April 03, 2017

Prioritizing Cycling Projects

For cycling advocates, it can be tempting to push for bike lanes everywhere. However, there can be such a thing as pushing too far; especially when support is lacking or our pedestrian and transit user allies risk being alienated. Two recent projects – the King Street Pilot and pedestrianization on John Street – prompted this concern and lead to this question which needed to be asked.

In light of limited advocacy resources and political will, how should advocates prioritize their efforts?

The 504 King streetcar on Roncesvalles Avenue
Having used Toronto’s busiest streetcar route – the 504 King – on several occasions, I have seen first hand how crowded and slow it is. Especially during the morning rush hour. To improve service, the City of Toronto proposed a pilot project restricting motor vehicle traffic within the study area covering Dufferin to River Streets. Given cycle tracks and quiet routes exist on Richmond and Adelaide Streets east of Strachan Avenue, as well as the pilot project’s primary goal of improving transit, bike lanes on that stretch are unnecessary. However, special care is needed to ensure cycling conditions do not get any worse for those accessing local destinations. Certain proposals called for allowing street furniture on wider sidewalks, which could endanger cyclists and force them onto the streetcar tracks; leading to safety risks and possibly defeating the main goal of improving transit.
King Street Pilot options - Yellow denotes pedestrian areas (link to slides)
A connection through CAMH allows cyclists to access the planned West Toronto Railpath extension from Richmond-Adelaide. However, there are no safe east-west routes west of the rail corridor, which is a key challenge for residents of the Parkdale priority neighbourhood. The proposed Liberty New Street does not have a firm timeframe nor does it adequately address east-west connectivity.

The King Street Pilot could provide an opportunity to test protected bike lanes from Strachan Avenue to Dufferin Street. No parking is allowed from Sudbury Street to Fraser Avenue, while off-street parking facilities are available at both ends with wayfinding improvements needed at Shaw Street. If successful, it could become easier to justify extending the bike lanes through Parkdale to the Roncesvalles bridge; something easier to accomplish than on Queen Street due to the width.

John Street (via Torontoist)
During the summer months, John Street is reduced from four lanes to two with the extra space being used for increased pedestrian (and patio) space. A recent count done on John Street found bicycles made up of over 70% of rush hour traffic. Given this was completely different from the 2% found in the initial study in 2012 – thanks in part to the Richmond-Adelaide cycle tracks – local advocates called for the reopening of the environmental assessment.

While I respect the hard work done by local advocates there and it would be nice to have some car-free streets (especially in Kensington Market), I disagree with the idea of making reopening John Street a priority. Not because of local councillor Joe Cressy refusing to support the idea, but there are more important projects at stake such as making the Bloor bike lanes permanent and extended, as well as Reimagining Yonge which has a public meeting scheduled for this Wednesday. Not to mention, the cycle tracks between nearby Simcoe and Peter Streets are only 500 metres apart, which is already consistent with best practices in Delft (Netherlands) which spaces their bikeways 400 to 750 metres apart when crossing various barriers.[1] Having bike lanes only 200 to 300 metres apart – which would be the case if John Street were to get them – would not do justice for the other parts of Toronto with significant gaps in the bikeway network.
Only 500 metres separate Peter and Simcoe Streets
Given this pedestrianization initiative and proximity of nearby cycle tracks, it would make more sense to reduce the speed limit on the entire length of John Street – not just north of Queen Street – to 30 km/h with traffic calming measures to make the limit self reinforcing.


The fact Harbord and Bloor Streets are 400 metres apart did not stop the City of Toronto from installing bike lanes on both streets. Bloor-Danforth is one of the city’s few continuous east-west corridors while Harbord primarily serves the University of Toronto and only goes from Queen’s Park to Ossington Avenue. The question of how close to space bike lanes is dependent on relative utility. In the case of Bloor, the 36% increase in cycle traffic per city statistics did not stop Harbord from getting high cycling volumes.
Toronto's Cycling Network Plan
Before we can make the cycling network in the downtown core even more dense, we need to keep in mind the need to provide all of Toronto a minimum grid of cycle tracks and bicycle boulevards. Ideally by placing all residents within one kilometre of cycling facilities.

