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news

A Look at Rob Ford’s Bike Plan

20110616bikemap2.jpg
Photo of Harbord Street by Half My Dad’s Age, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.


Rob Ford has a reputation for being anti-bike, but in fact a key component of his platform during 2010′s municipal election was a cycling infrastructure plan—or, at least, a plan to develop one. Now, at last, the plan is written, and the City staff report with all the details is set to go before committee next week. Let’s take a look, shall we?


What’s being proposed?
Ford’s initial proposal, during the campaign, was for the City to concentrate on building 100 kilometres of off-road bicycle paths. In fact, the City was involved in building 30 kilometres of trails even before Ford was elected, but the new plan contains a recommendation to put together a scheme for the other 70. Once again, specifics are scarce. We still won’t know exactly where City staff want to put the trails until at least fall. (Staff are floating a few possibilities, though. They’re all on page 20 of the report, which you’ll find linked at the bottom of this post.)
What else?
Since the election, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East), another component has been added to the mayor’s plan: separated bike lanes in the downtown core. Staff are recommending that the Bloor Viaduct be the first get this treatment, with “delineator posts” to be installed along the existing bike lanes there before the end of this year. The posts would be removed in winter, so that they aren’t mangled by snowplows.
The report also contains a short list of other separated-bike-lane candidates, all of which we knew beforehand were under consideration. They are:

  • Sherbourne Street, from Queen’s Quay to Elm
  • Wellesley Street, from Queen’s Park Crescent to Sherbourne
  • Somewhere between Peter and Simcoe streets, from Queen to the waterfront, to be determined after more study
  • Somewhere along either Richmond or Adelaide Street, to be determined after more study

Staff say all of these lanes will require more consideration, but that the first two on the above list, at least, might be installed by 2012.
These lanes would have permanent curbs separating them from auto traffic, rather than seasonal posts. And they’d be designed differently from any other on-street bike lane in Toronto: each one would be painted on only a single side of each road, rather than both sides. Cycle traffic would travel in both directions within the one bike lane, which would be a bit less than twice as wide as a normal bike lane, and would also have its own traffic signals at intersections.

20110616bikemap.jpg
Here, Toronto, is your proposed protected bike lane network. Note that Harbord/Hoskin and St. George/Beverley are actually not being recommended for the treatment by staff, despite their presence here. Image courtesy of the City.


What’s missing?
The City was assessing the possibility of building an east-west bikeway along Bloor Street. Staff are now recommending that the study be called off, so they can focus on the above-mentioned instead.
Also, we were expecting Harbord, Hoskin, St. George, and Beverley streets to be put up for possible protected-lane treatment, but now staff are saying that none of them would be suitable, at least for the moment. That doesn’t necessarily mean the lanes won’t be built. It’s up to the politicians.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly: the City did already have a bike plan, not all of which has been realized. The mayor’s plan would improve cycling infrastructure in Toronto, but it would also divert a lot of resources away from addressing gaps in the existing network, and bend them instead to building trails in out-of-the-way places where nobody currently bikes.
They will build it—at least, they will if Ford’s hot streak at council continues. But will we come?
What’s next?
The Public Works and Infrastructure Committee will be debating the plan next Thursday. If it survives, it will still need approval by council.

UPDATE: 4:37 PM The Toronto Cyclists Union has just released a statement in response to the City’s new bike proposal. They have several concerns:

[T]he Toronto Cyclists Union, representing over 1,100 members, is disappointed with the lack of progress in the report. It is not bold enough to address the needs of hundreds of thousands of Torontonians who ride bicycles. In fact, several of the recommendations outlined in the report set the City back on cycling progress. While other cities are moving forward at a great pace to improve conditions for cyclists as part of an overall transportation plan, Torontonians who ride bicycles are being left behind.
[...]The Toronto Cyclists Union has identified four main areas of concern in the report:

  1. Ending the Bloor-Danforth Environmental Assessment.
  2. Discussion regarding the removal of bike lanes on Pharmacy Avenue and Birchmount Road.
  3. The lack of progress on building protected bicycle lanes on Richmond and/or Adelaide Streets.
  4. The lack of progress on building a network of protected bike lanes.

Read the full report here: [PDF].

Comments

  • isyouhappy

    “Cycle traffic would travel in both directions within the one bike lane, which would be a bit less than twice as wide as a normal bike lane, and would also have its own traffic signals at intersections.” It'd be nice to see how wide this actually is as the width of bike lanes now make it difficult to pass someone if there's traffic beside you.

  • http://twitter.com/JasonParis Jason Paris

    Happy to see these physically-seperated lanes will be moved to one sid eof the street.  Why?

