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Today Has Been A Good Day For Cyclists (And Not Just Because of the Weather)

20100413bikestuff2.jpg
University Avenue in 2005. Photo by Property of Parkdale, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.


Spring has apparently sprung for Toronto’s cyclists. Today saw the release of the agenda for April 20′s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting, and it’s full of excellent news about Bixi and bike lanes (subject to Committee and Council approval, of course).


First of all, about Bixi: It cheered us to learn that the bike-share program, which, last we heard was mired in a dispute over whether or not the city was going to have to pay for it, is now showing signs of readiness to launch, with eighty stations and one thousand bikes, by May 2011―a year later than its original launch estimate.
The local controversy over Bixi (which originated in Montreal, where it launched in 2009) centered on a dispute over cost. The City began negotiations with the Public Bike System Company, the corporation (owned by the City of Montreal’s private parking authority) that provides Bixi, under the understanding that the Public Bike System Company would find a way to implement Bixi at no cost to the City. The plan seemed as though it might be irretrievably scuttled when the Public Bike System Company eventually asked for a large initial investment from the City.
The latest staff report from Transportation Services contains the details of a proposed compromise between the City and the Public Bike System Company, in which the City would provide support for Bixi not by paying for it directly, but by helping the Public Bike System Company secure a $4.8 million loan to cover the setup costs. The City won’t have to put up any money, but it will be on the hook for payment if the Public Bike System Company defaults. (The City would essentially be Bixi’s dad, co-signing its car loan.) The plan calls for the City to take a 50% share of Bixi Toronto’s profits, if there are any, during each year of the proposed initial ten-year contract.
Also of interest is that the report recommends that City Council allow Bixi to seek six-hundred-thousand dollars’ worth of sponsorships to help defray setup costs. Under the plan, ads for sponsors will be displayed only on bikes and stations―not in roadways.
The report also contains a proposed model for splitting the costs of vandalism to the Bixi system between the Public Bike System Company and the City. Under the plan, the Public Bike System Company will be responsible for all repairs due to vandalism and theft up to 6% of the total cost of the system. After that, any further damage will be paid for by the City. The report cites Montreal’s very low 1% vandalism rate as evidence that Toronto’s fleet would never suffer significant damage from bike-hating evildoers. Conspicuously absent from consideration is the baleful tale of the Vélib bike-share system in Paris, which has seen 80% of its initial fleet of bikes stolen or damaged since launching in 2007. The stolen bikes do occasionally turn up, says the New York Times, though generally only broken in roadside ditches, or for sale on the Eastern European and African black markets.
It will be interesting to see whether, and under what circumstances, all this Bixi stuff will earn the approval of Council.
The other big, exciting bike news on today’s Public Works and Infrastructure Agenda (so much so that it has already grabbed headlines) is the proposal of numerous enhancements to the downtown bike lane network, including, most impressively, a new pair of median bike lanes along University Avenue and Queen’s Park Crescent, between Richmond and Wellesley streets, like so:

20100413bikestuff1.jpg
A rendering of what median bike lanes would look like on University Avenue, courtesy of Transportation Services.


That’s right, median bike lanes―meaning they’ll run along the centre of the road, rather than its shoulders, in a Toronto first. The lanes will be implemented on a temporary basis this July, if the plan is approved. To create them, the City will have to eliminate a lane of traffic on each side of University Avenue, reducing it to a total of six car lanes, from its current eight. This will probably upset some people and provide Rocco Rossi with several more talking points. But it is an intriguing idea. (If biking in the centre of the road sounds frightening, take a look at this video of a similar system in use in New York City, and feel relief.)
The plan also contains proposals for new lanes on Bay Street, Lansdowne Avenue, Rathburn Road, Spadina Crecent, York Mills Road, and Westhumber Boulevard. And it even contains proposals for modifications to existing bike lanes, including the installation of “bike boxes” at some intersections along College and Harbord Streets. Bike boxes are street markings that carve out space for cyclists in the centre of the road, so they can make left turns easily. (Here’s a video of them in use in San Francisco.)
All in all, a good day for bikes in Toronto. Now it’s up to City Council to give all this goodness the green light.
(And on a related note, congratulations to the Toronto Cyclists Union, which this morning announced plans for significant expansion, lending further weight to our thesis that now is a very good time to be on two wheels.)

