Like me, perhaps you are wondering why a right-wing politician who had helped to push the "war on the car" meme on the public, had opposed separated bike lanes on University Ave and opposed the Jarvis bike lanes, is now supporting a separated bike lane network for downtown Toronto. It may help to get a bit more of the background.
Alan Heisey pointed out in my previous post that the Toronto Star map and information is incorrect. Heisey's original proposal, which looked like the map attached, also included separated bike lanes to Bathurst and Parliament on Harbord and on Richmond as well as bike lanes extended north of Bloor.
By email Heisey clarified some of the background of this story. Way back in January 2010, Heisey had proposed separating Sherbourne street bike lanes. TCAC (Toronto Cycling Advisory Committee) and Councillor McConnel endorsed it. Back in March 2010, Heisey returned with a petition to separate the lanes on St. George and Beverly. Around this time the City was voting on the University separated bike lanes, but which were narrowly defeated because of a voting error by McConnell. Minnan-Wong hated the idea of bike lanes on University so he proposed Heisey's plan as an alternative before Council. His proposal opposed by a majority of council.
In August, Heisey presented a petition to the public works committee (PWIC) for the entire plan (as pictured above). Councillors de Baeremaker, Heaps of PWIC support the plan. Councillors Perks and Carroll opposed it. Vaughan visits PWIC and opposes it. Minnan-Wong also visits PWIC and supports it. This is the first time that the Toronto Cyclists Union officially supports the network minus the St. George/Beverly separated lanes (though they have changed their position since to include it as well). PWIC decided to have staff report on the network for early 2011.
During the last couple weeks of the municipal election former mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi adopted the entire plan (the map above comes from his website), though his support was conditional on taking out the bike lanes on Jarvis.
According to Heisey, Minnan-Wong was quoted in the media last spring saying he supported snow removal for this core network. This would be critical for separated bike lanes since regular snow plows might not be able to do the job.
I've got lots of questions remaining. If cyclists buy into Minnan-Wong plan does it mean giving up on bike lanes on University and Jarvis? Or give up on the rest of the Bike Plan entirely? Is the bike union now supporting this plan because it will now be even harder to get bike lanes on University?
Heisey's heart is in the right place, but this plan has had much more sympathy on the right than the left for reasons I can only speculate about. During this time the left-leaning politicians were pushing University Ave bike lanes. And we just got Jarvis. Strategically we might lose both of these streets, which would mean less kilometres of bike lanes total (aside from Richmond) in exchange for reconfigured lanes elsewhere. But we also might gain quite a bit, since separated bike lanes, wherever they go in, may result in a significant culture shift and increase the visibility of cyclists.
At this point the biggest barriers to accomplishing this plan comes from Ford's unthinking ideology that is only willing to count people in cars as "traffic" and from Councillor Vaughan who has plans for two way traffic on Richmond and Adelaide which would preclude bike lanes. Vaughan had also opposed separated bike lanes on St. George/Beverly in the media recently, though a bird told me that at some point Vaughan was actually asking staff to investigate such a plan.
Such is the moving target that is politics, that may or may not involve good planning decisions. But at least some of them are taking cyclists seriously.
dances_with_traffic (not verified)
Herb, QueensQuayKaren justTue, 01/11/2011 - 20:30
Herb, QueensQuayKaren just tweet she doesn't approve of your pointed questions.
Bri Guy (not verified)
Hi Herb et al, I was ridingTue, 01/11/2011 - 23:55
Hi Herb et al,
I was riding along the Birchmount bike lane in East End toronto tonight, thinking about this whole thing. Out here in my new home ward of 36 Scarborough Southwest, there are few bike lanes to speak of. It's very clear to see what the majority of the rest of Toronto outside the downtown core looks like from a ground view.
I predict that separated bike lanes will cause more problems than solutions. Examples of separate bike lanes already abound in Toronto - the Martin Goodman Trail parallel to Lakeshore, the Don Valley Trail parallel to Bayview - and the list goes on. MY fear is that separating cyclists from motorists will encourage more lawless, inappropriate behavior, and injuries and collisions. My belief is that cyclists and motorists need to learn to interact with each other better, not to count on a strip of concrete or a stripe of paint to dictate how each should behave.
