About duncan

Duncan rides bicycles in the city of Toronto and contributes to the main blog of BikingToronto as well as writing and taking photos for his blog Duncan's City Ride.

Why is the Queen’s Quay Bike Lane a Parking Lot?

The bike lane on Queen’s Quay at Bathurst has always been a parking lot. This lane, connecting directly to the Martin Goodman Trail to the west, is bordered by condos, townhomes and a park. The condo tower on the corner of Bathurst and Queen’s Quay contains a small grocery store, one that constantly receives deliveries from large trucks who use the lane as their own private loading zone. Next to the store is the condo entrance, and at all times of the day you’re likely to find a cab or car idling, waiting for someone exiting the building.

What I’m describing above could in fact be any bike lane in Toronto. The current (and building) resentment by non-bicycle riders towards bike lanes is best represented by the overwhelming number of vehicles idling, driving and often parked in Toronto bicycle lanes.

However, something has changed at the foot of Bathurst Street and this change has translated into cabbies using the Queen’s Quay bike lane as a spot to queue. With the introduction of Air Canada flights to the Island Airport, no doubt the increased taxi idling is a direct result of greater air traffic at the airport.

Where there was typically just one or two (and far too many at that) cars and trucks in the bike lanes has turned into more than a dozen cabs, some idling, some with their engines off and occupants out chatting.

The above photo was taken on the morning of Wednesday, April 4, 2012. Frustrated, I called the police to report the cabs. Toronto City Council recently voted to increase the fine for bike lane parkers, yet just last year Toronto Police Services stated that they are impotent in enforcing the law.

Seconds after hanging up the phone with the police dispatcher a symphony of horns started roaring from the idling cabs. Do the cabbie dispatchers monitor Toronto police radio? Is this something that happens in 2012 or am I stuck in a 1980s ham-radio TV reality?

While a few of the cabs pulled forward and one drove off, another 3 quickly replaced them just as a police car arrived. The officer proceeded to park in the intersection of Bathurst and Queen’s Quay and direct the cabbies toward the airport.

I assumed the officer may line the cabs up on Bathurst and begin writing tickets. While the officer did move his vehicle from the intersection and spoke with one cabbie, the others quickly disappeared or joined the long queue near the airport and I did not see the officer write a single ticket.

I confronted one remaining cabbie parked in the bike lane, telling him to move because the cop was writing tickets, he resisted but when I pointed to the parked cop he finally moved.

But what happens now? I expect the cabs will return and Toronto Police, whose bike cops I have witnessed use this bike lane while ignoring cars parked there, will have to be called by concerned citizens to simply issue warnings.

Why am I so pessimistic? Because as I proceeded along Queen’s Quay I found an officer parked in the bike lane at Yonge, his car idling, chatting on the phone. While emergency services are exempt from parking laws, using a bike lane as a phone call lane seems like an abuse of this power to me.

How can you help?

If you see a vehicle illegally blocking a bike lane you can call 416-808-6600 to alert the Toronto Police’s Parking Enforcement Division, so that they can dispatch an officer.

What do you love most about life?

Here’s what Ryan Van Duzer has to say about this journey:

Duzer Duz
Live.Love.Bike.

I began this journey on the beaches of San Diego by quoting Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Well I’ve been on countless daring adventures but none quite like this. Instead of focusing on the physical aspect, I wanted to take this opportunity to dive deep into my heart and soul, and challenge myself mentally. I needed a recharge and a little bike therapy was in order.

It felt incredibly freeing to move my body and mind all day long, I’d never felt so alive! Traveling at 15mph is the perfect speed to really FEEL the world and appreciate all of Mother Nature’s magic. But it wasn’t the spectacular sights that I’ll remember most about this trip. It’s the amazing people I met all across this great country. I was so lucky to have reconnected with old friends was blown away with how quickly I became close with total strangers. Their endless amounts of kindness and generosity humbled me and solidified my belief that there is a lot more good in this world than bad.

As I pedaled from big city to small town and everything in between I asked everyone I met a simple question, What do you love most about life? Their answers were simple, heartfelt and inspiring.