CORRECTION: OCTOBER 15, 2010 This article mistakenly said that the Public Bike System Company was owned by the City of Montreal. In fact, PBSC is a subsidiary of Stationnement de Montreal, Montreal’s parking authority, which is in turn a subsidiary of Montreal’s privately owned Board of Trade.

Comments

  • http://undefined mattalexto

    I knew there were good people working at City Hall, they just don’t get the same publicity all the blow hards do.

  • http://undefined Peter K

    It may shock some, but I’m not opposed to more bike lanes, and these median ones look like they have some merit, at least along strips like the Uni/QP Cir one.
    More bike lanes will clog up traffic, hopefully encouraging more people to leave the car at home.
    And anything that helps keep cyclists and drivers out of each other’s way can’t be a bad thing.

  • http://undefined mark.

    I’m trying to be hopeful and excited but the ‘Bixi’ plan “is now showing signs of readiness to launch”? And this is a report on “the proposal of” these new bike lanes?
    “Now it’s up to City Council to give all this goodness the green light.”
    Any idea when we’ll know if any of this is actually happening?

  • http://stevekupferman.typepad.com Steve Kupferman

    Public Works and Infrastructure meets on April 20, at which point they’ll have the opportunity to approve any or all of this, tweak it, spike it, or send it back for further study. And then City Council will make final decisions during their May 11-12 session.

  • http://undefined Oliver

    Great Day!
    I really hope this won’t be framed in the battle to the death, car versus bike debate… oh wait, it has been already.
    Once downtown motorists realize that you can have shared roadways with bicyclists, as long as the paths are well planned, safe, and effective, the wider bike lane network can expand with less opposition. I hope.

  • http://undefined mark.

    Thanks.

  • http://piorkowski.ca/ qviri

    Wording and nitpick… but I don’t think the problem is so much “downtown motorists” as “motorists downtown”.

  • Darren

    Sounds good. Now if they can only ticket every one of my fellow cyclists who illegally rides on sidewalks, or down the wrong way on a one-way, or rides with headphones on, then it would help the rest of us cyclists in not being lumped in with the bad cyclists.

  • http://undefined McCurdy

    Re: University lanes
    There’s more than enough room to accommodate the bike lanes with the pedestrian space on the existing medians. The automobile lanes do not need to be removed. Especially on a vital roadway such as University.
    Those medians are already in need of renovations. The timing couldn’t be more perfect to renovate the medians and to simultaneously incorporate safe and effective bike lanes.
    Summertime traffic is the busiest traffic of all. I drive on University several times a day, five days a week, all year round. Ironically or, despite popular belief, the majority of automobile traffic congestion is during the summer time.
    For the automobile, this is a bad time of year to experiment. Excellent time of year and opportunity for cyclists to take advantage of this trial.

  • http://undefined Herb

    There won’t be any advertising on the bikes or stations (you can read the backgrounder on the city website for more info). It calls for “sponsorship identification” – logos and names of sponsors.
    @McCurdy: why do you think you know more about congestion than the transportation experts? They’ve stated that auto capacity will not be affected by the bike lanes. Everyone will still be able to get downtown in their cushy cars. And for heaven’s sake it’s four lanes in each direction!
    Every cyclist on that roadway is one less car that is slowing you down. But it seems that motorists want their cake and eat it too: they don’t want to accommodate cyclists or transit users but they also want less congestion. You’re living a pipe dream.

  • http://undefined Herb

    PBSC never asked for a “large investment” from the city, Steve. It doesn’t say that in the NP story and it doesn’t say that in the statements by city staff. They never announced what was holding up approval, but whatever it was it seems to be resolved through the loan guarantee.

  • http://undefined McCurdy

    I know more because I’ve been driving up and down University Ave for nearly seven years on a regular and consistent basis. Five days a week. During the morning, lunch, and evening rush, and at times in between. I am a transportation expert for that region.
    I see how capacity is affected by the slightest obstacle. Removing a lane per side is a massive alteration and will increase congestion immediately.
    With taxis and pulled over vehicles, it’s essentially three lanes, not four.
    “Every cyclist on that roadway is one less car that is slowing you down” False reasoning. Try again.