Choose wisely!
Rob Z (e-mail)


[1] John Pucher & Ralph Buehler. City Cycling. Page 133.

March 22, 2017

Let's Get The Feds Involved

The notion of cycling infrastructure being primarily municipal responsibility is being challenged across Canada. New Brunswick’s advocates are pushing for a one metre passing rule (a.k.a. Ellen’s Law), Vélo Québec celebrates their 50th anniversary this year, Ontario is developing their second #CycleON action plan, and the British Columbia Cycling Coalition has their $1 billion for bikes petition. But what is the federal government doing to support cyclists? That is the focus on this post, including the national group called Canada Bikes and their call for a national cycling strategy.

When the Trudeau government announced eligible projects for their Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, it marked the first time a federal government funded active transportation projects. Toronto received almost $42 million in federal funding for cycling projects such as the West Toronto Railpath extension, Eglinton Connects, and new bike share stations. Federal funding covers up to 50% of infrastructure costs – total Toronto projects come to $84 million – and projects must be shovel ready by March 31, 2018.

Further to federal funding, Transportation Minister Marc Garneau established a road safety task force last September. While more focused on heavy trucks, it plans to look into measures such as truck side guards; something the federal NDP had called for with Olivia Chow’s Bill C-344. Cycling infrastructure funding and a road safety task force are good steps, but need to be followed up with a national cycling strategy.


Shortly after Toronto’s Bikestock in September 2014, then Parkdale-High Park MP Peggy Nash introduced Motion M-527 supporting the creation of a national cycling strategy. At that time, the motion called for a policy framework promoting cycling as a key part of transportation planning, introduction of legislation and funding measures, data collection, and dissemination of best practices. However, parliamentary motions only allow for debate and are not binding on the government.

Despite Nash losing her seat the following year, work on a national cycling strategy continued, which Toronto-Danforth MP Julie Dabrusin announced along with the pending formation of an all-party cycling caucus at Bells on Danforth in June 2016. The official launch for both initiatives happened last October, including the introduction of Bill C-312 by Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns. During last month’s Winter Cycling Congress, Johns announced the bill would likely reach second reading sometime in 2018.

Compared to other OECD countries, Canada has been a laggard with their lack of a cycling strategy. Even in the United States – home of General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler – annual active transportation funding increased rapidly from $5 million to over $1 billion over a twenty-year period.[1] Upon reviewing the updated Dutch “Tour de Force” strategy, several components of effective strategies were identified.

1 – Clear Objectives – The Tour de Force calls for a 20% increase in cycling in the Netherlands by 2027.
2 – Diverse Stakeholders – In addition to governments, the Dutch strategy was developed with the NS railway company, Fietsersbond (Dutch Cyclists Union), Dutch Cycling Embassy, and CROW-Fietsberaad which developed their world-renowned transportation manual.
3 – Broad Themes – Cycling strategies often bring up arguments such as public health, climate change, cycle tourism, and supporting local economies. However, they must be backed by …
4 – Specific Goals – The Tour de Force identified eight goals to help achieve a 20% increase in cycling. These include improving integration between bikes and other transport modes and addressing theft.

To help make a Canadian cycling strategy a reality, we need a national voice for cyclists.


Canada Bikes was established in 2012 at the Vélo-City conference in Vancouver. Groups such as Cycle Toronto are members, though individual memberships are also available. Last year, they launched the “Towards a Bike Friendly Canada” brochure calling for a national cycling strategy, as well as a cycling and walking funding proposal. The proposal called for $694 million annually; tiered based on the size of municipalities and a separate portion for infrastructure next to provincially managed rights of way.
To help reach out to the community and elected officials at all three levels of government, Canada Bikes organizes the annual Bike Day on the Hill. This year’s event – a National Bike Summit – will take place on June 1; coinciding with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference. With the Conservative and NDP leadership races under way, Canada Bikes issued surveys with Chris Alexander expressing support.

Canada Bikes is planning to launch a petition supporting a national cycling strategy, but it wasn’t ready at the time of writing. Stay tuned on their website for more updates.


