Lay down a sewer pipe and there are myriad standards dictating dimension, clearance and placement. Lay down a bike lane and sound design precepts are optional, more often recognized in the breach than in the application. How is it that conduits for sh_t are typically subjected to greater planning rigor than conduits for human beings on bicycles?
If you're apt to such musings whenever...oh...pedalling through an officially designated door zone painted up as a bike lane, you're not alone. A few of us were pondering just how that mystery related to the Bloor Viaduct bikeway, a pillar of Toronto's bike network and, conveniently, right in our backyard.
A generation has been conceived, miseducated, and is now tormenting parents with grating music and delinquency since the inception of the Viaduct bike lanes. Yet the bikeway remains stillborn, its hazards, all too familiar to regular cyclists, unresolved.
It can be better. It should be. Why not try to make it so? That was the motivation behind the The Bloor Viaduct Report. I'll skip the specifics, download the report (attached 2.4 MB PDF) and in about the same time it took to read this article you will be familiar with the details.
Read it, discuss it, forward it to friends, advocates and councillors. Hopefully it will inspire you to action, perhaps move you to address the faults of the bike lane network in your own neighbourhood -- that would be the ultimate justification of our efforts.
This past Tuesday (Dec. 2), a PDF of the Bloor Report was emailed to TCAC secretary Frank Baldassini (who forwarded it to TCAC members), along with a request that it be included on the committee's agenda. And with that the bureaucratic machinery creaks into motion.
Where will it lead? [Big sigh] Who knows? Formally presenting a clear detailed analysis of the issue and placing it up for discussion within the public realm will at the very least hold those responsible to account, denies them the refuge of ignorance. Whatever the outcome it'll reveal them and their policies for what they are.
To the official recipients I suspect the Bloor Viaduct Report is largely a waste a time. That is, it tells them what they already know. Does anyone really think the likes of Councillor Heaps (Chair) and TCAC, Dan Egan (Manager Of Pedestrian And Cycling Infrastructure) and Mayor Miller are unaware of how Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Portland, Bogota, etc., support cycling and implement first rate infrastructure?
This is what's so frustrating: they aren't stupid, they KNOW how it should be done. That they frequently do it poorly or not at all is not because they don't know any better -- they do -- the reasons have more to do with matters political than technical. Accordingly, the report's object is not to regurgitate common knowledge, it's to serve notice that we, as taxpayers and constituents, also know how it should be done; and, what's more, we want it done that way. Here. Now.
The Viaduct Report is politicking presented as analysis. It reaffirms that to two wheeled voters the quality of the enterprise is equally as important as the current preoccupation at 100 Queen W.: its quantity. Hardly news but since the message doesn't seem to be getting through it bears repeating.
Which brings us to the subject, the Viaduct Bikeway itself. All the usual suspects arrayed against the prospect of an ideal installation are nowhere to be found: there are no local business nor residences fronting the stretch; no on-street parking to complicate; the bike lanes are well established and very well used, among the busiest in Toronto; and improvements are inexpensive. There are really no obstacles to the best lanes possible as defined by internationally recognized standards and practice.
So if there are no significant political, technical or economic blocks to their correction what's the excuse for the deficiencies having persisted for 15+ years? Good question. The answer to that is...ultimately about credibility. Yes, credibility. If the skilled, motivated brain trust within City Hall, those ostensibly committed to world class bicycle facilities, haven't yet accomplished the task in this instance -- approaching two decades after the fact! -- how much credibility should they merit?
Precisely my thought as well. Perhaps they can redeem themselves. It's their move.
As the report concludes:
There is nothing mysterious about designing, building, and maintaining good bike lanes; it has been done and continues to be done by forward thinking cities the world over. So if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right; we should stop accepting mediocrity and start subscribing to best practice. Toronto's cyclists–indeed, all its citizens!–deserve it.
BenW (not verified)
How is it that conduits forMon, 12/08/2008 - 10:53
Sanitation is the cornerstone of our civilization. Look at what is happening in Zimbabwe right now.
Re: How is it that conduits forMon, 12/08/2008 - 11:48
Human beings -- preferably civilized -- are the cornerstone of civilization.
Ben W (not verified)
Re: How is it that conduits forMon, 12/08/2008 - 16:02
Human beings -- preferably not biking through open sewage -- are the cornerstone of civilization.
Re: How is it that conduits forMon, 12/08/2008 - 16:18
Ok, as long as the sewage yields to cyclists I'm happy ;-)
Great report Luke and others!Mon, 12/08/2008 - 11:32
Lots of excellent ideas in the report. I like the coloured sections of lane with accompanying signage. (use one of them as the photo in this article to let people know what they are reading about!)
