At the last public meeting for cycling, I asked Dan Egan, head of the City of Toronto's Cycling Department a rather purposeful question, specifically:
"Who is the intended design user of our cycling infrastructure?"
And his response was the rather bland:
"The average cyclist"
Well, that got me thinking, who (or what) is the "average" cyclist?
Is it me? Probably not. I'm a CAN-BIKE II graduate and a former certified CAN-BIKE instructor. CAN-BIKE II graduates are rare, and instructors are even more so.
Would my daughters qualify? Again, nope. They have taken the Kids CAN-BIKE course and also the CAN-BIKE Camp. To compare: they are the only ones at their school to have done either, let alone both.
My wife? She's never taken CAN-BIKE, rides much less frequently than either myself or our daughters. Her rides tend to be shorter in distance and duration than the rest of our family. She's never commuted by bike. She'll only ride when most of her trip can be done over cycling infrastructure and the rest of the route she feels comfortable on. So she's more likely to ride to downtown than within our community.
My neighbor who rides quite a bit? He rides quite a bit around the neighborhood both as part of his multi-modal commute (to the GO train station) and for other activities such as shopping. However, the routes he uses either don't have any bike infrastructure at all, or else have infrastructure only on tiny segments of his routes. Can't be him.
My other neighbor who rides a couple of times a week during the better weather for fitness? He rides on the Humber Bay Shores and Martin-Goodman trails, and sometimes on part of the Humber River trail. Could be him.
My other neighbors who ride just a few times a year? They also tend to use the Humber Bay Shores and less frequently the Martin-Goodman trails and part of the Humber River trail. I've also seen them pack their bikes up on their cars to drive them to other trails where they will ride. Could be them, too.
Does this mean that the many of us who ride bikes a lot are not the intended, or design, user of cycling infrastructure? Yet we are generally the advocates. Are we asking the city to build cycling infrastructure that we can't, don't, or won't use? In some cases, yes we are.
In my own neighborhood of Mimico, we've done a good job providing multi-use trails which people on bike can use, but we've also seen quite a lot of contention along those same trails between different user groups with most of the animosity being directed against "fast" cyclists; and it's been said that these trails were not designed nor intended for the faster commuter cyclists. Does this mean that commuter cyclists are not the average cyclist, and that we aren't designing for them?
Well, let's have a quick look at the vision from our bike plan's Executive Summary, and see what is says:
The vision for the Toronto Bike Plan is to create a safe, comfortable and bicycle friendly environment in Toronto, which encourages people of all ages to use bicycles for everyday transportation and enjoyment.
I would interpret "everyday transportation" as commuting and "enjoyment" as fitness and/or occasional "Sunday" rides. And "people of all ages" are not going to share the same average in either skill, ability, nor speed.
To me this means that city staff are making a big mistake in designing cycling infrastructure for the "average cyclist" and that this very idea of an "average cyclist" is contrary to the stated vision of the bike plan.
What do you think?
Should the city be designing our cycling infrastructure for some real or imagined "average cyclist?"
Or should be be following the vision of our older bike plan, and be designing our cycling infrastructure for people people of all ages, uses, and abilities?
chephy (not verified)
It's tough luck for us,Sun, 11/23/2014 - 22:49
It's tough luck for us, relatively fast commuters who ride a lot. No one designs anything for us simply because there aren't enough of us. And I suspect there won't be that many of us ever. Even in the alleged Cycling Heavens like Copenhagen the bike infrastructure is designed with a pretty slow cyclist in mind, one who doesn't ride very fast or go very far.
It will probably remain that way. In cars, the gas pedal is the great equalizer, but in cycling there will always be a very wide range of skill and ability among the riders. But here is the thing: it is not a statistically normal distribution -- the majority of cyclists will be closer to the low end of the skill/ability range. That's not an insult to them, just a natural consequence of most people's lack of interest in becoming skilled cyclists -- it's simply not a priority for them. So those are your "average cyclists", and the infrastructure, if truly designed for them in mind, would reflect that the predominantly low skill and ability level. Therefore building for the average cyclist would be very close to building for the lowest common denominator, which I think that it actually aligns with the Bike Plan: designing for the average cyclist will result in infrastructure that people of all ages, skills and abilities will be able to use. Not too effectively, mind you, but the word "effectively" is not in the plan, is it?
Now, there are a few nuances. One is that the kind of infrastructure you build actually affects what "average cyclist" looks like. A well-developed, robust, efficient network will draw more people to cycling and will encourage good cycling habits. A bunch of poorly connected bike lanes and ridiculous paths with obstacles and blind corners... well, let's just asy they won't have the same beneficial effect.