I will close this post with an initiative from Laurier-Sainte-Marie MP Hélène Laverdière. Her bill C-322 – which started second reading on Monday, March 20 and will resume on or after Tuesday, April 11 – would give Transport Canada the authority to order the construction of safe railway crossings. Upon reading the recent debate, the Liberals’ Karen McCrimmon opposed the bill claiming such tools already exist via the Canadian Transportation Agency, while the Conservatives’ Luc Berthold called for a broader approach. Until debate resumes, there is a petition supporting the bill which you can sign and share.

Let’s continue reaching out to cyclists across Canada in making our country safer to bike!

Rob Z (e-mail)


[1] John Pucher & Ralph Buehler. 2012. City Cycling. Page 24.

March 18, 2017

Get Ajax Moving - Harwood Cycle Tracks

During my interview with Ajax Mayor Steve Parish last fall, he mentioned cycle tracks on Harwood Avenue South were among the town’s most recent installations. Today, I stopped by to get a first-hand encounter of the town’s first cycle track.
Harwood Avenue South at Lake Driveway
Cycling facilities were installed for 1.1 kilometres from Westney Road to Ajax Waterfront Park at Lake Driveway. Buffered bike lanes were used for 900 metres from Westney Road to Cumberland Lane. No parking is allowed, but no bollards or planters are present to prevent vehicles from parking in the bike lane. Maybe this could be a consideration as spring draws near?
Buffered bike lanes are used from Westney Road to Cumberland Lane
Green paint clearly marks conflict areas
At Harwood Avenue and Clover Ridge Drive, the intersection is raised with pavement yield markings to warn drivers to slow down. Green paint is used to mark the conflict area next to the right turning lane. While not ideal, green paint can be effective in alerting drivers to watch for cyclists.
Pavement raised intersection at Clover Ridge Drive
A raised cycle track is provided for the remaining 180 metres from Cumberland Lane to Lake Driveway. This unique design doubles as a sidewalk allowing two-way pedestrian travel and one way cyclist travel on each side. Parking bays are provided for additional protection, as well as rain gardens which improve streetscaping.
Parking bays are provided along the short cycle track
Cycle tracks double as sidewalks - good for suburban arterials
Overall, it is an excellent design which can put some of Toronto’s cycle tracks to shame, though they do have similar raised (and parking protected) cycle tracks on Sherbourne Street south of Front Street. Aside from the Highway 401 crossing, it’s only a matter of time when the entire stretch of Harwood Avenue gets cycling facilities.
A warning to drivers turning into the cycle track
Separate crossings for pedestrians and cyclists
Toronto should also seriously consider using Ajax’s design on some of their suburban arterials in Scarborough, North York, and Etobicoke in order to quickly build their Minimum Grid!

Copy and paste!
Rob Z

March 06, 2017

Copenhagen Does Toronto

Seeing a world-renowned planner like Copenhagenize's Mikael Colville-Andersen speak at last month’s Winter Cycling Congress is one thing. But twice in one month? That happened when he spoke in Toronto on February 27, 2017 during the Ontario Good Roads Association summit. Following Colville-Andersen’s “Getting Cycling Right” keynote was a panel he participated with Straphanger and Sacré Blues author Taras Grescoe and Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat. After Albert Koehl and Bart Hawkins Kreps wrote their takes, here’s mine covering some points that may have been missed.
Panel discussion with Colville-Andersen, Keesmaat & Grescoe
Burlington MPP and Share The Road Co-Founder Eleanor McMahon kicked off the keynote. She recalled Share The Road’s beginnings from a tragedy when her husband OPP sergeant Greg Stobbart was killed while riding his bike. Some of her work included lobbying for the 2009 Greg’s Law on driver suspensions and repeat offenders, organizing the first Ontario Bike Summit, establising an all-party cycling caucus, and developing #CycleON. McMahon reminded participants they need to change the conversation before putting in one line of infrastructure. She was followed by Cycle Toronto executive director Jared Kolb, who talked about his trip to Copenhagen in October – which he recommended sending all councillors there to some laughter – and how too many plans get ignored in Toronto.