  • http://stevekupferman.typepad.com Steve Kupferman

    You are correct that logos and names of sponsors will be the extent of the brand identification on bikes and stations. I would still call that advertising, but that should have been phrased more precisely.
    As far as the “large investment” goes, a Star article, not linked in the post (again, my oversight), pegs the amount at $10 to 11 million.

  • http://stevekupferman.typepad.com Steve Kupferman

    That link isn’t working for some reason but the article is here:
    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/768195–city-s-negotiations-for-bike-sharing-program-stalled

  • http://undefined mattalexto

    I encourage you to step out of your car and watch the traffic from the median for half an hour. You will find that congestion is caused by cars, not by bikes. It’s cars changing lanes without signalling, cars double parked, cars trying to make illegal turns, etc, etc.

  • http://undefined zhadu

    And I know more about food because I’ve been eating for nearly forty years on a regular and consistent basis. Seven days a week. During the morning, lunch, and dinner time, and at times in between. I am a food expert.

  • http://undefined Tyler

    “lansdowne”

  • http://undefined thelemur

    It’s funny how drivers blame cyclists using roads without bike lanes for slowing them down and creating a danger, then when the idea comes up of segregating bikes and cars so that drivers don’t have to worry about cyclists in their way at all it somehow slows them down too. I would have thought that a lane without bikes in it, meant for cars, would have the speed of its traffic dictated by … cars.

  • http://undefined Giancarlo

    I love the idea of the median bike lanes, but I have one concern – how will cars make safe left turns? The video from NYC showed the bikes having their own traffic signals, but I don’t think they’re doing that here, are they? I’m guessing that drivers and bikers will just have to be extra careful, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see how they implement the system.

  • http://undefined McCurdy

    Great point!
    I think it would be much better for cyclists to mitigate traffic which is to their front and centre (head on), as opposed to traffic which could encroach upon them unexpectedly from their right side.
    This is why I believe that we should be utilizing the existing median space to accommodate pedestrian space with cyclist traffic space. There’s plenty of room on those medians to accomplish this task.
    Removing a lane on the north and south sides of University is highly political; less so critical. It’s somewhat sad to know that these current politicians think in such a linear fashion, that they cannot comprehend that these proposed changes (this experiment) would increase automobile pollution due to increased stop-and-go traffic.

  • http://undefined Giancarlo

    I don’t really get what you mean about the head-on thing. Should the lanes be reversed? It’s true that cyclists won’t be used to cars being on the right, and drivers definitely won’t be used to looking at their left blind spot for bikes before they turn. They better put up some crazy neon signs or something.
    Also, the centre median is useless, but it’s also somewhat unique and might be open to better use with future developments. Besides, the bottom line is this is a temporary trial, so I’m guessing they’re taking the simplest and most feasable option, which is to put up some pole things and make the middle lanes bike lanes. Done and done.
    I honestly don’t think it will have an adverse effect on traffic though (in case anyone is wondering, I drive more than I bike, though I take TTC more than I drive). Having four lanes, plus a curb lane for parking, is still pretty good for a street that goes right downtown. The whole point of this is to see if the idea works or not, right? And if anything, I think any congestion on University is due to the never-ending series of traffic lights – maybe if they synchronized them better, traffic wouldn’t accumulate as much.

  • http://undefined McCurdy

    I bet you that I know more about food and it’s affect on the body than you do. I fought chronic ulcerative colitis for nearly a decade. Only then to have my colon completely removed!
    However I do see your point. You’ve made your argument in the tone of a practical realist. As a result, it is absolutist. Such is the way of the ego.
    You’re suggesting that credentials have an absolutist authority over on-the-floor experience. Yet there is a plethora of testimony from real experience which would deify this sort of mentality. How would true progress ever persist if we appealed only to authority?
    If your inadvertent assertion held true, this would discredit most discourse.
    Experience is valid. You have provided none.
    Unless you can elaborate your point, you sir, are merely an internet troll. Which is why you chose to use and inadvertent and cynical argument.
    I love you :)

  • http://undefined McCurdy

    I think that the attempt to experiment does have merit. Based on the idea of experimentation alone. However I don’t believe that this is a genuine form of experimentation.
    The summer season truly is the most congested time of year, in my opinion, from my experience as a driver. Yet this is the most practical time of year for cyclists to be out and about. How convenient.
    My having driven north and south on University for seven years makes it difficult for me to understand that the at present flow of automobile traffic is not understood as being nothing short of saturated.
    Re: head on,
    You’ve got me there. I believe that it would be best for a cyclist to mitigate automobiles head on, as opposed to side to side. Thus balancing the onus. Yet, it does some clear that cyclists have the potential to have the most situational awareness of all human traffic. Next to pedestrians. And still, the political agenda seems to be placed highest on the motor vehicle.

