvement—it's amazing that nobody at the City made it a priority in twenty years! It would have been such an easy win.

In the end what it took was an advocacy group, Cycle Toronto's Ward 19 advocacy group, and a bike-friendly councillor, Mike Layton to shepherd the proposal through the public works committee and City Council. Only then was it made a priority for transportation planners and made reality.

Three years ago, the Ward 19 group (at the time, I was the ward captain of this great bunch of volunteers) wrote a succinct report on Strachan, detailing six items that we thought should be fixed immediately. Of those six, two have now been addressed—a new traffic light at Strachan and East Liberty and the northbound light at Lakeshore—and one will be addressed when the Railpath phase two is installed: a four-way stop at Douro/Wellington. (The other three involve a southbound light at Queen, and improvements to the bike lanes on Strachan).

The lesson for all of us, I believe, is that the ingredients for getting small improvements to cycling will often require:

  1. A politician willing to propose and shepherd the project.
  2. A succinct and understandable proposal that the politician can easily craft into a motion.
  3. Local support from neighbourhood groups who aren't necessarily cyclists.
  4. An advocacy group that is willing to doggedly keep at.
  5. And an increase in population and cyclists putting pressure on the existing substandard infrastructure.

Nancy Smith Lea was definitely determined and, even had the friendly ears of the councillor, but the project failed to have any traction—in my opinion—because neither the councillor nor transportation planners made it a priority. Councillor Pantalone had "hope" that it would be addressed but ultimately didn't shepherd it and left it up to staff to make it a priority (or not). Thus resulting in nothing happening for years and years.

A toast to the determination of Nancy and the other cycling advocates over the years. Cycle Toronto and its ward groups have now picked up the torch and has become better at rallying and organizing for cycling improvements small and large.

Protected intersections: guerilla street safety in Hamilton

Toronto would benefit from some Hamilton-style activism. Hamilton activists, frustrated with inaction from the bureaucracy, took it upon themselves last year by installing a bump-out/neckdown with just some cheap traffic cones and screws. Tactical urbanism, it's called: quick and effective urban interventions to make the city more livable and equitable.

Image: Raise the Hammer

Where before there was an intersection at which children felt unsafe when crossing to school, now they have a shorter distance to cross. Cars are forced to turn more slowly, which increases the chance of these children surviving if hit and gives the drivers more time to stop. The local crossing guard loved it. Win-win I would say.

But the result upset Hamilton's grinch, Public Works General Manager Gerry Davis, who circulated a memo calling the actions "illegal, potentially unsafe and adding to the City's costs of maintenance and repair." Right, if Mr. Davis really cared about safety before why has his city always prioritized car throughput over safety? Luckily other forces in the city among the councillors and staff thought this was a worthy effort and managed to make it an official pilot project. Hamilton has since made the bump outs more permanent and installed cross-walks on a number of similar intersections.

Image: Raise the Hammer

I think they could have gone further. It would be awesome if someone built protected Intersections for cyclists and pedestrians.

The bump-outs are islands at the corners which allow for more protection for cyclists when crossing the street while also putting cars further away from pedestrians at the corners. It's a long-shot to make it official policy here; the owner of the website above is trying to get the protected intersection recognized in the US. It'll not happen anytime soon here. But one can hope and perhaps some guerrilla protected intersections would encourage city officials to be braver.

Ask City today to properly protect cyclists on Harbord and Hoskin

Today is one of your last chances to tell city staff that their revised plan for Harbord and Hoskin falls short of providing good protection for cyclists. (Photo of Sam James coffee shop on Harbord by Tino)

Their latest plan will continue to put cyclists next to the door zone, allow cars to park in bike lanes at their convenience and continue to fall short of what City Council asked of them to build.

Today, Thursday, March 27, 2014 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m you can drop in at Kensington Gardens, 45 Brunswick Ave. North Building, Multi-Purpose Room, to explain to them you want something better.

City Council asked for protected bike lanes (aka cycle tracks). Staff are now offering something that falls short. While their proposal helps fill in the gap in the Harbord bike lane, their proposal is basically a bike lane with a wider painted strip.

City would be letting down families and students who might only bike if they felt that they had separation from car traffic.

  • Cyclists will still ride right next to car traffic that speeds on a road that is forgiving for high speeds and not for new cyclists.
  • Car drivers will still park in the bike lane whenever they feel like it.
  • The bike lanes will get no special treatment regarding snow clearing, unlike Sherbourne.
  • Cars will park right next to the bike lane continuing to put cyclists in the door zone.