Instead of focusing on one city such as Almetyevsk, Russia, the keynote covered basic design principles. He started by claiming he was just an ordinary guy who likes to ride a bike and how that evening felt like an echo chamber. Until cars arrived in the 20th century, streets were considered the most democratic space in human history. The auto lobby used public relations to decry jaywalking; leading to crosswalks and playgrounds. Considered as the biggest paradigm shift ever, it is gradually being reversed with a former Paris mayor saying cars no longer have a place in large cities.
Colville-Andersen consistently emphasized the need to change the conversation to moving people (and logistics), in which bike campaigns are a waste of time until you make biking (and walking) trips direct and driving more difficult. (see above graphic) Since 51% of goods can be transported by cargo bike, this could be facilitated by building depots outside of city centres – ideally at ports – so cargo bikes can do deliveries around town. The need to move people exposed the space wasted by automobile oriented infrastructure; especially a slide on sneckdowns which Colville-Anderson called the Edward Snowden of urbanism! Another example of arrogance of space involved wide traffic lanes, which Calgary and other cities narrowed to accommodate cyclists.
Sneckdowns - the Edward Snowden of urbanism!
Colville-Andersen recalled the broken chair analogy when discussing design, given many urban cycling networks – including Toronto’s – are disconnected. He ridiculed the placement of bike lanes in the door zone and steered clear from sharrows. Regarding bi-directional bike lanes – a Montréal staple – he believed they are only acceptable on motorways with 70 km/h or higher speeds and are fully separate. (see below) He emphasized the need to ensure proper care and reliability of beautifully designed things such as cycling infrastructure, and that it already existed as far back as 1915. Finally, a 2.3-metre wide cycle track can move four times as many bikes (5900/hour) as cars (1300/hour).
Simple bicycle planning from Copenhagenize
Colville-Andersen refuted the political arguments against cycling given even Copenhagen’s right understand thanks to data. He encouraged participants to listen to kids with his own once asking “when will the city fit me?” He recalled a kids’ urban workshop where they suggested making cars ugly, limiting cars to 15 km/h, and glass roofs to keep everyone dry. While glass roofs may be unrealistic, Copenhagen adjusts signal timings in inclement weather to help cyclists get home faster, as well as implement a green wave so cyclists never hit a red light. While many cities insist on statues, the keynote concluded with him saying bicycle infrastructure is the best monument.

During the panel discussion, Jennifer Keesmaat cited finding the money is the easy part (e.g. over $1 billion to rebuild Gardiner East), but the hard part is identifying what we believe in. Taras Grescoe, who wondered how Canada could adapt from Copenhagen, pulled no punches by saying there is no need to study bike lanes. Grescoe called out Toronto for being too timid even before Rob Ford – a unique to Toronto hesitation (?) – and cited Montréal’s culture changing BIXI launch of over 5000 bikes in 2009 across that city, compared to Toronto’s 2000 bikes which are limited to downtown and subway lines. Despite Grescoe’s calls to be bold, Keesmaat believes Toronto needs to build constituencies and they haven’t reached the tipping point yet, while calling out Montréal’s over-built infrastructure.
Toronto's cycling network can resemble this broken chair
Having biked in Amsterdam and other European cities, I was curious to find out the difference between Dutch and Danish infrastructure from the Danish perspective. Per Colville-Andersen, both countries have similar best practices, but many Dutch cities have become “lazy”. While the Dutch have good examples including bike parking, Copenhagen is easier to copy and paste elsewhere.

In September, Colville-Andersen’s “The Life Sized City” will premiere on TVO. Until then, here’s his final quote which hit home. Getting from zero to five percent mode share is really hard. Getting from five to fifteen percent is a piece of cake.

The Life Sized City - Promotional Trailer from Copenhagenize on Vimeo.

Let’s talk!
Rob Z (e-mail)

March 01, 2017

Bring on the Data!

Throughout my years in cycling advocacy, I gained an understanding about how external factors such as budget funding, design guidelines, inspiration from other cities, and partnerships with residents, businesses, schools, and community groups can influence road safety improvements. Another area Toronto must improve on is data collection in determining how effective cycling projects are. During the Winter Cycling Congress in Montréal (see recap and Montréal cycling posts), I attended their “A Matter of Data” workshop to learn about data collection in Anchorage, Montréal, and Ottawa.