I trust things work out the way our Creator intended, and politics aside, I trust we Torontonian cyclists and road users learn and grow to be at peace, not odds, with each other.
Yes, just look at all thatWed, 01/12/2011 - 00:10
Yes, just look at all that "lawless, inappropriate behavior, and injuries and collisions" that is the result of the Martin Goodman Trail, Don Valley Trail and other such "separated bike lanes". Just look at it all.
If we left things as the "Creator intended" would we even be wearing clothes right now? My version of the Creator lets us out things like separated bike lanes. We've tried the highways and gas-guzzling cars - nope, they didn't work. Let's try something else.
Bri Guy (not verified)
Herb, There is tonnes ofWed, 01/12/2011 - 09:01
There is tonnes of inappropriate behaviour, injuries, and collisions on the trails, however, no one reports it, there are rarely motorized vehicles and/or door prizes for cyclists to get involved with, and there are very few intersections. oh, and no sidewalks. which is why, when cyclists get to highways, they automatically become "victims" of both their own ignorance, and of others' inattention. (And I mean that in both literal and "victim mentality" that so many "activists" play out in the daily bike drama).
Physical separation will set us back. exactly like separating races, creeds, and cultures. Creator did not intend that - it's because of humans who percieve entitlement to wield power that has made that happen. Unfortunately, cars still exist, and until they're gone, or relegated to recreational vehicle designation - like they used to be - things will remain the same.
We are born into, nurtured upon, and shuffled into believing culturally that using an automobile is essential to our survival here in north america. it will take generations to change that belief system - if enough of us get on board to make the change happen. And newsflash - the truth ain't easy for most people.
kev (not verified)
I just hope that the Star gotWed, 01/12/2011 - 01:10
I just hope that the Star got it wrong last week when they said that these lanes would feature parked cars between the bike lanes car lanes. "Cars would be able to park next to the curbed bike lane, adding yet another layer of safety."
If anyone has ever used Rue Rachel in Montreal, a crosstown street similar to Harbord as a bike highway, but with a two-way lane separated from the moving cars by parked cars, they know how dangerous it can be. Cars turning into and out of sidestreets rarely if ever see bikers coming along. I can't tell you how many ambulances i saw when i was living by Rachel for 5 years.
There's a video about a similar lane in NYC worth checking out, at least, the part around 2:35: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADUhqva9PwU
As with anything there areWed, 01/12/2011 - 12:03
As with anything there are always improvements on the design. There are badly designed roads; there are well designed roads. Same with bike lanes.
The interesting bit about the video - and not to detract from the negative experiences of the interviewees - is that they are almost all "hardcore" cyclists who want to go fast. For me, that depends on the bike I'm riding. My day to day riding is much more suited to separated bike lanes than when I'm on my touring bike. My advice to them: just don't take the bike lane then.
A lot of the interaction you see in the video is just normal behaviour for pedestrians, salmon cyclists and drivers. They make it seem that these appeared because of the bike lane, when in fact you see salmon riding regardless of the existence of bike lanes. Cars will right or left hook you regardless of bike lanes. Most cyclists will ride next to the curb regardless of bike lanes.
The one difference I noticed between the 1st Ave bike lane in NYC and the 9th Ave bike lane is the absence of plastic bollards between intersections on 1st Ave. 1st Ave seems to have a lot more cars blocking the lane.
If you notice in the following video they worked hard on making the interactions at intersections better. The turning car is now forced closer to the cyclists so they are more easily noticeable.
If these lanes were accompanied by stricter laws and education for motor vehicles in respecting the vulnerable road users, much as Expat noticed in Denmark, we could see even better experiences on the streets.
temporary expat (not verified)
The bike lanes in CopenhagenWed, 01/12/2011 - 06:20
The bike lanes in Copenhagen are almost all separated and feature parked cars between the lanes and traffic. There are clear rules here that place cars at a lower priority than bicycles and drivers have learned to look for bikes (and in 3 months of riding here I've never seen even a close call with a car). Make it explicit that cars have to yield to the bike lane (with laws if needed but certainly via education campaigns) and then enforce the rule.
Riding in the snow is much less stressful in this setup than in typical Toronto riding (whether in bike lane or not) because if you should wipe out you're in no immediate danger of being hit by a car or sucked under truck wheels. A little slipping and sliding actually becomes fun. Additionally the slush and spray from cars hits the parked cars instead of the cyclists, so the whole thing becomes much nicer.