In short, cyclists will continue to be treated like peppercorns in the pepper grinder of car-centric traffic planning. It's like bike planners expect cyclists to act as traffic calming with our own bodies.

City staff were too timid to propose removing all the car parking along Harbord, which is why they had proposed the bidirectional in the first place. But now that they've done a questionable traffic study, they've backed away and can only fit in a unidirectional painted bike lane. Business as usual.

The fact is, staff do not really know if their proposed unidirectional plan is safer than the previous bidirectional plan. They just figured they'd choose the option that meant less traffic delays. They mention turning movement conflicts in the case of bidirectional, which they try to mitigate in the study, but they haven't been able to put it in the context of conflicts of regular bike lanes: dooring, collisions from behind, sideswipes from cars entering/exiting parking. We don't really know which is more dangerous. All we have to go on are the existing scientific studies that have suggested that bidirectional protected bike lanes work and are safe in places such as Montreal.

Staff have been unable to confirm with me that the model they used can accurately reflect reality. Has anyone who has used this model and then built some bike lanes gone back to measure the traffic speed to see if the model made a solid prediction?

And they haven't even been able to confirm if they know what the margin of error is. That is, if the traffic study states that in a scenario traffic will be slowed by 5%, the margin of error could be higher than 5% for all we know. This is something basic that we see in every poll ever done so we have an idea of the significance of the numbers. Meanwhile, with their traffic study, we have no idea of the significance of the numbers, nor do we know if it has a track record of accuracy. So why should we put any faith in at all unless staff can tell us this?

Finally, what's so bad about slowing down traffic? In one of the traffic study's scenarios cyclists got an advanced green to give them a head start over car traffic. That actually sounds really great! Why not implement that for all our key cycling routes?

This traffic study did not study all the options out there for improving the safety of cyclists at intersections. It only looked at the status quo intersections. For instance, it could have looked at protected intersections like they install in the Netherlands.

So this is what we could ask of staff:

  • Go with fully protected bike lanes, either the original bidirectional plan or unidirectional (which likely requires taking out all the parking but isn't that a small price to pay for safety?)
  • Install protected intersections
  • Install advanced greens for cyclists on major cycling routes: Harbord, Wellesley, St. George/Beverley, Richmond/Adelaide, College, Sherbourne.
  • Stop proposing milquetoast plans!

Why the ebiker hate?

Nobody seems to like ebikers: not cyclists nor motor vehicle drivers and especially not pedestrians. Why is it that ebikers get all this hate? Is there a good reason to hate them? (Photo: Toronto Star)

Certainly there are jerks who ride ebikes. But that is not unique to ebikes. There are jerks who use any kind of wheels. So I don't think this is backed up in fact.

I hear from cyclists who hate ebikers. The reasons they give boil down to hating that they come up quickly and silently. And often in the bike lane. These are valid concerns. But these concerns are all wrapped up into a description of the kind of people who use ebikes. This concern seems to be shared by drivers. I heard a rural driver describe what he saw as a typical ebiker: fat, lazy, unhealthy, low income people. And because the people in this category are entirely "unsexy" it becomes all the easier to hate the mode of transportation and the choice.

The stereotype is accurate (except for lazy). In a recent survey by the City of travel behaviour, we can see that ebikers tend to be older, less healthy and have lower income. A stats nut, inkhorn82, crunched the survey data and spit out some interesting facts. The conclusion: ebikers tend to be older, less healthy and lower income than the average Toronto traveller.

So now we have an interesting picture emerging, with two parallel descriptions of who is most likely to ride E-bikes:

1) 50 – 64 year olds in not the greatest of health
2) Non University educated folks with lower than $80,000 income.

I hope that we can separate our concerns about ebikes and the stereotype of the riders. Who rides the ebikes - except for identifying individual jerks - is entirely irrelevant to the discussion as far as I'm concerned. Ironically, this stereotype had until recently been assigned to the lowly bicycle (at least in North America). With bicycles having attained elitist, latte-drinking status it seems the mantle has moved to the ebike.

When I look at ebikes themselves, I find it hard to believe that ebikes are as dangerous as some cyclists make them out to be. Like a bicycle they can be driven fast or slow (though only to a max of 32 km/hr). There are heavier ebikes, but then there are also heavier bicycles. Cargo bikes and bakfietsen, increasingly seen carting around children and groceries, are also heavy.

But more importantly, the people who argue that ebikes are dangerous back up their assertions with absolutely nothing, and compare this danger to nothing.