Infrared counters used in Anchorage, Alaska
Andrew Ooms of Kittleson & Associates discussed cycling data collection from Anchorage and Fairbanks in Alaska. Sixteen bicycle counters can be found on two of Anchorage’s trails. More specifically, infrared counters mounted to poles, which also track pedestrians but do not get covered in snow unlike conventional counters. Fairbanks did not have permanent counters; instead relying on manual counts which used to be done by volunteers and staff, but now use Miovision cameras. One advantage of manual counts is additional information can be collected such as helmet use. However, Anchorage and Fairbanks do not currently provide transportation statistics via their open data systems.
Ooms also worked with the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) to develop Report 797; the “Guidebook on Pedestrian and Bicycle Volume Data Collection”. The report revealed several challenges involving collecting non-motorized vehicle data. Pedestrians and cyclists are a lot closer together, whereas motor vehicles tend to stick within their lanes and are further apart. Pedestrians and cyclists are fewer in North American cities and are more sensitive to external conditions; resulting in variability of up to 40%! The report walked through how to establish pedestrian and cycling count programs, different technologies, and case studies in various cities.

Eco-Counter booth at the Winter Cycling Congress
Eco-Counter – a Congress sponsor – was used in all three cities for data collection. Eco-Counter’s Jean-François Rheault and McGill University’s David Beitel of McGill University provided the Montréal perspective of Eco-Counter. Per Rheault, Montréal has twenty counters with the first installed in 2007. Certain findings consistent with other cities include bike paths being busier during the week with peaks during rush hour. The data revealed more cycling routes lead to core paths such as Maisonneuve experiencing reduced usage, while introducing full snow removal on Rachel Street in 2016 increased its winter usage. One issue Montréal has is only 11% of their cyclists bike year round, compared to 15% for Ottawa and 34% for Calgary. Montréal’s winter closure of BIXI also didn’t help matters.
Jean-François Rheault of Eco-Counter
Beitel explained the use of a correction factor to account for temperature, rain, and snow. A correction factor of greater than one indicated favourable cycling conditions. The model has been proven to be accurate in predicting cycling volumes relative to weather. To end his talk, Beitel recalled the 1998 ice storm, which saw three million people – almost half of Québec – lose power and roads were transformed into skating rinks.

Alex de Vries of Citizens for Safe Cycling
Alex de Vries of Ottawa’s Citizens for Safe Cycling kicked off his presentation by asking what route cyclists use. Not only did he bring up Ottawa’s thirteen Eco-Counter locations – the corresponding data is released quarterly – he discussed how it differs from Strava. Strava captures cyclists’ actual routing via voluntary participation, whereas counters only capture cyclists who pass through specific locations. Data collected via Strava – which cities can purchase via Strava Metro – is more racer oriented with 78% of users being men and a median distance of 16.1 kilometres from January 2015 to September 2016.
Strava heat map focused on Ottawa
Strava can be relevant in determining winter cycling routes; given the Strava participation ratio[1] is two to ten percent during the winter compared to only one to four percent during the summer. On the Ottawa River Pathway trail – the most popular in Ottawa – zero bike counts are recorded in winter due to snow cover; leading to the Strava participation ratio exceeding 100%. About half of the counters (seven) are used on winter maintained routes.


Toronto doesn’t have any permanent bike counters nor counter displays; instead conducting temporary counts with pneumatic tubes. Per Toronto’s Open Data system, only five to ten locations annually get bicycle counts with the last large scale count done in 2010. Like in Fairbanks, Toronto uses Miovision cameras to track bicycle counts on Bloor Street; itself subject to rigorous collection of other metrics. (see graphic below) Preliminary data was released on February 24, 2017 to inform operational improvements; stating a 36% increase in cyclists and 63% of motorists claiming increased comfort driving next to cyclists. The next evaluation will happen in June, though an extension may be needed for more reliable data.
Toronto’s Cycling Unit should learn from cities like Anchorage, Montréal, and Ottawa by installing permanent bicycle counters. They should also look at different technologies such as infrared or maybe even adapt overhead detection at College and Shaw to count bicycles?