  • http://undefined McCurdy

    Simply put, I think that University and Jarvis should be handled more intelligently than other nearby roadways. Cutting off a lane per side on University is unintelligent, in my opinion.
    Become a paramedic, a courier, or any essential service for a day or a week. Try to understand the priority and demand of these routes and you will likely understand how they outweigh that of the average cyclist. Or be the indifferent tourist, or the occasional visitor to this city, who simply wants to get in and out of here, hassle free.
    There are more feasible alternatives for creating bike lanes. People who make use of the bike lanes are also more likely to be native to the city as opposed to the visitor or tourist.
    Attacking Jarvis and University is simply too political. I’d much rather see a focused debate aimed towards the future of the Gardiner Expressway.

  • http://www.torontoist.com David Topping

    You’re right, obviously. Slipped past everyone’s guard, but now fixed.

  • http://undefined ToasterDan

    Two things:
    1. If the summer season is the busiest time of year, and yet the city thinks that everything will be fine, then this is the PERFECT time to test it. If everything is fine, then you know it’s good for the entire year. If everything isn’t fine, then you know it’s not going to work.
    2. Taking a lane completely out of circulation for cars is not the same thing as having cabs, etc. block a lane. The latter causes people to change lanes to merge around those ‘temporary’ blockages, which backs everything up. Taking a lane out completely doesn’t do that. So, if the city is right and the number of cars fits in three (or two) lanes instead of four, then taking out that lane shouldn’t have an appreciable affect.

  • http://undefined McCurdy

    “The latter causes people to change lanes to merge around those ‘temporary’ blockages, which backs everything up.”
    Yes, you are correct when you describe this scenario. The cabs are taking up a lane plus slowing down a second one. With the proposed removal you will have the main flow of traffic negating merely one lane. We haven’t even touched upon the vehicles attempting to turn in between the medians.
    Those cabs are not going anywhere else. The back roads of the hospitals are at max capacity already.

  • http://undefined McCurdy

    Let’s get these roads experts in front of the media to tell the public that everything should be OK. Instead of having a councilor or two telling us that the experts told them so.

  • http://undefined torontothegreat

    This is the nicest implementation for a roadway bike lane that I’ve seen for Toronto. University is the perfect place for it too.

  • http://undefined thelemur

    You don’t think it’s a genuine form of experimentation because of the time in which it will take place, or because you don’t think it’s actually an experiment at all?

  • http://undefined Astin

    While I like the implementation of separated bike lanes, and don’t have an issue with middle-placement, I do have an issue with University being used.
    Yes, it’s a central artery. It’s also the only one that has anything approaching driveable traffic during the day. Cutting down a lane will make it yet another parking lot in the city.
    And no, those drivers aren’t all closet cyclists just waiting to have a safer means of driving the road.
    That said, the left-turn issues mentioned above aren’t that much of an issue. You can’t turn left very often on University anyway. However, the U-turn breaks in the median could prove to be a big problem for the driver-cyclist convergence.
    Throw in frequent emergency vehicle usage (hospital row after all, a major police station on Dundas, and frequent use by fire trucks due to the MANY AVAILABLE LANES), and this could have more severe effects.
    A consistent bike lane system on secondary roads, that allows unbroken access north-to-south would seem a better solution. As it is, you can’t get from Queen’s Park to the lake without taking a few bike-unfriendly roads, or going through some major detours. Just putting lanes on the major arteries seems lazy and uncreative.

