November 13, 2017

Not Just Bloor in November

Last week saw Toronto city council vote in favour of making the Bloor bike lanes permanent. While that decision grabbed the bulk of the cycling headlines, several other good developments have happened for Toronto’s cycling community. Let’s find out what they are.

1 – Bathurst and Adelaide Intersection Improvements
With several North American cities already adopting protected intersections, Toronto has finally taken the first step towards that direction. Bicycle specific improvements at Bathurst and Adelaide Streets were approved by Toronto city council last October and construction started in late August. When I biked by there on Saturday, I noticed the work is almost done except for some finishing touches. (e.g. paint, signal activation)
Diagram of intersection improvements (via City of Toronto)
The improvements consist of a cycle track and waiting area for cyclists crossing Bathurst Street to access the Adelaide Street protected bike lanes, which will help reduce pedestrian conflicts. While a report on whether to keep the Richmond and Adelaide bike lanes will not arrive at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee until early 2018, it is widely expected they will stay given they represent the city’s busiest cycling corridor with over 6500 cyclists per day. After all, it would be silly to do these improvements without this expectation.

Bicycle specific improvements are also expected at the Woodbine-O’Connor and Peter-Queen-Soho intersections sometime next year, though true protected intersections remain hidden from Toronto’s political discourse for now.

2 – Denison-Bellevue Contraflow
While a contraflow bike lane is not necessarily something to celebrate, the ones recently installed on Denison and Bellevue Avenues provide a helpful link between College Street and the Richmond and Adelaide cycle tracks. It also marks the City finally completing their list of cycling projects for a given year, though the listing itself is limited to Denison-Bellevue, Waterloo, Renforth, and a small gap on Davenport. The City will need a more aggressive plan for 2018 if they are to deliver on their Cycling Network Plan.

3 – King Street Pilot
The King Street Pilot is aimed to improve streetcar flow on Toronto’s busiest surface transit route; that being the 504 King streetcar and the 514 Cherry off-shoot from Bathurst to Jarvis Streets. Through motor vehicle traffic is illegal on King Street as of yesterday – they are forced to turn right at selected intersections – while taxis are exempt from 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM.
Cyclists get two benefits from this project. The first is they can ride straight through on King Street, though many cyclists will prefer to use Richmond and Adelaide. The second is they have left turn boxes at Peter and Simcoe Streets to access the corresponding bike lanes. Can we have more of these across Toronto?
Other things to note include the streetcar stops being placed on the far side of the intersection to stop motor vehicles from going through, the banning of left turns, and the provision of taxi, delivery, and accessible loading zones. Streetcar stops have yellow ramps to ensure full accessibility, while public spaces will be available for things like sidewalk cafés and bicycle parking. A report on the King Street Pilot will come out after next year’s election.

4 – Martin Goodman Trail Gap
The Martin Goodman Trail at Queen’s Quay and Dan Leckie Way had an annoying 60 metre gap which prompted cyclists to dismount; a rule which always got ignored and created a safety hazard for children and parents getting to the nearby school. As with the Bathurst and Adelaide intersection, construction of the expanded deck started in late August and the trail gap was filled in as of Saturday. Only some paint and the removal of the “cyclists dismount” signs remain to be done.

5 – Continued Humber Bay Delays
Two sections of the Martin Goodman Trail at Humber Bay Shores Park were closed off for construction which were supposed to have been done in July. The construction fences and cyclist detours remain four months later, though one of the fences was knocked down at the eastern plaza. After taking a closer look, only two small asphalt sections and some minor landscaping remain before the eastern plaza can be considered done. The same cannot be said for the western plaza; meaning that gap is likely to remain closed off until spring 2018.

6 – Lake Shore Cycle Track
The streetcar track reconstruction on Lake Shore Boulevard in Etobicoke has been completed, which allowed for work on the bi-directional cycle track from Norris Crescent to First Street to begin. At this time, the only signs of paint were found near First Street, though construction started on October 30. The work is expected to take four to six weeks; meaning the gap ought to be filled in just in time for the Holidays. Not the best time to finish a cycling project with lower winter cycling volumes.

Final Thoughts
While this year may not have seen as much installed as we would like, keeping the Bloor bike lanes will help build momentum for protected bike lanes on Yonge north of Highway 401 and encourage city council to reinstate the other major corridor studies after next year’s election. Filling in trail gaps and improving intersections will also play a role in improving cycling in Toronto. However, the focus must now shift to keeping Doug Ford out of the Mayor’s office and getting rid of certain anti-cycling councillors.

Go forward!
Rob Z (e-mail)

November 08, 2017

Addressing Pickering's Transportation Plan Challenges

For the first time in twenty years, the City of Pickering is updating their Integrated Transportation Master Plan. If there is one thing which badly needs to be addressed in the plan update, it’s their lack of cycling infrastructure. Per this image from Google Maps, Pickering is a cyclist’s black hole except for parts of the Waterfront Trail and a few disconnected bike lanes in the rest of the city; some of which don’t even qualify as bike lanes. Henceforth, I provided this submission to highlight some of the challenges I experienced and suggest some improvements.
Google Maps bicycling layer of Pickering and the rest of Durham Region
Questionable Facilities