Count away!
Rob Z

UPDATE (2017/03/24) - This piece has been reposted to Dandyhorse.


[1] Calculated as the number of Strava trips divided by Eco-Counter trips

February 20, 2017

Habs vs Leafs Bike Showdown

One of the oldest and largest Canadian sports rivalries is the Montréal Canadiens (Habs) versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. Until last week’s Winter Cycling Congress (see previous post), I never biked in Montréal which Copenhagenize and Biking Expert ranked as among North America's best. After getting a taste of Montréal’s infrastructure, let’s review their facilities and see how Toronto stacks up.
Bike box (sas vélo) at Avenue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville and Avenue du Mont-Royal

Bartek Komorowski’s mobile workshop about Montréal’s four seasons cycling network was an eight-kilometre ride from Bibliothèque le Prévost (near Jean-Talon Métro station) to the Hyatt Regency Montréal (Places des Arts station). Before starting our trip, we saw a snow removal machine with a brush in front and a liquid brine dispenser in the back. Brine is a salt water solution which is more expensive, but less corrosive than road salt. Komorowski mentioned the responsibility for winter maintenance lies with individual boroughs (e.g. Plateau-Mont-Royal), given a neighbouring borough used road salt. There is a guide currently being developed to harmonize maintenance standards.

Montréal snow clearing vehicle with sweeper and brine dispenser

Our ride started on Boyer Street; one of the first cycle tracks which opened in 1984. These older cycle tracks are bi-directional and use paint and green bollards. Until this past winter, it was among many which were closed from November 16 to March 31. Given the popularity of Boyer Street for cyclists – about 8000 to 9000 use the cycle tracks daily – it became the first to have traffic signals synchronized for cyclists last year.
Boyer Street with green bollards and traffic light synchronisation signs
Montréal was the first city where I saw a bike counter display up close; located at Laurier station. That street has a contraflow bike lane where bicycles outnumber cars at about 4000 cyclists per day. Wide sidewalks are also provided to improve safety for children getting to the nearby school.
Bike counter at Laurier Métro station
While the Boyer cycle track and Laurier contraflow bike lanes were properly maintained, Komorowski ensured our workshop included examples of poor cycling conditions. Case in point, the contraflow bike lane on Laval Avenue was almost invisible. Not only were there parked cars on both sides – creating a dooring risk – but the freezing rain, thaw, and subsequent flash freeze turned that road into a skating rink! Since the BIXI bikes didn’t have winter tires, I had to steer into a snowbank to avoid injury!
Skating rink conditions on Laval Street
We then used cycle tracks on Rachel, Berri, and Maisonneuve Streets to return to the Hyatt Regency. The Rachel cycle tracks were recently retrofitted with raised tracks and barrier curbs, while those on Maisonneuve near Place des Arts are sidewalk based. The Berri and Maisonneuve intersection is a potential challenge, given cycle tracks on both streets are amongst the city’s most popular. Per the counter data from the Ville de Montréal’s website (more on data collection in this post), Berri averages 3900 cyclists per day from May to September (7500 peak) and Maisonneuve averages 5700 per day (9400 peak). For comparison, Toronto’s Bloor Street and Queens Quay peaked at 6000 cyclists per day. For future reconstruction – including upcoming work on Rosemont Boulevard – Montréal is shifting to unidirectional cycle tracks.
Approximate route of our eight-kilometre ride

