The Richmond and Adelaide Bike Lane Success Story
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The Richmond and Adelaide Bike Lane Success Story

After seeing cycling triple after the installation of the Richmond and Adelaide separated bike lanes, public works considers extending the project to Parliament Street.

A proposal from City staff to extend the Richmond and Adelaide bike lanes farther east is before the public works and infrastructure committee this morning.

If approved by public works and later council, the proposal would see the separated lanes extended from their current eastern terminus at York and Simcoe streets to Parliament Street after the Pan Am Games.

The extension would connect the Richmond and Adelaide bike lanes to the Sherbourne Street cycle tracks, and would provide more opportunities to connect the city’s cycle track network farther east, over the Don River.

“I’m really excited about this pilot and it’s long overdue that it’s extended,” said Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25, Don Valley West), chair of the public works committee. “I am ready to roll and really hopeful that the committee will support it.”

Though it’s part of the City’s 2001 bike plan [PDF], the Richmond and Adelaide pilot project are just two of a handful of the City’s separated bike lanes, all of which have been installed since 2013. An additional pilot separated bike lane on Peter Street is supposed to open in 2015.

Map by the City of Toronto

The western half of the Richmond and Adelaide pilot project was installed last summer after three years of debate and discussion. It features a separated eastbound bike lane on the south side of Adelaide Street from Bathurst to Simcoe streets, and a westbound lane on the north side of Richmond from Bathurst to York streets. The four-lane streets were reduced to three lanes to accommodate the bike lanes.

The lanes were originally separated only by painted lines, and got off to a rocky start with cars and delivery trucks regularly parking or idling in the lanes until flexi-bollards were installed.

But a recently released City staff report [PDF] indicates that since the installation, cyclist ridership along the corridor has tripled. According to the report, the daily eight-hour cycling volumes on Richmond Street increased to 1,296 cyclists, up from 504 before the lanes were installed. On Adelaide, the eight-hour cycling volumes tripled to 1,573 cyclists, up from 554 before the installation.

Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, the manager of cycling infrastructure and programs for the City, said it’s safe to assume, based on those numbers, that extending the pilot project eastward would increase ridership further.

“We’ll do the same type of evaluation for the eastern section, but it wouldn’t just be the same [riders] going further,” she said. “[The eastern section] provides connections to more people’s residences and more people’s destinations for work or for other trips, so I think we would expect to see increased use.”

Jared Kolb, the executive director of Cycle Toronto, an organization that advocates for a more cycling-friendly city, says the ridership data shows a “pent-up demand for an east-west connection.” Aside from Richmond and Adelaide, he said, the only other east-west connections are the waterfront trail, the new lanes on Queen’s Quay and then further north at College Street.

“You connect over to Parliament and you give not only folks who are traveling from the west into the eastern part of the core the option [to cycle safely],” Kolb said, “but you extend a safe option for people in the east end, as well, to be able to connect into the core and move into the western side of downtown.”

The report also indicates that the bike lanes have had no impact on travel times along the corridors for motorists. In fact, Gulati said, there have been documented improvements in travel times.

“We can’t attribute that specifically to the cycle tracks,” she said, but cited signal timing improvements, a crackdown on curbside stopping and parking, and better-organized corridors because of the bike lanes as reasons why they’ve improved. “By having cyclists in a clear place there’s less jockeying around and changing lanes to share that space,” she said.

According to the report, extending the bike lanes—and, as a result, displacing on-street parking to the opposite side of the streets, where there are fewer parking opportunities—would reduce parking revenue by more than $420,000. But Robinson says the pros of the proposal outweigh the cons.

“Yes, it’s a significant amount of revenue, but there are so many positives,” she said. “We are going to be providing safer passage for cyclists across the whole downtown core, so that, I think, is worth its weight in gold and very much needed.”

If the pilot proposal is approved, City staff will report back to city council with ridership results and recommendations in the fall of 2016.

You can watch the Public Works meeting on the live stream, and read more about the study and cycle track plan on the City’s website.