I was having trouble imagining riding in Toronto again once I come home, but maybe the lanes will catch up while I'm gone. I can dream....
Good and safe infrastructureWed, 01/12/2011 - 22:31
Good and safe infrastructure like separated bike lanes has been responsible for increases in the number of cyclists through urban areas; one need only look to New York, Montreal, Minneapolis, etc. for evidence of this.
This is not about keeping bikes segregated in my opinion, but more about a new team at City Hall that is looking to out perform their predecessors. If a separated bike network was installed before the end of Ford's term it would certainly be regarded as more significant than that under Miller.
Of course, there is the possibility that this is nothing more than political posturing, but I don't see the point in sinking this initiative, especially before the planning & design phase is complete. New York installed these lanes in conjunction with new parking design and traffic signals specific for bikes, resulting in new and innovative solutions that could easily be put into play in other cities.
Believe it or not, the lack of perceived safety is the #1 barrier for new cyclists; and if these lanes help to build the number of bikes on our roads, then the demand for further infrastructure would seem to follow, not stop.
Herb writes "Yes, just lookWed, 01/12/2011 - 11:30
Herb writes "Yes, just look at all that "lawless, inappropriate behavior, and injuries and collisions" that is the result of the Martin Goodman Trail, Don Valley Trail and other such "separated bike lanes". Just look at it all."
The last two crashes I witnessed were at the west end of the Martin Goodman; both involved club-type riders, one was a solo wipeout, the other had "pace line" cyclists encounter a roller blader, with cyclists and bodies flying in every which direction.
Granted, there are no memorial bicycles on the trails....although wasn't there that cyclist killed in a collision with another cyclist on the Don River trail last year or so?
I guess we'll see just how well implemented and maintained the proposed separated bicycle lanes will turn out. I am skeptical that our streets are wide enough, and the designs will use enough space, to implement safe and adequate facilities.
In general, I prefer park paths simply because they go through nice park areas, and yes I don't have to worry about cars. However, on park paths I'm always alert for their specific hazards, such as blind corners, middle-of-the-path joggers, and sand and debris (as on the Don River trail after a flood....or on any trail in the vicinity of a late-night drinking party). I certainly don't see separated paths as a safety panacea in and of themselves.
hamish (not verified)
For both political and designWed, 01/12/2011 - 12:40
For both political and design reasons, hastening slowly would be far wiser than embracing all of this, and we need a functional TCAC - with!! sub-committees - in my view ahead of this proposal.
On the political side, I have reasons of distrust of the new regime, not that Mr. Miller and crew did all that much for us, though they talked well. The big f-up was Bloor in Yorkvile, but we also have questions of competence in doing, another longer issue.
So if we all "get behind" this proposal, and Ford et al look green and bike-friendly, will stuff get built? because there's such a $hortfall. Is this a way of looking good, but respect for taxpayers means no lanes because we gave the surplus back to motorists? The Queen's Quay rebuild was to have a 2/-in-1 separated thing, and I think it's scaled back from funding shortfalls. Let's see how it works first maybe, and what the costs are. Because if we as a community, and the CU is not necessarily doing us a favour here, embrace this more costly reworking, we may be stuck in a costly plan vs. repainting Bloor from High Park to Sherbourne for $200,000/8kms of bike lanes.
On the planning side, the Richmond lane might be really excellent, bruited since 1992 like Bloor, and resisted ever since, but it remains needed. And if we look at many of the other egs. the situations of these facilities is for wider, one-way streets, or so it seems. So, like bike boxes, we do the "latest" things without actually thinking them through via a TCAC/TCC, and one important design element, coloured paint, is not possible for us to do. Why not? - I tried to get this as an agenda item on the Heaps TCAC, he denied it, said Dan would get back to me, and I'm still waiting, and Heaps canned the last TCAC meeting arbitrarily.
We also really really need to go beyond the core and think/respond to where cyclists are coming and going to ie. origin/destination and where are patterns of harm/crash. The City likes to ignore data because it would force some changes eg. Bloor, eg. main roads in the west core. But isn't Queen, or King St. really the True place for having a 2-in-1 lane put in?