Another consideration that sort of turns this whole discussion into a bit of a moot point is that right now our cycling infrastructure is not actually being designed for the average cyclist, or for any kind of cyclist, for that matter. It's designed in a way that least inconveniences motorists, and if it doesn't end up working all that well for cyclists, average or not... no one actually gives too much of a damn about that.
Lela Gary (not verified)
The imaginary cyclist isWed, 11/26/2014 - 20:23
The imaginary cyclist is based on the imaginary plan. A chameleon plan of numerous names over the years, like 2+ decades, that has no rhyme nor reason in our ever dismall infrastructure. No cohesiveness, no connection, and an ongoing Free motor vehicle parking = Bike lanes. The answer D. Egan gave to the question, was very appropriate to this imaginary plan.
Kevin (not verified)
The correct answer isMon, 11/24/2014 - 03:09
The correct answer is "everyone." The cycling infrastructure should be designed for everyone. Just like it is in The Netherlands. See:
Leo (not verified)
The purpose of bikeMon, 11/24/2014 - 13:17
The purpose of bike infrastructure is to increase bike ridership. This means it has to be built for people who ride seldom but would ride more with better infrastructure, or people who don't ride but would start riding if there were infrastructure. The end goal has to be a high modal share for cycling.
The more bike ridership grows, the more car drivers know to look out for and expect bikes. The greater the bike modal share, the fewer cars there are to conflict with. The greater the proportion of the voting public that bikes, the easier it is to sell bike infrastructure to politicians. It's a virtuous cycle.
David Juliusson (not verified)
There is an opportunity inWed, 11/26/2014 - 14:28
There is an opportunity in many parts of the city about to emerge. Transportation wants to begin narrowing the lanes on roads throughout Toronto. It reduces speeding, making the roads safer. The space saved could be used for bike lanes.
Maria Gatti (not verified)
Remember that "all cyclists"Tue, 11/25/2014 - 06:28
Remember that "all cyclists" also includes those of us who are getting older or have (usually minor) disabilities. In cycling-friendly European countries, deaf or hard-of-hearing cyclists can get a crossed ear sign for the back of their bicycle so others understand that they won't react to bells or horns. I met a disabled person in Amsterdam who got a subsidy for his adult tricycle.
I just have some arthritis; I cycle a lot, but it is MUCH easier for me to kick off if there is a curb I can stand on instead of having to jump on my bicycle (I've been doing that for almost 50 years, starting as a kid, but it hurts now). And of course I have a women's frame, and would even as a man, with such a problem.
There are some routes in Copenhagen proper where cyclists can go faster; in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities, it is true that cyclists are pretty much expected to conform to the speed of the crowd, but no Dutch city is so large for that to be a problem. Long commutes will be between cities or from somewhat remote suburbs, where there are definitely cycling routes where one can go faster, as they are also used by sport cyclists training. But remember that there is an excellent commuter rail system and probably most cyclists' commutes are intermodal.
Anthony, psst, it is "neigbhour" in Canadian English. I know I'm a stickler, but creeping American spelling must be pointed out.
In Toronto (not justTue, 11/25/2014 - 08:56
In Toronto (not just downtown), the 'average' cyclist is a recreational rider who is riding for pleasure, not to replace their automobile. Hopefully, new infrastructure will expand the different uses for the bicycle, and then the description of the average rider will change.
If you want to have cyclists replacing automobile drivers, then you have to create infrastructure that actually supports that. That means more bike lanes, that go from where people live to where they work.
I don't believe is has to be fancy. Protected bike lanes are great for encouraging more recreational cyclists, young, old or infirm, but I'll take more infrastructure any day over a limited amount of 'fancy' bike lanes. But that's just me.
JohnR (not verified)
I think the average rider isTue, 11/25/2014 - 11:27
I think the average rider is appropriate. The vast majority of our bike lanes are little more than a painted 'guideline' on the road. It serves a purpose to delineate a space on the road for cyclists. These benefit the average cyclist who may be deterred from cycling if there were no line at all.
For me personally I use my bicycle exclusively for getting to work and other places. I once calculated that my trip to work is 74 blocks long of which 3 are along bike lanes. I could incorporate more bike lanes in the route but why bother? It would be inconveniently circuitous and would matter little to my comfort level as I already cycle easily along several busy roads on the 71 other blocks.
My road experience is such that I will use cycling lanes if they are handy but I imagine for the above average cyclist bike lanes matter very little.
David Juliusson (not verified)
There is another gorup ofTue, 11/25/2014 - 15:05
There is another gorup of cyclists that need to be considered and that is school cyclists.