Of its 788-kilometre bikeway network, Montréal currently clears 432 kilometres or 55%; putting Toronto to shame given they only clear the Martin Goodman Trail and streets with over 2000 cyclists per day. This effectively means nothing for Toronto cyclists west of Ossington Avenue, north of Bloor Street, and east of the Don River. Despite Toronto’s cycling network and winter clearing being dwarfed by Montréal, there are a few things Toronto does better than Montréal.
Montréal's four season cycling network is shown in red (link to PDF)
  1. Year-round bike share! – BIXI Montréal is larger than Bike Share Toronto (5200 bikes vs 2000). However, Montréal’s BIXI stations and bikes are removed and stored during the winter months, while Toronto’s is open year-round. A Winter Cycling Congress presentation mentioned it was cheaper for Toronto to maintain its bike share during the winter than removal and storage.
  2. More accessible subway stations! – Elevators are key for encouraging people to bring bicycles on subways. Right now, only 10 of 68 Métro stations have elevators compared to 35 of 69 TTC stations. While Toronto plans to make their entire subway network accessible by 2025, Montréal must wait until 2038 with only 31 stations accessible by 2022. Furthermore, Montréal only allows people to bring bicycles onto the first subway car; something not required by Toronto.
    A Métro station sign directing people to move bikes to the front car
  3. No winter closures! – While many of Montréal’s cycle tracks are closed for the winter months (until next winter), Toronto never had this rule despite inferior winter maintenance.
Bike rings found around Montréal parking meter signs
It may appear Toronto does not fare so bad after considering advantages such as winter bike share use and accessible subway stations. However, Toronto must accelerate their cycling network plan – which was dealt a recent setback by deferring bike lanes on Yonge Street – and improve their winter maintenance program by reducing salt use and expanding snow clearing. One last Montréal idea Toronto may want to adopt to fix bicycle parking shortages is to retrofit existing poles with bike rings.
Bartek Komorowski of Vélo Québec
Thanks to Bartek Komorowski for showcasing Montréal’s cycling facilities and providing supplementary information. Let’s continue moving Toronto forward and get a true bike rivalry going!

Game on!
Rob Z (e-mail)

February 13, 2017

Winter Cycling Congress Recap

What is the first thing that comes to mind regarding winter cycling? Some believe nobody bikes in winter, yet year-round cycling has become so popular it has its own conference! Over 400 people attended the 5th Winter Cycling Congress from February 8 to 10 in Montréal; home of smoked meat, BIXI, and the Canadiens. Darnel Harris and I attended on behalf of Cycle Toronto’s Advocacy Committee.
The congress’ program featured dozens of speakers in English and French – translators were available – from maintenance to fatbikes to community engagement. A dozen exhibitors displayed their products and services, while socials were held on Wednesday and Thursday nights to present artwork and stories.


Timo Perala of Winter Cycling Federation (WCF), Suzanne Lareau of Vélo Québec, and Montréal Mayor Denis Coderre gave opening remarks. Lareau’s Québec welcome was a comment about the weather being +3’C one day and -18’C the next, while Coderre touted BIXI’s popularity and needing to focus on culture.
Pekka Tahkola of Winter Cycling Federation
Dominique Paquin of Ouranos presented climate models, whose findings of warming temperatures and reduced snowfalls were echoed by other presenters. Per Pekka Tahkola of WCF, such changes led to new maintenance challenges from freeze-melt cycles in Oulu (Finland), the world’s winter cycling capital which first focused on cycling in the late 1960’s. Most bike paths were shared with pedestrians and maintained by packing a thin layer of snow using teethed plows with “super class routes” being maintained 24/7. No wonder why 42% of residents occasionally bike in winter; most without studded tires. The “A Matter of Data” breakout session featured analysis from Alaska, Montréal, and Ottawa.
Healthy lifestyle ambassador Sylvie Bernier and Morten Kabell from Copenhagen presented during lunch. Bernier mentioned the 5300 km Route Verte network was threatened by government cuts, but reinstated thanks to a Vélo Québec campaign. Kabell argued for changing the conversation from asking how can cities afford cycling infrastructure to how they cannot afford to, given Copenhagen’s $225 million investment in cycling is about half the cost of a three-kilometre overpass; something relevant to Toronto.

For the “Maintenance and Policies” afternoon session, Hans Moor of Ottawa’s Citizens for Safe Cycling focused on the Dutch integration of bikes and rail. Timo Perala explained the Finnish maintenance tendering process, while Montréal borough councillor Marianne Giguère and François Gosselin of McGill University highlighted Montréal’s policies and winter bike lane closures, which will change next year.
Montréal's winter bike lane closures will soon be a thing of the past
Participants closed Day 1 with either a speed dating session or a Canada Bikes town hall with Judi Varga Toth and Anders Swanson. That town hall saw representation across Canada and discussed federal initiatives like the National Cycling Strategy, including a Swedish perspective from Lars Stromgren.