Maybe as a bike community, given the decade plus of demonstrated real hazards etc. need to go beyond easy Bloor St. (technically easy that is - funny how to paint a line on a road - maybe - needs an EA), and insist on Queen or King having a great rise in bike safety with one of those curb lanes becoming a two safe bike route.
Consider looking at this as well...
Herb, it looks to me that 1stWed, 01/12/2011 - 17:01
Herb, it looks to me that 1st Ave and 9th Ave are over one-and-a-half times as wide as our typical downtown streets: looking at Google satellite views, I can count seven lanes at 1st and E7th, for example. Plus, they're one-way.
And I didn't notice much if anything in the way of curbs: the "separation" is just a wider painted zone.
Since our streets are narrow, and curbs are proposed, I don't see that the NYC examples are useful. As I said in my first posting, let's see the design proposals.
Random cyclist (not verified)
There's something fishy aboutWed, 01/12/2011 - 13:47
There's something fishy about the whole dedicated lane proposal. Could it be that once the separated lanes set up and connecting to a major road grid system, the move then will be to ban cyclists from other major routes such as Bloor St.?
And is the cash-strapped city going to buy special snow clearing equipment for the bike lanes?
I don't trust this administration at all.
Cycle Toronto (not verified)
Thanks for posting this entryWed, 01/12/2011 - 14:22
Thanks for posting this entry about the context and recent history of this dedicated bike lane network plan, Herb.
Our expat in Copenhagen has it right. (I was also an expat in Copenhagen last year and use it as my best example of safe and effective cycling infrastructure.)
Separated infrastructure is the best way to improve cycling safety and attract new cyclists. It is especially important for cyclists who don't fit the relatively young and physically fit type that is predominant in Toronto. That is, in Copenhagen, it doesn't matter your age, gender, background, or level of physical fitness, everyone rides a bike! Building a cycling city requires that it be safe for children, families, older folks, those who want to ride slowly, and those want to ride faster. In Copenhagen, the standard lane is wide enough to accommodate two lanes as it were: one for riding (on the right) and one for passing (on the left). All one does is ring his or her bell when passing and if a slower rider is in the left part of the lane the rider will move to the right to allow the faster rider to pass. To make this work, it's really just a matter of educating people about the rules of the road.
For me, the best way to think about the issue of "to separate or not to separate" is to think about pedestrians. It would be very unsafe to have pedestrians walk on the edge of the road with cars driving past, and to walk between moving cars to get to the left side in order to run through the intersection and make a left turn. No one would advocate for this. Pedestrians would get hit by cars, people with strollers would tend not to walk on streets, etc. So we built side walks. Now pedestrians have a safe place to walk that is separated by a raised pathway with a curb. Cars can drive on the road and park at the curb. Pedestrians can walk on the sidewalk and wait at an intersection to cross with pedestrian specific traffic lights. Car drivers are educated to pay attention to pedestrians crossing and know that pedestrians have the right of way. Sidewalks are an effective and safe way to accommodate both motorists and pedestrians in the "space between buildings."
Cycling is, in many ways, exactly the same. Cyclists take the position between cars and pedestrians with a cascading sequence of right of way rules. A "bike lane," a la Copenhagen, is essentially a sidewalk for cyclists. It takes the physical position between the road (where cars drive and/or park) and the sidewalk (where pedestrians walk). It is elevated from the road slightly, and the pedestrian sidewalk is elevated from the bike lane. Bikes have specific traffic signals alerting all three users (cars, bikes, pedestrians) to the rights of way at traffic lights. Snow on bike lanes is plowed by machines that are appropriately sized for sidewalks (not sure if we have these in Toronto, but they're everywhere in the burbs such as Richmond Hill - sidewalks are always plowed there.) In CPH, the bike lanes are plowed even before the car lanes are! There is a compromise trade off between cars and bikes: cars don't turn right on reds, bikes make two-point left turns (i.e. they don't merge with car traffic, but ride through the intersection to the other side and then proceed left on the next light). In CPH children are required to learn how to ride bikes and pass cycling tests in school, which is a great way to raise a new generation of cyclists (many of whom may go on to also drive cars) and teach them how to ride safely.
Bike lanes like these don't take up as much road space as bi-directional separate lanes as designed in NYC or Montreal; they take up the same amount of road space as standard Toronto painted line lanes.