Ah and riding across the bloor viaduct this morning reminded me that yes winter maintenance will likely be substandard. Snow was too thick in the bike lane I was riding the next lane over, with a reflective vest and a mirror (to see who is coming) - I was really unimpressed at those that would not change lanes early enough into the clear center lane...
Excellent reportMon, 12/08/2008 - 11:33
and your solutions are easy and inexpensive. I would still prefer to see some physical barriers to keep the cars out of the bikelanes. With the car speeds along the viaduct, painted lines provide inadequate protection from encroachement.
barriersMon, 12/08/2008 - 14:52
Barriers as is without any widening of the lanes would make it difficult to overtake a slower cyclist. I'm not really worried about encroachment of the painted lanes, except where as the report points out the bike lane turns a tight corner where perhaps a few posts with reflectors on top could be useful...
How wide would the lane have to be?Tue, 12/09/2008 - 09:57
How wide would the lane have to be for cyclists to be able to pass and stay within the lane? It's such an important East-West connection that it deserves to be wide enough for passing cyclists. The proposal focuses on simple and inexpensive changes that could be implemented immediately. I wonder what would be involved in going the additional step and creating a physically separated space that's wide enough to allow passing. I've taken the viaduct a few times with my kids and didn't feel comfortable having cars passing them so close and at such high speeds, but there's no other way to get across so I grit my teeth and get gray hairs.
dash (not verified)
Respectfully, if you'reWed, 12/10/2008 - 16:04
Respectfully, if you're doing a piece of road with your kids that is causing you grey hair, then perhaps it's a better idea to walk the bikes through the section. It's one thing for us to take risks like that, but another when you're taking them for your children too.
We're not talking *little*Wed, 12/10/2008 - 19:35
We're not talking little kids here. If I listened to my heart each time grey hairs threatened, my kids would never get out of the house. I'm not worried that the kids will veer out of the bikelane and into traffic, I'm worried that the cars will plough into the bikelane and wipe out our whole family. I'm pretty sure that one falls under the category "paranoid mom" and that we're putting ourselves at much greater risk each time we drive out East to visit family. I listen to my head instead of my heart, but I'd be much happier if cycling infrastructure were designed in such a way that my head and my heart could be in complete agreeement.
Re: Respectfully, if you're...Wed, 12/10/2008 - 20:42
Even acknowledging that tolerance of risk and the threshold of deterrence is variable, your point is well taken.
But I would argue why anyone should be intimidated by this stretch? Why should poor systems and misguided automobile entitlements unduly constrain people, whether they be children or adults, from accessing their own streets? Shouldn't the aim of the exercise be to mitigate those risks?
Parents and kids alike pay a real price in personal freedom when unfettered automobility dictates the terms in which they engage their own community.
andrew d (not verified)
I'm quite impressed by theMon, 12/08/2008 - 11:38
I'm quite impressed by the clear and persuasive presentation in the report. Perhaps all the cycling community needs is to make our complaints known in PDF form. (any sarcasm is directed only at city officialdom, and not at the fine cyclists responsible for the report)
hamish (not verified)
It's simple cheap paint and signage!Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:22
It's good to have this all out - but it's not really news either. I've been bugged, and bugging City Wall about the substandard and dangerous curve for a few years now, but all that they can manage to do is repaint the line in the same place!
They can't manage to even put up a sign before the dangerous entry to the DVP, even a full year plus after apparently Ms. Fletcher said, oh yes, we'll do something, to Ms. Tammy T.
And the @#$@^$ have known!! for 15 years what the fix for that cut-off would be - as Metro had no other bike lanes at the time of their report (glad it leaped out from the shelves for me this fall) - so we have pretty systemic deliberate uncaring or incompetence.
Current civic dysfunction goes well beyond being unable to recognize that an inch of ice in the bike lane totally impairs its use.
There are consistent problems with lighting going off.
Telling them that there's an entry point all along the seam between asphalt and concrete in the south gutter, and the freeze thaw cycles will fuck up this big piece of costly infrastructure a year ago-ish also fails to penetrate, though the water and ice will.
This inability/incompetence is also showing up in new bike infrastructure as the City has just repeated!! the dangerous substandard bikelane on the curve entering the Viaduct with a dangerous substandard bike lane on the rightwards curve on Wellesley east of Jarvis.
Along with sharing this report/news, please try to encourage those who've been hit or hurt or nearly missed on that DVP entry, or the curve, to post details.
