Bloor bike lanes pilot area

Last night the City presented the preferred option for the Bloor Street bike lanes (pilot) (see more coverage here, here). I couldn't make it but looks like it was option C, which was the one with the most extensive physical separation between people biking and driving. That's nice and quite a surprise actually. I had expected more compromises and we got fewer. It is indeed something to be celebrated given the large political barriers overcome (and still to be overcome). Councillors Cressy and Layton should be commended for pushing this and taking a political risk. A key part of this is the new cycling manager Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati who is willing work hard at taking advantage of this political opportunity. Previously the Cycling Unit has often been content at not upsetting the apple cart and were more than happy to delay the Bloor bike lanes by agreeing to unnecessary Environmental Assessments.

In terms of the design there are two main items which I feel are compromises:

  • the stretch between Bathurst and Spadina will only have flexiposts on the one side, which was given up to preserve car parking on one side
  • a number of people were asking the staff to take a risk of trying Protected Intersections on Bloor but looks like they've decided to stick to the substandard approach of forcing bikes to "intermingle" with cars at all intersections. This approach has already proved to be problematic on Richmond and Adelaide and does nothing to try to reduce the worst locations for collisions: intersections

That being said, this will still be a game changer as much as the protected bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide were game changers, having a huge impact on people flowing into, through and out of the core. It's only been 40 years!

It may be winter still but the snow has left (again) and you can start thinking about doing some maintenance. My wife sometimes trusts me to work on her Dutch bike, which features an annoying to remove chaincase which also happens to be quite good at keeping most moving parts away from dirt, water, salt. A while back I was trying to find out how to remove the chaincase on my wife's Dutch bike. The info out there was sparse, even in Dutch. So I had taken some photos with the idea of posting them so they may this help someone else out there. Then I promptly forgot about them. Until now. So I'm reviving this for your benefit. You're welcome.

You don't need to flip the bike over, but for these photos I did to get a better view.

chaincase exposed


There are at least a couple varieties of chaincases on Dutch bikes. This one is traditional with frabric covering a metal frame. The frabric is held together with a wire woven between hooks alternating along the edges of the fabric.

Undo the wire by pushing it away from the hooks. Don't push so hard that you bend the wire. It has to maintain some stiffness so you can put it back together.

undo fabric on chaincase


Wire undone and exposes the chain and crank so it can clean them or replace the chain. A chaincase will keep things fairly clean, but eventually even a fully-covered chain will get dirty.

Undo the wire


Pull up the little doohickey that holds together the two sides of the fabric.

pull rear chaincase to undo


Pull back bend of the metal chaincase so it separates. It might need a bit of tapping from a wrench if it's stuck. Just look at that chain—still quite clean and no rust. It's just the cheap metal frame that's been rusting a bit. Salty Toronto winters are hard even on Dutch bikes, but particularly on bikes where all the bits are naked to the elements.

undo wheel axle


If you ever need to change the tire or wheel, remove the nut and pull the braces to get the wheel loose. You may also find you need to tighten the chain by tightening that small bolt that points towards the back. This is a chain tensioner.

undo coaster brake arm


Undo the arm for the coaster brake. At this point you'll be able to remove the wheel and change the tube, tire or fix something else such as a broken spoke (thankfully rare on a sturdy bike like this).

To get it rideable again, reverse the process. Put the wheel back on and tension it. Fix the coaster brake arm back to the chainstay. Slide the metal curve back onto the end of the chaincase. You may need to tap it gently with rubber mallet.

weave fabric back together


Pull the flaps back together and start weaving the wire back on between the hooks. It can be difficult to pull the plastic fabric all the way back. Be persistent but careful so that you can get the snap shut. The snap is the hardest. It isn't crucial but it will expose more of the chain to the elements.

Good to go -- fingers crossed!


All back together! If you did things right it'll look like this. (Notice I gave up on trying to close the snap.)

A couple weeks ago I came across a tweet about someone presenting at a conference in the US about their study of Sherbourne Street, Toronto, and how big an impact the new physically separated bike lane had on fresh, nervous cyclists. Surprised, I thought: "Hey, why am I hearing about this from Americans?" I managed to contact on Twitter the presenter's former professor—Dr. Raktim Mitra at Ryerson U—sent me a copy of the poster. The presenter was Raymond Ziemba who presented at the 95th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Washington, DC, earlier in January. (Photo credit: Martin Reis)

Ziemba found that "[t]here was a strong association between travel route change and mode substitution, where the likelihood of switching to cycling was 11 times higher for those who did not use the street before 2012." That is, the transformation of Sherbourne Street cycling facilities from painted bike lanes to physically separated bike lanes with curbs on the north end and raised to near sidewalk level on the south end. This is not surprising given the almost 300% increase in cyclists on Sherbourne.

There were some interesting findings of the survey that point to how important physical separation is to growing the mode share of cycling. Ziemba surveyed 214 cyclists on Sherbourne St in 2014. As Dr. Mitra summarized in his email to me:

  1. 38% current cyclists on Sherbourne did not cycle before 2012 for the same or similar trip.
  2. Most (55%) new cyclists would use transit before, while fewer (24%) potentially switched from driving. Might be good in a downtown context where transit congestion is a big issue.
  3. Most mentioned safety as the reason why they shifted.
  4. Savings in travel time scored almost as high as improved safety as a reason for cycling. That is, under favourable conditions, cycling can actually save time for many.

Even though there were fewer cyclists who switched from driving than switched from transit, it's still a substantial percentage and has a greater impact on congestion given the large space a car takes up to carry 1-2 people around.

I really appreciate that people are studying this since it'll really help with further campaigns. If a future masters student is looking for a topic, I would suggest replicating this for Richmond and Adelaide where my friends and I have suspected that not only have a large number of people switched from Queen or King but that it has opened up the core to many new cyclists as well.