  • http://undefined Bryan

    I like that this is a trial program to test the atual effect of the proposed changes before they are made permanent. They should use the approach elsewhere.
    Before they turn the middle lane on Jarvis street into bike lanes, we should know exactly how it will impact traffic.
    Over 28,000 drivers use Jarvis every day, including 1,700 an hour during the morning and evening rush. Before they permanently cripple this critical transportation artery, the should cripple it temporarily and measure the effect.
    They say the changes to Jarvis will have minimal impact. There is an easy way to test that hypothesis: Close the centre lane of Jarvis Street from Bloor Street to Queen Street for two months and monitor the traffic impact on Jarvis and the neighbouring communities.
    No guesswork. No decisions based on theory. Instead, decisions based on real data and hard facts. Let’s put their theory to the test.

  • http://piorkowski.ca/ qviri

    So, an actually serious question: why headphones?
    I bike with earphones on. Medium-depth in-ear ones. I don’t understand how it is a problem.
    Is it that we would miss a honk? I’m pretty sure I’d have to turn up to eardrum-blowing volumes to do that. Miss other ambient sound? No different than a motorist locked up in his glass cage.
    I fully agree that you need to stay aware of the environment — who’s around you, who’s behind you (for certain manouvers). But I just don’t see how lack of low-level ambient sound would impair that significantly enough to warrant blanket prohibition.
    Agreed with your other points, BTW — at least downtown.

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    Proposition: It is always true that more discussion, modelling, planning, testing, thought, weighing of options, etc. will produce more efficient or effective results.
    Corollary: “We can do better” can or will always be raised as an objection to real action.
    But from these it does not follow that is always better to postpone action. Action is preferable when it can be said, “We are not doing well enough.”
    If you pressure someone who says, “We can do better” to explain what is not being done “well enough,” often some very personal complaint emerges which is not a meaningful barrier to action.

  • http://undefined McCurdy

    I’m unsure if this is a true experiment. The timing is proper for cyclists–rightly so. Albeit this proposed trial has been backed up by manipulative politicization and poorly calculated thinking.
    Cut off two automobile lanes and you will increase pollution. A result of the increased congestion.
    Given the state of our current transportation infrastructure, you will not force people out of their cars by closing down lanes. We are are more likely to lose business to the 905 or to the U.S., before we achieve far reaching and viable public transit systems.
    The immediate affect will be increased stress and anxiety on the roads for a majority. Peace of mind for a minority. A minority more concerned about safety than a green agenda per se.
    I’d like to see how it’s been determined that summer time is a low time for automobile traffic. Anyone in an automobile who relies on University Ave., will tell you otherwise.
    Have you heard De Baeremaeker comment on this “experiment?”
    Someone find me a transcript of his interview with Jerry Agar on news talk 1010, April 14th. Please? De Baeremaeker used highly politicized talking points, devoid of critical thought. Agar went extremely light on him.
    Someone find me a concept artist and I will show you how well we can utilize and beautify the existing medians on University Ave. For cyclists, for pedestrians, and for green space.
    The demand for bike paths is here. Cyclists will use these new paths. No doubt about it. Bring them on. But use the medians! Renovate them now, or, commence the renovations after labour day. We have the opportunity to turn those medians in to a work of art and logistical mastery. This is the green choice, and the safer choice.

  • http://undefined thelemur

    Cut off two automobile lanes and you will increase pollution. A result of the increased congestion
    If bikes are kept separate from motorized traffic, there is an opportunity for cars to move faster without having to slow down for bikes, drive in wide arcs past bikes, etc., although when left to their own devices, drivers don’t always work to prevent congestion.
    The immediate affect will be increased stress and anxiety on the roads for a majority. Peace of mind for a minority. A minority more concerned about safety than a green agenda per se
    Wouldn’t most people put their own safety ahead of any green agenda? Is a green agenda demonstrably better or more valid than safety?
    I’d like to see how it’s been determined that summer time is a low time for automobile traffic
    I’m not aware of anyone claiming that that is the case so far, whether as a justification for these lanes or otherwise. My experience is that car traffic on University is fairly consistent throughout the year. If the volume is greater in the summer, it doesn’t appear to be significantly greater such that it would make a difference in relation to whatever bike traffic is there.
    Someone find me a concept artist and I will show you how well we can utilize and beautify the existing medians on University Ave. For cyclists, for pedestrians, and for green space.
    The demand for bike paths is here. Cyclists will use these new paths. No doubt about it. Bring them on. But use the medians!

