A Look at Rob Ford's Bike Plan
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A Look at Rob Ford’s Bike Plan

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.

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].