There are no words to describe my disappointment and disgust with a recently installed “major multi-use path” along the Bayview extension, but I’ll try.
According to the Toronto Bicycle/Motor-Vehicle Collision Study (2003), cyclists who ride on the sidewalk are more likely to be involved in crashes and collisions. To those who commute by bicycle daily, or are “avid” bicycle riders, this risk is immediately apparent. Riding on the sidewalk makes a rider less visible to motorists and the rider’s behaviour cannot be easily predicted. A driver has to ask themselves, “Is that cyclist on the sidewalk coming to a stop at a storefront? Are they heading into a park or driveway? Are they just looking for parking at an empty post an ring?” And, if that same bicycle rider is completely overlooked by the parallel driver, then an even larger problem arises, especially once their paths inevitably cross.
When and where the cyclist may or may not enter a road from a sidewalk cannot be determined by simply watching them. On roads, we have painted lines and signalled or signed intersections, all designed to increase the predictability of all road users. This lack of predictability is the major danger a cyclist entering a road from a sidewalk and into a crosswalk faces. On the road a cyclist’s behaviour is more predictable as many riders will conform to street directions and make turns at expected areas and while collisions do occur they are less frequent in these cases.
However, to more novice bicycle riders, the risked posed by cycling on the sidewalk may not be as easy to recognize. Sidewalks are separated from faster moving vehicles and curbs prevent motorists from driving on sidewalks at high speeds. To a novice cyclist the sidewalk appears to be a safe haven.
Recently, the City of Toronto has undertaken a project to connect the isolated Evergreen Brick Works for pedestrians and cyclists. An almost unknown section of the Don Trail has been repaved, a bridge resurfaced and jersey barriers are to be installed to separate this major multi-use path from high-speed traffic as it follows Bayview Avenue between Rosedale Valley Drive and Pottery Road. The path is bi-directional and approximately 3 metres across in width to allow pedestrian and cycling traffic to pass safely.
Access into the Evergreen Brick Works site from this extended path is further improved by dedicated cycling traffic lights and a new traffic lighted intersection on Bayview. All of these improvements are much needed as pedestrian and cycling traffic was previously forced onto this high-speed road or left to travel along narrow, crumbling shoulders.
As the 2003 study mentioned above identified, intersections are a major area of concern and recommendations were made to improve infrastructure to make cycling behaviour more predictable to motorists. Improvements like the Bike Boxes installed on 2 major downtown routes address the problem of right hooks and work to improve cyclist visibility.
With a knowledge of the dangers sidewalk cycling and intersections can pose to cyclists and with a trail expansion in an area more likely to attract novice, weekend cyclists (the hills entering and exiting the Don Valley make this route less enticing and longer for daily commuters) then imagine my surprise to find out that at the intersection of Bayview and Pottery Road, the major multi-use path ends well before the intersection and quickly becomes nothing more than a regular, narrow sidewalk.
The extension of the existing stretch of the Don Trail adjacent to Bayview has been part of a larger construction project in the area. Pottery Road dives into the Don Valley and until this year the pavement was crumbled and pothole infested. A narrow path previously ran along Pottery Road, though a connection to the stretch of the Don Trail that runs on the east side of the river was mostly non-existent. The construction project reduced Pottery Road to two lanes and has widened and connected this path from the intersection of Pottery and Broadview down the escarpment to the Don Trail.
The newer, wider path ends here. When I took my concerns to the City of Toronto Cycling Facebook page I was informed that the bridges at the lower end of Pottery Road are heritage designated and that there were no plans to integrate any cycling infrastructure either over them or beside them. In light of this obstacle the City choose to simply do nothing, ending the path before it had an opportunity to connect to Bayview.
While bridges are an expensive piece of infrastructure (one this city only values if it is for cars and trucks) I can understand the problem posed here when it comes to creating a connected cycling and pedestrian route. What I can’t understand is why, when faced with this problem, the course of action taken was to not only ignore cyclists completely, but to also create a major conflict area in accessing the newly installed multi-use path on Bayview.
It is these vital connections that are the most important part of any cycling and pedestrian network. The straightaways are great but even when installed poorly are rarely the site of serious injury or death. Intersections, time and time again, have proven to pose the most risk to our most vulnerable road users, walkers and cyclists. As the current administration plans on installing 100 km of off-road bicycle routes then we must demand that they address intersections first and foremost. The increased safety of a separated path is only valuable if the route is connected and visibly represented in areas that provide the most risk of conflict. Never mind the idiom that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, in Toronto our current “chain” of cycling routes is completely missing links and the strength and security these could bring.
From the City’s current cycling map. Pottery Road and Bayview intersection is coloured with yellow boxes as a “Suggested On-Street Route” defined as “Quiet residential streets.” Since when has the Bayview extension ever been a quiet residential street? The speed limit is 60 km/h here.
UPDATE: Work along Bayview and at Pottery Road appears to have completed. The cycle path is not separated from high speed traffic on Bayview as expected and the intersection of Bayview and Pottery provides no clear routes for both cyclists and pedestrians. If you are concerned for your safety and want answers as to why this intersection is so poorly designed, I urge you to contact the local city councillor Mary Fragedakis firstname.lastname@example.org, Daniel Egan, Manager of Pedestrian & Cycling Infrastructure degan