    *Better allows delivery vehicles to still service the businesses from
    the other side of the street without parking in/near/over the bike lanes (a la
    Jarvis).

    *Attractive lighting can be put on the island that serves both cyclists and motorists.

    *Bicycle-specific traffic signals along the route are easier/cheaper to install.

  • g026r

    The PDF linked at the end of the article has your answers.

    Pages 24-25 give the optimum specifications: the suggested size is 2.5 to 3.6m, depending on street width. (Standard bike lanes are 1.5 to 2.0m each.)

    Appendix 5-2, starting on page 32, has the actual proposed specifications for various streets. (3.0m is the standard proposed width, with most of the currently existing bike lanes being between 1.6 and 2.0m — mostly in the lower end; only Yonge hits the 2.0m mark.)

  • wklis

    What about the suburban arterial roads, where the speed limits are 60 km/h and dangerous for bicyclists? Those are the types of roads where separated bike lanes are needed the most, and should be built sooner than later.

  • http://twitter.com/maharper82 Matthew Harper

    Wow, separated bike lanes on Richmond.  As I'm driving on Richmond every week day I don't see the cyclists impeding the flow of traffic in any significant way, compared to all of the trucks parked in 2 or 3 of the 4 lanes at any given time.

  • james_agnew

    It'll be interesting to see what the proposed design is like.

    Hopefully they follow the Copenhagen model, where they are designed more as a lowered part of the sidewalk, and less like the Montreal model, where they are designed more as a blocked off part of the road.

  • http://twitter.com/kp416 Emiliana Zapata

    I wrote a letter to Councillor Minnan-Wong in April about that very issue, as I commute from his ward to work downtown by bike.  I've yet to receive a response.

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

    The former would seem better for snow clearance…

  • http://www.facebook.com/kamal.reilly Kamal Reilly

    This sort of reminds me of this administration killing Transit City… the switch to underground had little to do with improving transit, and a lot to do with getting transit out of the way of cars. This came at the cost of a lot of expansion to the rapid transit network.

    Likewise, this bike proposal is less motivated by an actual desire to improve cycling, and more motivated by the desire to get bikes out of the way of cars, hence the heavy emphasis on off-street trails, and where there are on-street lanes, keep them as separated as possible. The fact that a significant expansion of the on-street network is pretty much ruled out (adding bike lanes where there are none currently will always take up road space, there's no avoiding it), and that some bike routes may actually be removed or shortened… once again we are sacrificing expansion of the network, and adopting a plan that places the priority on keeping bikes out of the way.

    Toronto already has it's Bike Plan, and what we need is a commitment to build it, not a new plan that is significantly curtailed. Just like we already had a transit plan…

  • matthewdouglasalexander

    Will we start building homes and businesses along off-street bike paths? Because otherwise they don't serve much of a purpose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PositiveNRG Christopher King

    The area around the University of Toronto was considered not suitable for protected bike lanes? On what grounds?

  • SteveKupferman

    Staff say St. George and Harbord/Hoskin are both too comfortable for cyclists already to be worth the bother—though not in those words. Also, St. George is apparently too narrow to support a two-directional lane.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=570907540 Ronald Kluger

    Off-road routes can be important commuting connectors for long-distances. Where they are signed they are unfortunately designated as “recreational” routes. Consider that the Don Valley path is a cyclist's alternative to the DVP – but without… proper connections to city streets, proper bridges, lighting, winter maintenance, continuity,  I commute from where the Leaside Spur would go to south of Bloor, using the Don Valley Path. It is better than nothing but it is a shame not to have it as a proper alternative. The Ford plan drew something but it was vague and nothing has come of it. Minnan-Wong should be a big supporter of this for his own ward, instead he is hatching schemes to get bikes off downtown streets.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5QE6EGHDRGWO2RVB6VSCJGPEKM Kevin

    I love the fact that separated bike lanes may make things more comfortable for the occasional or non-cyclist and eventually grow their numbers.
    But as a cyclist who follows the rules of the road as any vehicle should, you won't find me risking my life in any two-way separated bike lanes – I'd rather take my chances among the cars than be squeezed into a no-escape 2.5m space with iPod-wearing cat. 6 commuters!

  • iSkyscraper

    The PDF report is completely bush-league.  Black and white, no mentions at all in the figures of how sidewalks or street trees are supposed to be integrated into the street cross section, the words “complete street” are completely missing, no intelligent analysis of how other cities build and design bike lanes… you call this a bike lane report?  THIS is a bike lane report, or THIS or even THIS.  Come on, Toronto, you're a laughingstock!

  • http://piorkowski.ca qviri

    Since 2010 and proud!

    - Ford Nation

  • Functionalist

    Yes, but at least we don't ticket women for riding in skirts.