Three people who were cycling have died so far this year, and twenty-one who were walking. This morning over 150 cyclists staged a die-in in front of City Hall. Their demands: adopt a zero tolerance on road fatalities, increase the cycling budget from around $8 to $20 million (to put it in line with Montreal's) and build a minimum grid of protected bike lanes and bicycle boulevards. (Photo credit: Martin Reis)

The people cycling were Adam Excell, Toronto architect Roger du Toit and Peter (Zhi Yong) Kang. It'll take a lot more work to compile the list of everyone who was killed while walking.

See more here, here and here.

Right now Toronto has no plan to reduce road fatalities. Then very few North American cities acknowledge this. NYC just adopted Vision Zero but it's going to be a very long exercise fraught with setbacks and controversy. Compared to NYC, Toronto is actually safer but that doesn't mean we should become complacent. Try telling any of the more than twenty families whose loved ones died this year that those deaths were acceptable losses. No family is exempt; no person is 100% safe from dying on our roads.

Cycling campaigners have fought for safer roads for decades with a scattering of success. In order to change the complacency in government a sustained, long-term campaign is necessary. Only then do we have a chance that our mayors will care just as much about human life as they do about drivers shaving off seconds on their commute. The shift didn't happen by accident in NYC, it took a lot of work by organizations like Transportation Alternatives.

I got a new bike. It can carry lots of stuff.

Heavy stuff. Like a chainsaw.

I got the Workcycles "Fr8" from the great tiny country of the Netherlands. I admit that it's kind of a (pre)mid-life crisis bike but instead of sports car, I've gone with a much cheaper option of just about the most robust and practical bike you can buy.

Workcycles is actually run by an American, Henry Cutler. The Fr8 is pretty great: comfy, upright ride, sturdy, two big racks (the front rack is fixed to the frame not the fork for greater stability). It's a versatile tank; an SUV of bicycles.

I've had bikey friends try it out—friends that normally ride more crouched over on one-speed fixies—and loved the comfortable ride.

Full chain guard (naturally, for a Dutch bike)

The front and rear lights are powered off a hub generator

One of the most unique features: remove the triangle to change tubes. With enclosed chains it can be a real pain in the ass to change tubes and tires.

Notice too the seat tube that actually meets in front of the bottom bracket. This odd feature means that the bike is a better fit for both short and tall people. By moving the seat further or closer at a faster rate than regular frames it keeps a better distance between the seat and handlebars for most people.

A lot of thought went into the use of this bike for everyday life, which I appreciate a lot.

I imported the Workcycles but you can also buy similar sturdy Dutch-style bikes from local sources. Urkai in Burlington imports Azur from the Netherlands; such as the Transporter or the Industrial Bike. Or Curbside in Toronto which imports the Belgian Achielle. Or even the British Pashley bikes, available at Hoopdriver, though they don't have front racks. Or you can go even more "hardcore" with cargo bikes: bakfietsen (box bikes), longtails and so on. Luckily it's becoming a lot easier to find such bikes in Canada now.

Ian bikes down John Street regularly. He recently captured the chaos that is John because of the road space given over to patios and muskoka chairs.

John Street has become uncomfortable and less safe for cyclists. But instead of fighting against improvements for pedestrians, we need to focus on how we can reduce the motorized traffic by making it harder for cars to use John as a direct route.
My attempt at capturing the mess.

The problem is the cars NOT the people

Some people misunderstand the issue here. The issue at heart is not about making John Street more pedestrian-friendly. Myself and others who have a problem with the City's actions thus far is not to try to preserve the car-centric John Street of yore.

Nor do I believe that the City has rid itself of any responsibility to cyclists on John by moving the traffic light on Queen at Soho/Peter. It was the absolute minimum that the City could have done but still not enough to entice most cyclists from taking John.

The problem at heart is that the City is being half-assed about John Street. There is NO plan to reduce car traffic on John Street.

So the pilot project has installed some planters to create a hard barrier between people sitting in chairs and the cars and cyclists. For the short term this has created a squeeze of cars and cyclists who are now forced to fill in the little gaps left by the cars and trucks. There was no effort to try to divert cars and trucks away from John so the traffic is as heavy as ever. It's torture for cyclists and hardly friendly to pedestrians.

But even the final design which City staff are working on right now has no plans to deal with car traffic. With all the talk about "cultural corridor" and "pedestrian priority route" there is nothing about diverting car traffic. Instead it talks about fuzzy things like gently sloping curbs, new paving materials and new trees. But for anyone who ever visits Kensington Market you'll know that this is hardly enough to create a "pedestrian priority route" even though Kensington has a much greater pedestrian traffic than John. Kensington is as choked as ever with cars and trucks.

So instead I'm on the same page as Jared Kolb of Cycle Toronto who is calling for the City to create true Bicycle Boulevards and not the half-assed cycling routes. A key feature of bicycle boulevards that's relevant here is motorized traffic diversion.

An example of a traffic diversion with cycling bypass on Health St E and Inglewood Dr in Toronto.

From Wikipedia:

Bicycle boulevards discourage cut-through motor-vehicle traffic but allow local motor-vehicle traffic. They are designed to give priority to bicyclists as through-going traffic. They are intended to improve bicyclist comfort and/or safety.

On a "cultural corridor" and "pedestrian priority route" like John Street, wouldn't it be in the interests of people—whether they are pedestrians, merchants or cyclists—to discourage cut-through motorized traffic? I believe we can all win if the City just woke up to this option.