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Bike Lanes on John Street?

The City of Toronto is currently looking into changing the existing street design of John Street in order to improve this vital downtown corridor. John Street runs just east of Spadina Road from Front Street to just north of Queen Street. John Street is a short downtown road but is considered a Cultural Corridor as it links up several places and destinations of importance both to locals and tourists including the AGO to the north and the Rogers Centre to the south.

The Planning Partnership, a consulting firm heading the Environmental Assessment Study, has identified six alternative designs for John Street which takes into account various factors including transportation, streetscape design, and economical costs. The preferred alternative identified by the Planning Partnership proposes reducing the lane widths for vehicles, removing the right turning lanes, expanding sidewalk widths and improving the aesthetics of the street fa├žade. This alternative, however, does not include a bike lane. Many people have argued that the John Street Corridor Improvement should include a bike lane as there is the bike network lacks adequate north/south connections in the downtown core, especially south of Queen Street. In addition, the John Street bike lane can connect to the existing Beverley/St. George Street bike lane (Route 35) providing an important north/south connection without forcing cyclists to hop through major arterial roads or take many detours to connect to other bike lanes.

Street Design ExampleAn example of what John Street’s streetscape could look like

Adding a bike lane on John Street would provide a great north/south connection for cyclists but having the bike lane there may not be ideal for a few reasons. Firstly, according to a traffic assessment pedestrian traffic is dominant across John St, whereas cyclists average only 2% of the traffic flow. Efforts to expand the sidewalk, as opposed to reducing them for a bike lane, would result in increased space for pedestrians. Furthermore, decreased space often acts to limit speed, furthermore increase safety to cyclists and pedestrians. Widening and improving the sidewalk space would greatly benefit the existing pedestrian sphere while also serving a dominant, yet often underserved, modal type.

Another reason why a bike lane on John is not needed is that there are already plans for providing bike lanes within the immediate area as part of the City of Toronto Bicycle Plan. The existing plan proposes bike lanes on Peter Street/Blue Jays Way as well as Simcoe Street which are situated to the west and east of John Street. In addition, these roads not only pass through Front Street but continue south along to Bremnar Road which already has a segment of bike lanes implemented. While a bike lane on John Street would be beneficial for several reasons, efforts at expanding bike lanes could better be concentrated on projects with a more noticable impact; specifically, expansions on Peter Street and Simcoe Street.

Proposed Bike Network
The proposed bike network under the Bike Plan

Cyclists do need improved bike lanes and connectivity in the downtown core and John Street may be one of the locations to start. Given the fact that Peter Street and Simcoe Street are proposed locations for bike lanes and they provide greater connectivity to other bike lanes it may be best to shift the focus from bike lanes on John to bike lanes on Peter and Simcoe.

Posted: August 6th, 2010
Filed under: Transportation Issues
Tags: , | 6 Comments »