It took Copenhagen 40 years to develop the network they now have, so we can't expect Toronto to transform into CPH overnight, but we should adopt these best practices and build them into a renewed and comprehensive bike plan. The proposed network is a fairly good start.
dances_with_traffic (not verified)
Kev, you're spot on aboutWed, 01/12/2011 - 19:38
Kev, you're spot on about about Rue Rachel.
Here is hoping.
dances_with_traffic (not verified)
Ed, you are right about theWed, 01/12/2011 - 19:49
Ed, you are right about the muppet racer. They like to go fast but are really lacking in the handling and common sense department. I've almost been involved in a few head-ons because they're all pumped up and passing inappropriately. I don't care if you want to go 40 in a straight line, but don't pass on a blind corner or weave at 40. So please chill, spastic roadie guy. I think most of my problems on the Martin goodman arise from salmon, but are these new lanes bi-directional? Room to pass? Will I get stuck behind a trike going 15km/h?
dave meslin (not verified)
I'm excited about theThu, 01/20/2011 - 17:32
I'm excited about the Minnan-Wong proposal. I don't think Ford would try to remove the bike lanes on Jarvis, and I was never completely sure about the design for University (with the lanes in the middle). So I don't see what the risk is, to throw our support 100% behind this.
I've already publicly stated my preference for seperated lanes on Richmond and Adelaide. (although, I'd like to see one way bike lanes on each street, rather than two way bike-lanes on Richmond). Here's my original blog post for those who haven't seen it (including a photo-illustration of seperated lanes on Richmond):
The bottom line is, we need more bike lanes in Toronto. So when a senior member of the Mayor's Executive says he wants to propose new lanes, we should be cheerleading. Of course there are design tweeks required, but that can all happen later.
Even if the proposed lanes aren't perfect, we should STILL get behind them. The process alone would set an important precedent, that bike lanes are not a left/right issue. Bike lanes are about safety, and they cross political boundaries. Having anyone from the Ford administration talking about new bike lanes, is amazing. Having Minna-Wong pose for a photo for the Star, standing in a bike lane (!!) is unbelievably hugely wonderfully amazing. I think this is one of the biggest political breakthroughs in the history of cycling advocacy in Toronto. We've seen conservative mayors in other cities (like NYC) implement ambitious bike projects. We can do it here too. Bike lanes are cheap to build, and fit perfectly into Ford's agenda of cutting costs and respecting taxpayers. Reducing gridlock, providing safety for families, encouraging exercise, etc. All for a bargain $ price.
Let's get behind this.
Dave, and others - pleaseSun, 01/23/2011 - 00:44
Dave, and others - please look at the map of bike lanes, and where the proposals are. There's a Huge Hole west of Bathurst - that's where we need to have good facilities on east-west routes.
Redoing existing things at some expense, including political capital, seems unwise. Sure, when a street is up for repaving, like Sherbourne apparently is this year, then consider options.
And Richmond - or Adelaide - or both - should have had something years ago, and there was supposed to be an EA on this I though arising from c. Sept. 2007. Where is that? Why not get chasing the City to actually do something that Council approved to do?
This might include the West End bikeways too btw.
And since you mention not being comfortable with the University Ave. proposal, me three, and from that I do not trust the City's judgements when it comes to details. I want to see detailed plans ahead of clear endorsements, as that error in road width measurement on Wellesley is still unfixed c. 2-odd years later. The devil's in the details, right?
Random cyclist (not verified)
There is no huge hole west ofSun, 01/23/2011 - 16:01
There is no huge hole west of Bathurst in the proposed network.
There is a huge hole currently in the existing unseparated lanes on Harbord between Spadina and Bathurst where cyclists have painted sharrows to make them feel safer, but not make them safer.
The separated Harbord bicycle lanes in the Minnan Wong Plan are proposed to be continuous and close this gap.
The proposed Harbord separated bicycle lane is also proposed to go west all the way to Ossington. Please look at the map at the top of this stream.
The separated Richmond Street lanes are proposed to end on their westerly end at Bathurst St.
Richmond Street does in fact go west of Bathurst and the lanes could be extended west of Bathurst Street.
If those posters who are negative to the DMW proposal would put their energies in how to improve and extend the Minnan Wong proposal that is on the table the network might actually happen.