The TDSB now has an Active Transportation Charter. Principals will be required to submit ways that will get their students to walk and ride to school rahter than be driven or bussed. There is an infrastucture in place to do so, bike racks being planned. How can future cycling infrastucture benefit this group?
Maria Gatti (not verified)
Well, obviously the DutchTue, 11/25/2014 - 20:52
Well, obviously the Dutch standard is from 8 to 80 at least. Of course including schoolchildren and highschoolers. Until I was about 15 or 16, I didn't cycle to school, I simply walked. Quite a way - not talking about the heroic tales of children in farm communities doing great treks. I loved walking a lot, and I loved cycling. Yes, important to "look both ways", but still, it was time to dream. I'm horrified at how the current generation of children are driven anywhere, if the parents can afford a car.
Separatist (not verified)
The new separated RichmondSun, 11/30/2014 - 20:17
The new separated Richmond Simcoe Adelaide cycle tracks are great for vehicular cyclists they are not designed however for occasional recreational cyclists unused to traffic.
The pilot's design has done what Egan said designed for the average cyclist i.e. someone already cycling on City streets.
The disappearance of the southbound Simcoe cycle track at Roy Thomson Hall between King and Wellington, the lack of signals for cyclists at Richmond at Simcoe to cross Richmond , the floating southbound cycle lane/sharrows at Front and Simcoe sandwiched between a right hand turn lane and southbound vehicular lane.
No recreational trail cyclist who is uncomfortable on city streets will ever use these routes unless they are better and completely separated and designed better with non vehicular cyclists as the priority.
The current modal split is 4% cyclists this means 80?-85?% of the City population aren't riding at all on City streets.
Hopefully the compromises made in the pilot will not be carried through to the permanent installation but the current design speaks to a continuation of designing for the tiny percentage of the population that are already riding.
Maria Gatti (not verified)
I'm not a "vehicularSun, 11/30/2014 - 21:42
I'm not a "vehicular cyclist", nor am I a "recreational" one. I've been a utilitarian cyclist here in Montréal for a good 40 years, but I do not follow the reactionary carcentric cult of vehicular cycling. Cycling is for human beings of all ages and abilities.
David Juliusson (not verified)
What exactly is an "average"Mon, 12/01/2014 - 10:47
What exactly is an "average" cyclist? We seem to want to design a one size fits all strategy. Although people go back and forth between them, I see 4 distinct groups. All of them have had casualties. All need to be thought of.
Edouard Le Blanc fits into this category. On October 9, he was trying to cross Warden Ave, at an intersection that had a special signal for cyclists that connects to the Gatineau Hydro corridor bike path. It is unclear if the car driver will be charged.
Tom Samson falls into this category. He died while stationary making a left turn in a left turn lane when he was rammed from behind. Although he had 8 previous driving convictions, the driver was only charged with failing to remain at the scene of an accident where death occurred.
Otto Rivera also falls into this category. He was riding home from his work as a bike courier when he was struck by a drunk driver. He died after two years in a coma.
Sue Trainor falls into this category. On September 18, 2013 she died at Dwight and Lakeshore. Although it has been on the bike plan since 2001, there is no path there. Her death triggered a staff report on getting a lane.
Although she was a 50+ year old woman, she was reported as being in her twenties.
The final group is school children and their parents. This will beome a larger group as the TDSB Active Transportation Charter comes more into effect. To my knowledge, there are no plans looking at routes to make it safer for them.
Jenna Morrison represents this group. She was on her way to pick up her son from school. She was crushed by a right turning truck trying to get on to the West Rail Path. The driver was never charged.
Yes we need to think about the "average" cyclist. What des that mean? How can we make cycling safer for everyone?
David : Not to be callous,Mon, 12/01/2014 - 11:51
David : Not to be callous, but a brief look at your 'casualties' shows that the current types of infrastructure works quite well. The casualties you list are unfortunate, but in line, or less than, what other vehicles have suffered as road users ( and, yes, car drivers suffer fatal accidents too).
My point? It's pointless to expect life to be perfectly safe. Riding a bike to work takes skill, just like driving a car, or crossing busy streets on foot. We learned to drive a car in traffic, we can learn to ride a bike in a bike lane that doesn't have a next-gen repulser field between us and the cars. It's not that difficult.
To get more people to commute by bike you just have to build some bike lanes. Talking about the perfect bike lane won't get them built.
Maria Gatti (not verified)
It means separatedMon, 12/01/2014 - 11:48
It means separated infrastructure at as high a standard as seen in the Netherlands, Denmark and other cycling-friendly countries.
Middle-aged cyclists were also killed - by heavy trucks - in Montréal and in Ottawa this past week.