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19 Comments

news

Activists Repair Harbord Street’s Bike Lane Gap

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Photo by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.


Needless to say, the City didn’t paint the street marking depicted above. But we know who did.
Several of these mutant bike lane symbols, with question marks instead of wheels, appeared recently along Harbord Street, between Borden Street and Spadina Avenue. They’re the work of the Urban Repair Squad, says Martin Reis, the group’s documentarian.
The placement of the spray-painted symbols was strategic: the particular four-block stretch of road that they bracket is the only part of Harbord Street that lacks bike lanes. This discontinuity has been a source of frustration for riders looking for an easy commute from Ossington Avenue to the University of Toronto. (Harbord Street terminates at Ossington Avenue to the west, and Queen’s Park Crescent to the east.)
Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) has said that the Harbord bike lanes can’t be completed, because doing so would eliminate necessary on-street parking for the retail businesses located there.
The Urban Repair Squad has a history of guerrilla public space interventions in this vein. Last year, they made some unauthorized modifications to the topiary City of Toronto logo beside the Gardiner Expressway. More recently, they spray-painted some colourful warnings on streets around downtown, to tip off cyclists to bumpy terrain.

Comments

  • http://undefined mark.

    I LOVE the Urban Repair Squad!
    This article, though, should’ve given some props to the city for repaving the bike lanes. They’re very smooth!

  • http://undefined davedave

    You love them? Really?
    How about if a cyclist dies because of driver/cyclist confusion as to whether or not it’s actually a lane or a bike lane because they went and fu*ked with the city’s roads?
    Will you love them then?
    Yeah, the Urban Repair Squad are awesome….awesome jackasses.
    I just might go out there tonight with some black paint and fix this bullsh*t.

  • rek

    If you can mistake this for an official road sign you have no business being on the road, no matter how many wheels you have.
    Sign, no sign, or fake sign: if a motorist hits a cyclist the outcome is the same.
    (The cyclist gets hurt/killed, and if the motorist is unlucky they might get a stern look from someone in a uniform before being let go.)

  • http://undefined mattalexto

    What confusion? Cyclists can ride on Harbord whether there’s a bike lane or not.

  • http://undefined DJ

    Can they possibly add stop signs to those bike lanes, or no bikes allowed symbols on sidewalks so I stop getting run down by cyclists who make up their own traffic rules?

  • http://undefined AR

    Expect a lot more of this if someone takes power who doesn’t like bike lanes.

  • http://piorkowski.ca/ qviri

    I hear that’s on the todo list right after they’re done blanking downtown with signs reminding pedestrians to only cross at crosswalks.

  • http://undefined davedave

    why don’t you get on the horn and call all the newcomers to our country that aren’t familiar with our road sign system to stay off the road because you think they’re too stupid to be on it

  • http://undefined Andrew

    In the U of T area, cyclist-pedestrian interactions are increasing. In the past couple of months, I’ve personally witnessed two near collisions and was nearly run down myself by a cyclist blowing through a red light (and yes, I was crossing at the crosswalk).

  • http://undefined Ben

    As a response to the “guerrilla markings cause confusion and death” theory, I’d like to point out that there are only three of these symbols. They wouldn’t be mistaken for a bike lane, or even sharrows.
    They come off as a criticism of the lack of bike lanes, especially considering the posters that say as much posted on lamp poles at every intersection on the strip. The paint just reinforces the point.

  • thelemur

    Because in order to drive here, they have to pass a test that includes being able to recognize standard signs and road markings and therefore being able to distinguish which ones aren’t official?

  • http://undefined rek

    I don’t know what planet you recently arrived from, davedave, but I’m sure you had to pass a road sign test of some kind before Ontario gave you a license to drive.

  • http://undefined thelemur

    Also, I’m not aware of any jurisdiction that allows question marks to be part of any road sign or pavement marking – that would be introducing an unacceptable level of ambiguity.

  • http://undefined thelemur

    There may be a need to reconfigure the St George/Willcocks intersection now that there is (temporarily) no traffic turning from or onto Willcocks. But the bigger problem is the pedestrian crossings on St George that aren’t at intersections – most cyclists tend to either zip through them or just slow down a bit.