And don't presume that the "progressives" will fix it all either please, though the staff at Pam McConnell's office got one problem in their turf fixed pretty quickly, so there can be hope.
My sense of the best strategy for a fix? informing and pressuring the City Legal Dept. on the liability issues, and I believe the head lawyer is R. Akinasto, @55 John St., 26th?
hamish (not verified)
pdf is...Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:26
paint down fast?
paint down fully?
paint down f*ers?
Derek Koops (not verified)
Bloor Viaduct Bikeway Improvement ProposalMon, 12/08/2008 - 13:48
The proposal is really well done. Great job.
The only thing on it that I would recommend changing is that I think that it's problematic to suggest for the transition with the Northbound DVP onramp traffic that the two lanes of traffic criss cross with the bicycle route being a narrow clearly defined strip. I think that it would be better if the entire curb lane was painted blue for a merger section of a couple hundred meters prior to the exit with signs warning motorists to merge with bicycle traffic. That way, when the coast is clear a cyclist could pull left earlier into a gap in traffic and then ride on the left side of the wide blue lane allowing motorists exiting the viaduct to pass on the right rather than waiting until just before the ramp to cut across the lane of car traffic. Hopefully it's understandable what I mean without a diagram but this is generally how I rode this section and it worked well for me.
Re: Bloor Viaduct Bikeway Improvement ProposalMon, 12/08/2008 - 15:46
Derek, I know exactly what you mean: basically an extended merge/transition zone the breadth of the motorists' right turn lane, that hooks up with the stub of the bike lane at the approach to Broadview.
I recall Hamish (co-author of the report) proposed just that during one of our editing sessions. I remember mumbling something about that contributing to a vague transition zone, or sticking to the Portland Blue Bike Lanes Study templates (download link in the reference section, check it out), or "Damn, no more edits, let's have done with thing this already!"
The fact is I can't offer a good reason as to why that wouldn't be a great option. It certainly isn't any superior expertise on any of our parts (Vince, Val, Tom, Hamish, and me) that led us to omit proposals such as yours -- we're just cyclists like yourself.
It was with the implication that a problem can be solved several ways, including yours, that we wrote on Page 3:
It was the lazy way out, and vague I know, but it was meant to acknowledge that more than one solution exists.
What everyone apprehends is almost anything is better than the current arrangement -- there are not even signs there! I'm heartened that discussion here is touching on a variety of options, that's the aim: to get you thinking then doing something about the issue.
I urge you Derek -- and everyone else! -- to submit your ideas to Councillor Heaps, TCAC, Dan Egan, et al. The more they hear that the status quo is unacceptable -- that's the main point -- the better the chance of improvement.
From today's Toronto StarMon, 12/08/2008 - 18:19
From today's Toronto Star editorial summing up how Mayor David Miller's term is going...
"Council business included relatively picayune issues such as bike lanes and approval of a plan – more than a year in the making – to have 15 food carts offer diversified fare."
Canada's largest newspaper views bike lanes as trivial, on par with licensing hot dog vendors. And this is a progressive voice, often leading the way on informing the public on health and environmental matters yet they have a blind spot when dealing with issues important to their advertisers - real estate developers and the automotive industry.
This is shameful.
The Star's got it rightMon, 12/08/2008 - 21:52
Actually Svend, I'd say that the Star is right in this case. There's simply no way that a 45-member council with an $8 billion budget should spend so much time, money, and effort micro-managing the exact placement of a litre of paint on a single street. Over and over and over again for eight years. Better that they just approve completion of the entire bikeway network in one fell swoop and give Transportation Services two years to paint all of the bike lanes to a defined standard. Period.
If council approved other items the way they do bike lanes, they'd need to have separate community consultation meetings, staff reports, and council votes to individually approve every single pedestrian countdown timer, garbage can, park bench, and flower bed in the city. Sheesh, council has already approved the entire bike plan, why do they have to re-approve it piece by tiny piece?
bike plan - approved in principleTue, 12/09/2008 - 18:14
The Bike Plan was never approved by council in its actual form, it was approved in principle, which was arguably the only way that it would have gotten passed by council. This meant that every kilometre would have to be approved segment by segment.
bike-courier (not verified)
Maybe you're onto something..,Sun, 12/21/2008 - 12:37
now I like to try and stay out of it and stick with a little direct action volunteering here and there for myself, I've got no interest in politicking, but a lot of good folk around here do.