This outrage over ebikes seems to be another case of ignoring the elephant in the room. Motor vehicles are far more dangerous - they kill many more people than ebikes, weigh a lot more, can go a lot faster - and cyclists are forced to ride amongst these rumbling beasts constantly as if it was the most normal thing to ride in a herd of stampeding elephants.

The next time someone talks about something being "dangerous", if they fail to mention "relative to ...", you can safely ignore them. Everything we do has a risk and it is absolutely a waste of our time to consider "danger" in isolation. This is simply fear mongering. Instead a risk needs to be considered in the context of other risks (and also considered should be perceived versus actual risk). And in this case the risk of an ebike to cyclists pales in comparison to the risk of a motor vehicle.

Compared to the danger of motor vehicles I really don't have much time for this ebiker hate. And find it a waste of time to use this as a basis for transportation policy.

Boosting cycling and walking key to solving transit woes

The following article is a reprint of an article by Albert Koehl, an environmental lawyer and cycling advocate. He was on the Ontario Chief Coroner's stakeholder panel for cycling safety.

By process of elimination, simple means of getting around like walking and cycling must be looking increasingly attractive to Ontario's provincial and municipal politicians as they struggle to fund new
transit to unclog roads.

The need for better transit is obvious. How to fund that transit: not so much. That's why it's a good time to invest in relatively quick and cheap measures to increase walking and cycling safety to get more people out of their cars and to provide clean and affordable ways to get to new transit once it's in place.


In step one of our existing car-dominated system an individual forks over big bucks to buy and operate a transport product (the car). Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), estimates that the average household spends over $9100 annually on car ownership.

In step two the individual, whether car owner or not, pays various taxes that ultimately fund highways and roads as well as associated costs like policing, health care, and environmental degradation.

In the final step, the individual gets into a car in order to travel just a bit faster, but often slower, than a bicycle.


The Metrolinx plan for rapid transit expansion in the GTHA calls on each household to contribute an average of $477 per year. It's a relatively small amount but still a hard sell, particularly to grumpy motorists already burdened by vehicle costs. It doesn't matter that only two of the proposed funding tools target motorists or that low-income earners, who benefit most from transit, would be compensated by a mobility tax credit.

Walking and cycling

Fortunately, walking and cycling improvements don't require multi-billion dollar investments. Equally important, once the Metrolinx plan is fully implemented over 70 per cent of GTHA residents will live within two kilometers of rapid transit service -- close enough to cycle or walk to a station.

Building our cities to accommodate cars has meant creating public roadways that usually aren't welcoming to cyclists or pedestrians, even for short trips. In Toronto more than half of all trips are actually less than seven km and therefore easily manageable by bike (or on foot for shorter distances). Simple investments like marked mid-street crossings (which could address some of the 31 per cent of mid-block pedestrian deaths recently identified by Ontario's Chief Coroner), more bike lanes, and slower speeds are a good and inexpensive start to improved safety.

Bike lanes are often attacked as being too expensive. The claim has a hollow ring for homeowners (like me) who cycle to get around --- and therefore put minimal demand on the road system --- but pay the same amount in property taxes as neighbours with two or three cars.

Painting a bike lane on a street isn't expensive. It's the complex studies, including environmental assessments (EA) that are expensive.

These EAs often have little to do bicycles and much to do with figuring out how to accommodate every potentially displaced motorist or parking spot.

Bike lanes actually present the opportunity to increase a road's traffic capacity. After the installation of bike lanes on Jarvis St. in downtown Toronto, traffic increased from 13,300 to almost 14,000 vehicles per day. The bike lanes were nonetheless removed and a car lane re-installed (at huge cost) because civic leaders cared little about the vehicles without exhaust pipes.

Getting more kids out of the back seats of cars and onto their feet on the way to school will cost little more than the price of putting the initiative in place. In a Metrolinx pilot project at 30 schools, kids were given the opportunity to walk to school as part of a supervised program. As a result, car drop-offs in the morning fell by 7 per cent and kilometres driven were cut by 100,000 in a single year. Lower speed limits in neighbourhoods around schools would give even more parents the confidence to send their kids to school on foot (and take advantage of the obvious and long term health benefits.)

The monetary savings created by walking and cycling might also create a greater willingness (and capacity) to contribute to transit projects.

While we resolve the bickering around transit funding there are great opportunities to make small but valuable investments in cycling and walking that will serve us well today ... and tomorrow when the new transit finally shows up.

American bicycle culture and infra from the perspective of a Dutchman

A Dutch "anthropological" look at American bicycle culture by Mark Wagenbuur of BicycleDutch. Much the same for Canada. Glimmers of change, but we're still so much in a car-fetishizing culture with space dominated by cars.

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