Bike Boxes Arrive at Harbord and St. George
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Bike Boxes Arrive at Harbord and St. George

A cyclist uses a bike box at Harbord and St. George streets. Photo by Lodoe-Laura Haines-Wangda/Torontoist.

Cyclists and drivers are in the process of learning to cope with some new road markings at the intersection of Harbord and St. George streets, in the middle of the U of T campus.

The markings (pictured above) are “bike boxes,” also known as “advanced stop lines.” The City is piloting them at five downtown intersections, Harbord and St. George being the only one to have actually been painted so far. The purpose of the boxes is to allow cyclists to edge in front of cars at intersections. The boxes do this by forcing cars to stop farther back from the intersection than they ordinarily would; the extra space created by this maneuver is reserved for cyclists.
The aim of the arrangement is to allow cyclists to make left turns more easily, and also to reduce the likelihood of them being sideswiped by right-turning motorists. Motorists supposedly benefit as well, because cyclists who use the boxes won’t be tempted to cut off drivers as they try to make right turns.
The upshot of the new markings, for drivers, is that right turns on red are no longer allowed at the intersection, as that would defeat the purpose of the bike box. The same restrictions will apply to the rest of the City’s planned bike box intersections.
Bike boxes are used in other cities around the world, but the four at Harbord and St. George are Toronto’s first. After a completely unscientific half-hour observation period on a corner of the intersection, we can say that a majority of drivers seem to respect the new lines. (There are also new road signs that point to the exact spot where cars are now required to stop.) Cyclists still tend to stick to the shoulders of the roads.
Unscientifically speaking, the motorists most likely to ignore the new lines seem to be cabbies.
The City has already begun work on a public education campaign to teach drivers and cyclists about the boxes, starting with this handy illustrated pamphlet [PDF, pictured above]. Our photographer encountered some City staff at the intersection, who were shooting a public service video about the boxes, to be posted online sometime soon.
Four more sets of bike boxes are scheduled to be installed this fall. Three of them will be at the following intersections, according to a report by City staff: College Street and Spadina Avenue, College and St. George streets, and Harbord Street and Spadina Avenue. The City of Toronto’s website promises a fifth set of bike boxes on Queen’s Park Crescent, but is not specific as to whether they will be installed at Hoskin Avenue, or at College Street. We’ll update when we know for sure. [UPDATE, OCTOBER 8, 11:13 AM: The City’s Jana Neumann has confirmed to Torontoist that the set of bike boxes on Queen’s Park Crescent will be at Hoskin Avenue.]