It is a better format you suggest, if the "Bike Plan" has been approved entirely by the city then Mr. Egan should be able to paint all the lines instead of dickering with each individual council member whose ward has a bike lane going through. That was the intent of Mr. Heaps initiative in streamlining the TCAC and taking the path of least resistance in implementation across wards was it not? That a patchwork would be easier to connect across wards with resistant council representation/BIA et al where it could be shown that their neighbours to the left and right had the plan initiated to the benefit of their constituents, or at least demonstrably -not- to the detriment of the minority of constituents that council members often heed, or use, to avoid implementation?
If cycling is a viable transportation alternative, even if only for 8-9 months of the year as some would argue, then why are individual council members able to refuse this assertion by the City as a whole, when transportation issues are usually addressed as a whole, sewage treatment & waste given consideration as a whole, power and communications as a whole, a network, excepting special projects and facilities? Would the rest of council, the mayor and the populace permit one backward elected official to delay or stop hydro repairs or installations because of the perception that a few business owners might lose business when they lose 3 parking spaces for a time or even forever? That this roadblock has not been removed by the City as a whole is telling.
Perhaps there is some meat here for the activist portion of our community. When/if the Bike Plan continues to defy implementation and activists are looking for a response look elsewhere for a change. Don't address the issue directly if you're tired of the usual rigamarole, especially where you know for a fact the councilor is unyielding. Take it that what is good for the goose is good for the gander and go to City Hall with reports, criticisms, complaints, deputations, petitions and injunctions for any program being implemented in your ward. Does it matter if the new extension of (insert public facility here) is installed on time? Apparently not. Why?, you will be asked, and the answer is something your lawyer, for those with disposable income anyway, could help you with. Some long, roundabout way of explaining your feelings are hurt by this new (insert public works project here).
Just doing for others as they do for you in the spirit of the season.
There's always someone willing to throw themselves into the works for a cause, when that too seems entirely useless, save your monkeywrench for some other gearbox, toss it in there. Misery loves company after all.
chephy (not verified)
*sigh* There we go again.Mon, 12/08/2008 - 21:11
sigh There we go again. We're dumb little cyclists, no way we can negotiate one lane change, wah wah wah.
Now, the winter maintenance point is a valid one, and the bike lane at the curve should be widened.
hamish (not verified)
it's a highway chephyMon, 12/08/2008 - 22:54
The feel of that eastbound stretch over the Viaduct is like a highway, and that's its design speed. Over time, one gets inured to the changeover, and many experienced cyclists make the lane change 200M ahead of the cutoff, but that's learned behaviour not signed.
So unless you're doing this stretch every day, I think that's a kinda cheap shot.
As for design options, one thought I'd had was yes, painting the curb bike lane blue well ahead of the intersection but also starting off a line of small bike symbols on the lane markings lines adjacent (one lane over) that gradually increase in size and then add blue as one gets close to the resumption of the bike lane so it both supports faster cyclists who want to crossover early and fast, but it also acts to guide and constrain the off-ramp traffic.
What about kids?Tue, 12/09/2008 - 09:49
Rosedale Heights School of the Arts is right in the middle:
Here's a high school that is accessible from both the East and West by a bikelane that isn't adjacent to parked cars. But I would not let my 14-year old bike to school if he had to negotiate the lane change with the Don Valley ramp. What a missed opportunity to get more kids on bikes.
Part of the problem with that section is that cars can go through it at top speed, it's been designed that way. If the turn was pushed back a bit - closer to Broadview - to make it sharper, then drivers would be forced to slow down. Would that be possible?
Whining can sometimes be goodTue, 12/09/2008 - 10:54
There is more to biking activism than just getting a bike lanes. We don't build bike lanes and other cycling infrastructure for those that are already riding thier bikes, but for those who cound (and would) if they felt safe doing so. Which means that the infrastructure must feel safe.
People who don't currently ride are not going to start if we build poor quality bike lanes. And having them merge/cross a lane of 70km/h of cars and trucks does not feel safe, even to an experienced cyclist, even though almost all of us can do it.
In the former 'burbs, the fight is to get any bike lanes installed. The fight downtown (with the exception of Booor/Queen/King) has moved on and is now to get better quality bike infrastructure. And we're not waiting for the city to tell us what we need, we are now producing our own reports to highlight our needs, and to show some of the options and costs.
I think that this is nothing less than brilliant. I think that is great that, in at least some places in the city, the fight has moved on from quantity to quality, and I think that it's great that we are recognising this, and I think that it is great that we are gaining the expertise in the community to articulate this need in a coherent manner.
This is a valid critisism for a very specific section of road, and it outlines some good options that can be done to improve the experience for it's users.