    Using the medians is an idea worth exploring. There was recently some discussion of the University Ave medians being underused and underappreciated, particularly by pedestrians, who use them only as waystations in crossing the avenue. They would certainly offer enough space for mixed bike/pedestrian use. The main challenge would be to make it attractive enough for pedestrians to use for north-south travel instead of the eastern and western sidewalks or for other purposes. However, there are still a few factors to consider:
    1. how to deal with left-turning traffic and east-west traffic at intersections (tunnels for bikes and pedestrians?)
    2. existing statues and fountains – remove or reposition?
    3. possibly, utilities under the median – bury them deeper? reroute?

  • http://undefined thelemur

    What is the volume level of what you are listening to? Is it music or something similar that you would not be actively attending to, or something predominantly spoken, like the radio, that you might devote part of your attention to if it interested you?
    Can you hear enough of what’s around you to notice a passing cyclist saying ‘on your left’ at conversational volume? What about an electric bike or hybrid car coming up behind you? The sound of a pedestrian talking on a cellphone and obliviously about to step into the road without looking?
    I’m asking because as tempting as it is to provide a soundtrack for my ride, missing these low-level cues takes away a lot of information about what’s going on around me.

  • http://undefined McCurdy

    Excellent post! Thank you.
    “If bikes are kept separate from motorized traffic, there is an opportunity for cars to move faster without having to slow down for bikes, drive in wide arcs past bikes, etc., although when left to their own devices, drivers don’t always work to prevent congestion.”
    In my opinion there are greater obstructions against the steady flow of traffic:
    a. Taxis and vehicles attempting to access the hospitals and other buildings. They Merge in and out of the lane closest to the sidewalk, and often stall at the second lane closest to the sidewalk for a quick pick up or drop off, or for an opportunity to replace a parked vehicle.
    b. Vehicles queued to exit University Ave. At some intersections the line up to exit the street can grow long enough to occupy two lanes. The long queue tends to be a result of late-to-cross pedestrians. This queue extends automobiles past the point where legally parked vehicles are situated, thus taking up two lanes.
    c. Construction or service vehicles servicing something. Each time something needs servicing on University, congestion occurs. Mind you, this tends to be more a result of the automobiles making last minute diversions.
    All seem to trump cyclists vs. automobiles in this regard. The trade off of an automobile lane for dedicated cycle lane per side does nothing to address the aforementioned obstructions. We will see more congestion immediately and for the long term once this trial begins.
    We could come up with some innovations to deal with late-to-cross pedestrians. However the taxis and vehicles attempting to access buildings are already having a difficult time on all of the roads leading to the buildings on University. There’s very little that we can do about them.
    Late-to-cross pedestrians is an issue all over the city.
    1. We need more strategically located scramble crossings. I’ve noticed that these scrambles compel many pedestrians to change their conventional thinking in regards to how to cross an intersection. Thus increasing their level of cognition. For the time being at least.
    2. We could benefit greatly from having right turn signals at some intersections. This would result in another cognition enhancer for affected pedestrians, while providing an exclusive reservation for right turning vehicles. Right turn signals will help to greatly divert traffic.
    On radio, both Vaughn and De Baeremaeker have cited that summer is a low activity season for automobiles. This point was also included in the original press wire. Where did they source this? I’ve talked with couriers, and medical transport who frequently access University Ave. They all baulk to this notion. From my own on-the-floor experience, so do I.
    “1. how to deal with left-turning traffic and east-west traffic at intersections (tunnels for bikes and pedestrians?)”
    Tunnels could be a possibility. Good call. Or perhaps a type of chicane for the cyclists, as they approach the median ends. Traffic lights for bikes? I believe that anything will be safer, the closer the cyclists are to the centre of University. If only for their own visibility.
    Come to think of it, if I were driving north on University approaching a median, I will sooner see a southernly moving cyclist if they are near the centre of the median rather than if they were along the perimetre.
    Perhaps it should be considered that during this trial, cyclists drive facing oncoming traffic? This may give an added visibility advantage. As a cyclist, I would be more able to apprehend oncoming vehicles attempting to make a left turn. Less risk of being side swiped?

