Contra-flow bike lanes have been stuck in legal limbo in Toronto for the last few years. Looks like this might soon end as the province may clarify the law by year end for hesitant Toronto City Staff who've held off on putting in the bike lanes.
Though it's welcome news to have this issue resolved (hopefully in the affirmative), it appears to be a made-in-Toronto problem as Transportation Services staff in Toronto have held up the council-approved contra-flow bike lane while Ottawa City staff have continued to install them. Ottawa has interpreted the Highway Traffic Act as allowing for contra-flow bike lanes.
A contra-flow is a one-way bike lane that can be installed on one-way streets so that cyclists can use the street as two-ways while motorized traffic must continue to follow the one-way restriction. A few contra-flow bike lanes were already installed in Toronto before this became an issue (Montrose, Strathcona).
Cycle Toronto (in particular the Ward 14 group with Laura Pin) got the support of MPP Jonah Schein and Councillor Mike Layton in making a request to the province for clarification. [Updated: it was ward 14, not 13 as comments note]
InsideToronto.com has more info:
David Salter, press secretary for transport minister Bob Chiarelli, confirmed the province was working alongside several municipalities, including Toronto, on updating Ontario Traffic Manual guidelines in regards to cycling issues. Part of the update, according to Salter, includes examining contra-flow lanes, which allow cyclists to travel in both directions on some one-way streets.
“We’re looking forward to receiving the project team’s recommendations and will review them as quickly as possible,” wrote Salter in a statement Tuesday morning.
The city has approved the installation of 13 more contra-flow lanes as part of its official bike plan, including a series of lanes on Shaw Street in 2013.
But to put in the lanes, the city requires clarification from the province regarding a section of the Highway Traffic Act, which prohibits two-way traffic along a one-way street, said city councillor Mike Layton.
Layton said technical issues related to signage for the lanes may also be holding up the process.
“What we’re seeking is we want to make sure they’re safe and no one is bending the rules, and that’s going to take some clarification on the side of the minister,” said Layton, who represents Trinity-Spadina.
City council voted last week to adopt a motion seeking clarification by the end of 2012 from the province regarding the legality of contra-flow lanes.
Last week, provincial transportation critic Jonah Schein said over 600 people have signed a petition asking for clarification from the minister regarding the lanes.
“It doesn’t require a legislative change, it just requires the minister to let us and the city know when we can move ahead with contra-flow,” said Schein, who represents Davenport for the NDP.
He said approving the legality of the lanes would improve safety for cyclists, especially those who make use of one-way streets to avoid main arterial road traffic.
“That would provide proper lane markings and there would actually be a bike lane on a one-way street,” said Schein. “By making the lanes legal and providing proper signage we could essentially create a safer way for cyclists to commute the city.”