February 9 started with an announcement of #WCC17 being the most popular hashtag in Canada. Maxime Houde presented his report on La Presse’s reporting of winter cycling, which revealed a limited but positive perception since 1988. He then took part in a panel moderated by Marco Fortier of Devoir with Nellie Brière, Forent Daudens of Le Devoir, and Gino Desrosiers of SAAQ. The panel noted the concentration of winter cycling in Montréal and how saying crash not accident is more neutral.
Not the right message to encourage winter cycling (SOURCE: Toronto Star)
For the “Strategies and Reflections” session, Anders Swanson asked how one can make winter cycling as Canadian as hockey and used contrasting images of reflective clothing (see above) and a female cyclist with normal winter gear. Mobycon’s Angela van der Kloof discussed her experiences training women and immigrants to bike, while Laurent Deslauriers and Laurent Levesque emphasized the need to reach beyond established networks. Rebecca Gleason of Montana State University started the “Winter Cycling in Different Contexts” session explaining the Small Town and Rural Design Guide. Jean-François Veilleux of ENvironnement JEUnesse told an inspiring story of a youth group who biked 185 kilometres from Saguenay to Québec City. Darnel Harris – whose cargo bike pilot project idea can be voted at Ontario Budget Talks – discussed suburban resident engagement at Toronto’s Jane and Finch.
Frostbike author Tom Babin
MP Gord Johns built on yesterday’s National Cycling Strategy discussion during lunch. He discussed Hélène Laverdière’s safe rail crossing bill, Bike the Riding day on April 22, and criticized the lack of federal support for the conference. Frostbike author Tom Babin provided three Prairie winter cycling anecdotes, including one person’s fatbike trip from Saskatoon to Tutoyatuk and Calgary’s downtown cycle track network.
BIXI is normally shut down during the winter months
For the afternoon, participants could opt for mobile (with BIXI bikes) or participatory workshops via a pre-Congress survey. I did the mobile workshop about Montréal’s four season bike network hosted by Bartek Komorowski of Vélo Québec. The Pecha Kucha event afterwards could have been better co-ordinated. Espace Fontaine wasn’t practical to walk and Google Maps provided the wrong transit directions; leading to a taxi ride. At the minimum, the organizers could have provided the correct Métro stop.


Before leaving on Friday, February 10, I watched presentations from Tony Desnick of Alta Planning and Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize. Desnick unveiled the 4th Annual Winter Cycling Survey results, which 1222 people participated. Almost half of respondents were from the United States, one quarter were over 50 years old, and two thirds were male. The most popular reason for biking in winter was to keep riding (11%) followed by exercise (9%). Calgary was tops for winter maintenance satisfaction.
One of Alta Planning's Winter Cycling Survey findings
Colville-Anderson discussed the recent transformation of Almetyevsk (Russia). Mayor Ayrat Khayrullin hired Copenhagenize to host a master class and introduce 200 kilometres of cycling infrastructure, including 50 kilometres which launched in May 2016 and locally designed bicycle traffic signals. Khayrullin refused to compromise safety by telling a planner “your job is not what, but how”; prompting Colville-Andersen to joke “dictators are awesome” to some laughter. Pekka Tahkola provided winter cycling advice, including purchasing four snow removal machines and hosting events like a Santa Claus Ride. Coincidentally, Moscow will host next year’s Congress.
With Mikael Colville-Anderson at the Winter Cycling Congress
Colville-Anderson will be in Toronto on Monday, February 27 (7:00 PM) at Fairmont Royal York, with tickets going for $35.


Overall, the Congress was an unforgettable experience with lots of new connections made. Thanks to Vélo Québec for organizing the event and stay tuned for additional posts on cycling in Montréal, the proposed National Cycling Strategy, and data collection.

UPDATE (2017/02/14) - This has been reposted to Dandyhorse.