  • http://undefined McCurdy

    “Perhaps it should be considered that during this trial, cyclists drive facing oncoming traffic? This may give an added visibility advantage. As a cyclist, I would be more able to apprehend oncoming vehicles attempting to make a left turn. Less risk of being side swiped?”
    Forget considering it. Do it. I would guess that most cyclists will appreciate this strategic advantage. Automobiles too! Unless there’s something being overlooked.

  • http://undefined anthill

    Everyday driving experiences are misleading. Driving in downtown Toronto isn’t like driving in the country. You’re not in a race. You’re in a line-up. And a line-up moves only as fast as the checkout counter.
    This is key to what nobody has mentioned yet: University Avenue is already three lanes wide. Three lanes south of Richmond, three lanes north of Queen’s Park. Assigning the intervening fourth lanes to nonmotorized traffic will just mean fewer cars sitting in line – the bottlenecks southbound at Richmond and northbound at Bloor will be unchanged.

  • http://undefined thelemur

    That’s probably true. I was about to say that south of Richmond is where University gets snarled up, especially with the turn-only lanes and then that weird York/University/Front intersection and the resulting bottleneck around the York St underpass, but that’s a separate issue to address. Even in the four-lane section, traffic is of the speed-up-and-stop variety.

  • tapesonthefloor

    *reads thoughtful comments*
    *single tear of joy rolls down his cheek*

  • http://undefined thelemur

    I think there are several questions that could be raised:
    1. What existing traffic analysis is there for University Ave and what does it tell us about traffic volumes by time of day and time of year?
    2. What about reconfiguring the median as a pedestrian zone and allowing (some) boulevard parking along it, leaving the existing east and west curbs for taxis and EMS/service vehicles, possibly narrowing the median and widening the sidewalks to incorporate a narrow bike lane with curbs?
    3. How much of the congestion is attributable to lane-changing in an attempt to be part of faster traffic vs manoeuvring into a turn lane in time? What can be done to address that?

  • http://undefined Bryan Bowen

    Glad to find real discussion on this proposal. Media reports have focused too heavily on reactions from mayoral candidates, and not enough (or at all?) on critically evaluating the logistical problems of the plan itself.
    While I strongly support introducing separated bike lanes on logical and safe routes, as an avid cyclist, I think crossing three lanes of traffic on an arterial road to access a separated lane is a reckless proposition. How exactly are we supposed to get safely in and out of this lane? Cyclists making right turns will still use the curb lane; while cyclists using the through median lane will regularly be forced out into mixed traffic by left-turning cars blocking the intersection. And what happens when the lane abruptly ends? We find ourselves stranded in the middle of the road? I know similar configurations work in NYC and Montreal (take a look at Rachel through the Plateau), but these are usually on quieter one-way streets and/or use the curb lane – they are not typically adjacent to boulevards in the middle of a six-lane arterial road with through, cross and left-turning traffic in the mix.
    So what’s the alternative? I think Simcoe Street from Queen to Queen’s Quay is the more logical test route. Its primarily a one-way street that would easily allow for contraflow bike lanes; it could easily stand to lose one of its three lanes as it doesn’t connect to a Gardiner ramp; it would connect to the recently opened Lower Simcoe underpass, which now provides the city’s best pedestrian and bike connection between downtown and the central waterfront/Martin Goodman trail; it connects directly to the new hub of condos and commercial buildings popping up along Bremner; it crosses popular east-west bike routes; and it is only a short jog at Queen before picking up the bike lane on Beverly and St. George, where it continues north to connect with U of T and Bloor Street.
    Don’t get me wrong. A pilot project is a big step in the right direction, but if this test fails, it will be used by opponents of dedicated lanes to stop funding for other routes that are safer, better integrated with our present cycling network, and better plugged in to existing and future activity generators.

  • http://undefined thelemur

    I think the Simcoe St idea has some merit. I’ve been using Simcoe occasionally to get to the Bicycle Station via Station St, just south of Front. The main problem right now is that Simcoe has one-way portions in opposite directions: northbound to Elm and southbound to the lake. In addition to that, part of the stretch south of Dundas is effectively closed, behind the US consulate, such that there isn’t really a functional intersection at the north side of the Queen/Simcoe intersection. That part could be reconfigured as a mixed pedestrian/bike zone.