There are two streets I use frequently as a cyclist – West Shore Boulevard and Granite Court – which do not have bike lanes despite what is indicated on Google Maps and Pickering’s website. What those two streets have are edge lines that are no more than one metre wide, whereas bike lanes must be a minimum of 1.5 metres wide (or 1.8 metres in Toronto). This is insulting to the safety of cyclists with the large number of heavy trucks using Granite Court. On a street like Granite, a multi-use trail should be the minimum to help cyclists access jobs there safely, with the possibly of an eastern extension along Oklahoma to connect with the nearby school.
Edge lines on Granite Court are unsafe for cyclists being overtaken by heavy trucks
A look at Google’s Street View shows other bike lanes such as on Stroud’s Lane which allow motor vehicles to park. While these urban shoulders are also present on some streets in Whitby and Oshawa, they cannot be classified as bike lanes unless parking is banned, and the appropriate bike lane signs and markings are used. After reviewing the slides from Saturday’s ITMP open house, I noticed West Shore and Granite are accurately listed as edge lines on the cycling map, while leaving the bike lane designation for streets such as Glenanna Road and parts of Kingston Road. Perhaps the City of Pickering could update their cycling website to include the below cycling map and revise the cycling facility listing to correspond with the map?
Pickering cycling map shown at their ITMP open house
Good First Steps

Given Pickering’s status as a cycling laggard, an aggressive ramp up in bike lane and multi-use trail construction is badly needed. The current installation of a trail on Bayly Street from West Shore Community Centre to Begley Street is a good first step, which would help cyclists on the Waterfront Trail avoid riding on Bayly where motorist speeds of 80 km/h would be fatal for cyclists in the event they are struck. While condominium development between St. Martins and Liverpool Roads could complicate matters, it is recommended to extend the multi-use path to Liverpool to help cyclists access Pickering GO station and ultimately to Church Street in Ajax per Durham Region’s bike plan.
Multi-use path under construction on Bayly Street
The installation of bike lanes on Kingston Road as part of the bus rapid transit improvements is also welcome, though I would like to suggest two additional improvements. The first is to provide proper separation (e.g. bollards, barrier curbs, planter pots) between the bus and the bike lanes; something recommended as an international best practice on roads signed for 50 km/h or higher. The second improvement would be to extend the bike lanes beyond Steeple Hill – the western terminus of the planned bus rapid transit improvements – all the way to the Toronto border.
Bloor Street bike lanes protected with bollards and parked vehicles
Other Needed Improvements

There are two other recommended east-west bike lanes which are already in the regional plan; those being Finch Avenue – the limit of most of Pickering’s urban footprint – and Taunton Road which has a high potential for an inter-city bike route. Especially with Oshawa, Whitby, and Ajax already having multi-use paths on Taunton, as well as parts of Steeles Avenue in Toronto. Time to fill in that gap!
Durham Regional Cycling Plan Map
Regarding north-south bike routes, multi-use paths are already installed on parts of Brock and Altona Roads. Those two streets are part of the regional cycling plan as are Liverpool and Whites Roads. However, I would suggest an additional bike lane on Liverpool Road from Bayly Street to the Waterfront Trail to help provide cyclists with a safe link from the Pickering GO station to the Waterfront Trail as part of the Trails to GO intiative. The same idea is recommended for Whites Road (Bayly to Waterfront), which would provide an added benefit of connecting with the industrial area. It is also recommended to get Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation involved to secure safe crossings over Highway 401.

One last recommendation I would make for residential streets is to reduce the speed limits to 30 km/h and implement traffic calming measures Toronto has done as well as Ajax. Studies have shown pedestrians and cyclists have an over 90% chance of survival if they are hit at 30 km/h compared to 40% at 50 km/h or 10% at 60 km/h.

Final Thoughts

For those of who bike in Pickering, I recommend you visit the Integrated Transportation Master Plan’s website to review and submit your comments to ITMP@pickering.ca demanding that cycling be a key part of the plan. There will be additional opportunities for public feedback before the plan is finalized in 2019. Finally, I recommend reaching out to the Durham Region Cycling Coalition to learn more about improving cycling in the region.

Stay engaged!
Rob Z (e-mail)

October 20, 2017

Streetfight on Bloor - Round 2

A year and a half after the Bloor bike lane pilot project was debated at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, the committee endured a six-hour session to determine whether to make those bike lanes permanent. Almost sixty people registered to speak on this item – leading to deputation times to be cut from five minutes to three – while hundreds more gave written submissions and over 6600 supporters signed Cycle Toronto’s Bloor Loves Bikes pledge. The meeting carried an extra sense of urgency with the death of Parkdale cyclist David Delos Santos that same morning.

October 09, 2017

Grave Warning on Bloor

Potential casualties should the Bloor bike lanes be removed
With the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee debating the fate of the Bloor bike lanes next week, many local cyclists are spooked about the possibility of having them removed. Especially when the Bloor bike lanes were forty years in the making. However, what many Toronto residents may not realize is losing Bloor has even more grave consequences that go far beyond the bike lanes.

September 29, 2017

The Bikelash of September 2017

My word to describe September 2017 is “bikelash”.

For starters, there is the stop sign controversy on Glen Road in Rosedale, which is near a site where a cyclist was killed a few years back. Only two weeks after the stop sign was installed after vigorous pleas from local residents due to speeding problems, calls emerged to have them removed. The matter had gotten so ridiculous even kids took to the streets demanding that the stop signs stay.
Woodbine bike lane opening on September 9, 2017

August 28, 2017

A New East End Connection

Bike lanes on Woodbine Avenue
Normally, my bike commute takes me along Richmond-Adelaide and Sherbourne Streets, as well as Danforth Avenue to get to Danforth GO station. Sometimes, I will go home via Bloor and Shaw Streets thanks to the Bloor bike lanes installed last year. Given bike lanes were installed on Woodbine Avenue south of Danforth Avenue during the weekend, I decided to give Woodbine a try and check out other bike lanes which connect the east end to downtown. This new routing also allows most of my commute to take place on dedicated cycling facilities.

August 21, 2017

Summer 2017 Waterfront Roundup

Last year, I wrote up about various quirks along Toronto’s Waterfront. Recently, there have been a lot of new developments which addressed some of these issues, though others remain. Let’s go over ten of these developments going from west to east.