  • http://undefined dusty callinda

    The problem with Harbord Street as a bike lane street is that there are businesses along it, which require on-street parking.
    A much better idea would be to designate a few east-west and north-south streets as bike-only and create channels which are safe for cyclists and don’t confuse the bike lane issue any further.
    I nominate this network of streets, with bicycle overpasses over major streets like University, Queen Yonge and Bloor:
    North-South street: Avenue-University: one *divided* lane for cyclists, probably the lane farthest west that runs by the Hydro bldg, Princess Elizabeth, Mount Sinai etc.
    East-West streets:
    Adelaide: one lane, probably the farthest north, also using a physical barrier to protect cyclists.
    Father north I would go with Gerrard from Parliament to University and then Dundas west to Bathurst. Again, these have to be dedicated lanes with barriers.
    I chose these streets as there aren’t a helluva lot of retail parking spots to displace.
    Obviously cyclists will have to also use side streets to reach these arteries and to get closer to their places of work, but this would create a network where cyclists would be protected and safer. The notion that we can accommodate both styles of traffic safely is misguided and I shake my head when I see more bike lane activism that results in a white line in the sand being drawn by city council. They need to put real protection and common sense first and devote a lane of traffic on major streets to bikes. As a cyclist and driver, I will only feel safe when this happens. And while I’m ranting, how about a few pedestrian-only malls downtown? Ottawa has Sparks street, what do we have?

  • http://undefined dusty callinda

    The problem with Harbord Street as a bike lane street is that there are businesses along it, which require on-street parking.
    A much better idea would be to designate a few east-west and north-south streets as bike-only and create channels which are safe for cyclists and don’t confuse the bike lane issue any further.
    I nominate this network of streets, with bicycle overpasses over major streets like University, Queen Yonge and Bloor:
    North-South street: Avenue-University: one *divided* lane for cyclists, probably the lane farthest west that runs by the Hydro bldg, Princess Elizabeth, Mount Sinai etc.
    East-West streets:
    Adelaide: one lane, probably the farthest north, also using a physical barrier to protect cyclists.
    Father north I would go with Gerrard from Parliament to University and then Dundas west to Bathurst. Again, these have to be dedicated lanes with barriers.
    I chose these streets as there aren’t a helluva lot of retail parking spots to displace.
    Obviously cyclists will have to also use side streets to reach these arteries and to get closer to their places of work, but this would create a network where cyclists would be protected and safer. The notion that we can accommodate both styles of traffic safely is misguided and I shake my head when I see more bike lane activism that results in a white line in the sand being drawn by city council. They need to put real protection and common sense first and devote a lane of traffic on major streets to bikes. As a cyclist and driver, I will only feel safe when this happens. And while I’m ranting, how about a few pedestrian-only malls downtown? Ottawa has Sparks street, what do we have?

  • thelemur

    Are you talking about streets exclusively for bikes, or streets with separated dedicated bike routes?
    Parking is a problem wherever there are bike lanes or just heavy bike traffic, but parking isn’t absolutely necessary for every single retail business, nor does it need to be specifically on the street itself (as opposed to around the corner) or along the entire length of the retail strip.
    Lastly, bike overpasses? As in above-grade thoroughfares for bikes? How high would they be and how long would access ramps extend?

  • http://undefined dusty callinda

    Sorry – wasn’t being clear. I am talking about dedicated bike lanes with barricades from motorized traffic, on streets where parking isn’t essential. It’s the only way to have a civilized bike culture in this city, to my mind.
    I’m no urban planner obviously, but overpasses seem like a reasonable way to ‘lift’ cyclists over busy intersections. Maybe they’re not needed, but I like the idea of allowing for different planes of traffic, and the visual interest these would offer to the cityscape (thinking of the High Line in Manhattan here). Perhaps underpasses would be better… thinking out loud here.

  • http://undefined thelemur

    While not exclusively for bikes, this overpass is a good example of separating different types of traffic. It’s a good approach in some cases but there are factors such as weather and space constraints to take into account.
    The problem facing bike culture in Toronto is definitely one of infrastructure (lanes/trails that end suddenly at or on busy roads).