  • http://undefined Patrick

    City staff already estimated the effect on traffic when they first proposed narrowing Jarvis. If I remember correctly, it will add 3 minutes to a rush hour commute from Bloor to King. And the idea of a bike lane is to raise cycling trips along the route, moving way more people in a much smaller space than a car lane can. With our current setup, traffic keeps getting worse and worse but biking conditions are too unsafe for your average middle-aged office worker to want to try biking to work. We need to escape that trap.

  • http://undefined Patrick

    I’ve been trying to convince my mom, who’s 57, to start biking from her home at Ossington and Harbord to her job at Dundas and University. This might just be thing that does it. If the bike lane network becomes strong enough that we can get your average working mom cycling to work without fearing for her safety, we’ll see a sea change in the amount of cyclists in this city.

  • http://undefined Patrick

    Sorry – that last one was supposed to be a new comment!

  • http://undefined mattalexto

    That WOULD be a really easy case to make once the gap in the Harbord bike lane is closed and the University Ave bike lanes are installed. I hope your mom decided to make the shift.
    It’s pretty rare that a cyclist can get where they want to go in this city exclusively using roads with bike lanes.

  • http://bit.ly/jgk9h7 dandmb50

    We are finally moving ahead and if that is what University bike lanes are going to look like (I will believe it when I see it) I am very pleased and wonder why we waited so long to do this. I hope the city has the foresight to do the same thing on the proposed Jarvis Street bike lanes. I am just confused as to why they have proposed to put it on the left side what is going to happen when a biker wants to turn right? But in fairness it is a start and I am encouraged, although I don’t ride bikes anymore. I suggested this months ago on my BLOG below. Did they take my advice?
    Daniel … Toronto
    http://bit.ly/akgL8w

  • http://piorkowski.ca/ qviri

    Thanks for the comment. Yeah, it’s music — soundtrack, as you said.
    The “on your left” call occurred to me as one of the potential problem areas. Important as that is, it’s not uncommon to get passed without the call, or as you mentioned, by an e-bike/hybrid. I always make an effort to check behind me when deviating significantly from a straight line or otherwise expected path; I think that’s only fair and I think back to the time I didn’t know about the “on your left” custom and had a couple of close calls with (non-headphoned) people who didn’t check.
    I hope I would be able to see the pedestrian, but if not, I’m not convinced the situation is wholly different than him walking out in front of car with windows rolled up. I can’t prevent everything.
    I’m just not a big fan of blanket prohibitions.

  • http://piorkowski.ca/ qviri

    “As a cyclist, I would be more able to apprehend oncoming vehicles attempting to make a left turn. Less risk of being side swiped?”
    If you’re travelling northbound, under this scheme you would indeed be able to much better see cars travelling southbound and turning left. The problem is cars travelling northbound and turning left would still have a chance to creep up on you from behind — not to mention the drivers totally wouldn’t expect to find you there and travelling in that direction.
    You would have the width of the median as time for them to hopefully see you, but I’m not convinced that offsets the risk.
    A bike lane on the left side of a high speed road where cars frequently turn left just doesn’t seem like that good of an idea.

  • http://undefined McCurdy

    You are correct.
    I can see it now. Someone in an automobile attempting to make a left turn in to congested traffic. Blocking cyclists as they try to creep their vehicles on to the road. A road full of anxious and unforgiving drivers.
    ……..
    To persons assessing the at present bicycle climate within the vicinity:
    Go take a walk throughout the halls of some of the hospitals and buildings on or near University Ave. Hit up some of the cafeterias and chat it up.
    You might be surprised to discover that there are a lot of people who will not cycle to work out of fear of being injured.
    Daily I’m in and out of many of those buildings and that’s exactly what I’ve discovered. A cohort of cyclists itching to get out on to University. It was the last thing I was expecting to hear.
    St. George/Beverley St., may be the next viable alternative for bike lanes. I have less experience in that area to know at the moment. It’s not as centralized as University is. It wouldn’t have the same flow unless you’re willing to turn St. George/Beverley St. in to a motor-free zone. I’m not even sure that could be viable. Could it be?
    I’m firm on the motion to refurbish those medians and to build the bike lanes right on to them. It’s the utilitarian choice. Cutting off two lanes on University is a massive slap in the face to peoples and industry who rely on this Arterial road, daily.