And while this is essentialy a form of whining, this form is a very constructive and mature form, and is one that is much more likely to acted upon with a positive outcome.
chephy (not verified)
Of course it's learnedMon, 12/08/2008 - 23:57
Of course it's learned behaviour, hamish. Most human behaviour is learned. Traffic principles are pretty logical and straight-forward and, once learned, can be applied in a variety of situations since the roads are designed with those principles in mind.
When it gets messed up is the moment people decide that standard principles are not enough, and decide to start providing extra clues. Like bicycle symbols gradually increasing in size. Wow, motorists beware, cyclists grow larger as they approach the highway ramp. Clear as mud.
I don't mind slowing down the traffic there and elsewhere. I don't mind getting rid of highway ramps. I don't even mind getting rid of highways. What I do mind is innovative ideas that don't fit into general traffic principles in an effort to dumb everything down for Bozo the Cyclist (and Ignoramus the Driver). Lack of system causes unpredictability and reinforces the idea that cycling is dangerous, stupid and even illegal except on occasional, randomly picked stretches of road where there is a bunch of blue paint splattered on the road and pictures of bicycles abound.
Derek Koops (not verified)
RE: Of Course it's LearnedTue, 12/09/2008 - 08:42
The fact is that our traffic principles were developed by and for automobile users. These standard auto-centric principles are clearly not sufficient to encourage cyclists or we would see cycling as a means of transportation at a much higher frequency than the dismal level that it remains at in Toronto. If I understand correctly you are saying that you don't want this system implemented because it would result in a lack of system. Isn't a lack of system int terms of cycling infrastructure what we have today? We have to start somewhere building a system.
Sure, you and I don't need these cues to suggest to us where the best way to ride is but I would bet that there are many motorists on the road (especially in the city) that would choose cycling if they felt more comfortable and it was more clear to them how it is appropriate to ride our streets. Getting these people on their bikes is how the frequency of cycling as a transportation mode will increase and that's what these changes are intended to do.
hamish (not verified)
wish I could put in a rough sketchTue, 12/09/2008 - 22:48
The intent of suggesting another option for faster and more experienced cyclists was to enhance that learned behaviour while constraining the motor vehicle traffic that's turning off a bit as the ramp approaches. Sure, I may be wrong to think that having small bike symbols on the same axis as the lane markings enhances cyclists' profile and I also could be wrong to think that gradually expanding the bike symbols to the size of a bike lane symbol ahead of the bike lane could prep motorists for the bike lane starting again too.
Just different thoughts, and for truly learning all the options, I guess we should all head out of here to different parts of the world. Copenhagen: City of Cyclists is one helpful video without the carbon of going there.
CongratulationsTue, 12/09/2008 - 12:27
Congratulations on an outstanding, excellent piece of work. This is nothing short of groundbreaking, and a brilliant example of how great the cycling community can be. I ride this section of Bloor on a regular basis, and completely concur with everything the doc says.
Ward 26 has just finished a white paper, and Ward 21 is working on theirs. Luke's document is done and in. What is happening in other wards with cyclist groups developing documents?
Changes will happen as these papers are looked at from many different perspectives. Ultimately, hopefully, the best of the changes will be implemented, and minor improvements tweaked in. Tuning will be ongoing. I would encourage posters and commentators to get intouch with the authors of these docs, and exchange email and contact info. When the call back from City Hall comes, the best thing possible would be for a massive, coordinated response from the community.
These kinds of white papers from the community are exactly what will catalyze Bike Plan, and make things happen. This makes it possible for our civil servants to pass the word - the will - of the people up the chain of command, and across the silos, breaking down the barriers which keep Toronto from moving ahead. More of these documents need to come in from the community, and put in writing what needs to be done.
Again congratulations Luke, gathering bees with honey definitely works.
Re: CongratulationsWed, 12/10/2008 - 20:50
Thank you for the encouraging words Brian. You've hit upon the essence of the undertaking: let's hope the aggregate of our individual efforts brings about real climate change where it's most needed: at City Hall.
Looking forward to others joining the fray...
F. Fynn Wright (not verified)
dittoTue, 12/09/2008 - 15:16
geoffrey (not verified)
Cycling as inviting as it is safeThu, 12/11/2008 - 09:45
^I feel David's comments underline the importance in re-evaluating our cycling infrastructure as you (we) have above. Are lanes installed for the convenience of motorists? To deter bicyclists from taking the lane? Are traffic laws being interpreted favouring motorists, ignoring the grave danger motorists subject bicyclists to? Are motorists brandishing multi tonne motorvehicles the norm while police turn a blind eye to the matter many collisions are in fact assaults with weapons?