So now it’s my turn to talk about what I love most in life… Every single day, with each stroke of the pedal, I thought about all the people that I love and how lucky I am to have them in my life. and I thought about all the people I haven’t yet met and will someday love. My wife, my children, new friends, maybe even a dog. I love life, plain and simple…I know I’m not always gonna be a pefect human being, but I’m determined to follow my heart and spread as much love and happiness as possible…there’s nothing more important in this world.

My legs might be a little stronger after all this, but it’s my heart that has grown most on this journey.

Bike Posts Removed for Billboards

As if the indignity of having enormous billboards posturing as “information” signs blocking sidewalks and distracting drivers wasn’t enough, in some cases installing these ugly and useless ads meant the removal of bicycle parking.

The above “infotogo” pillar installed by Astral Media as part of their street furniture contract with the City required the removal of two or more post and ring bike racks. Located at the southeast corner of College Street and Manning, these racks were constantly in use and may even have been in use at the time of their removal.

The racks were simply sawed off at the bottom and in this case locked to another post and ring nearby:

Minutes after posting these images to Twitter, I was contacted by Councillor Mike Layton’s office. The good news is that these horrible advertising pillars and their disrespectful placement and displacement of sidewalk space and bicycle parking are being scrutinized by City staff. Several have already been ordered removed and hopefully we’ll soon see that list grow.

Val Dodge has a similar story about a new “info” pillar on the Danforth in front of the Carrot Commons.

Update: This one f-ugly and useless pillar required the removal of 5 post and rings racks…. FIVE! Thanks Bike Lane Diary

A Failure to Address the Intersection Problem


In the distance, approaching the camera, a work in progress bi-directional path becomes a sidewalk and a danger for all path users, Bayview at Pottery.

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.


A dedicated turning lane appears to be a regular intersection, bicycles are not included in the equation.


For cyclists, there is no access to the path, except for the crosswalk and sidewalk, both areas illegal for bicycle riding.

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 councillor_fragedakis@toronto.ca, Daniel Egan, Manager of Pedestrian & Cycling Infrastructure degan@toronto.ca and 311 Toronto 311@toronto.ca

Bicycle Riding in Schools

Above is a photo from NYC in June of 1954. Police officers supervise a “bicycle safety program” on a painted figure-8 track. Now, I’m not so sure how often anyone on a bicycle will encounter a figure-8 (unless of course you’re racing on the Human Powered Rollercoaster) but I do remember a similar program at my elementary school involving painted roadways with stop signs, intersections, crosswalks and a working traffic light.

From what I remember these “bicycle rodeos” were hosted by the local police and we probably received a colouring book that further emphasized the rules of the road. The majority of my elementary school classmates all biked to school until at least grade 6. After that it was no longer “cool.”

Unfortunately, no such program for driving or bicycling was a part of my high school education. I did pay Young Drivers about $800 dollars for driving classes, which were useful, but from what I remember pedestrians and bicyclists were referred to mostly as unpredictable nuisances.

Now, before the comments on this post are flooded with “bicyclists don’t know the rules” rants, let me state that these group lessons are important not for teaching the rules but for getting people on bicycles to act as a group. Everyone knows what a stop sign means. In a car we’re forced to act mostly social not because a car makes us think in a group (actually quite the opposite) but because infrastructure forces us to act as a group. Narrow roads don’t allow for much “freedom” in a car and if you’re in a line of vehicles all stopped at a red you have no choice but to stop as well. Whereas on a bicycle we can act “freer.” And when there are only a few other bicycle riders on the road the temptation and the possibility of breaking the rules are both available.

I personally witness this change in behaviour a lot. When I’m with a group of bicyclists on one of Toronto’s busier routes, behaviour becomes more normalized. The group waits at lights, stops for stop signs and crosswalks and doesn’t pass open streetcar doors. However, when the group dwindles down to just two or three people I’m more likely to see someone defy the laws.

Do you remember “bicycle rodeos” or “safety” classes like these? Do they still exist?

Report Toronto Traffic Problems Online

P1010046

It sometimes feel like Toronto police get stuck in a rut when it comes to enforcing traffic violations. They have their preferred locations where they camp out and rarely seem to stray from these established areas.

To me, that means that many places in the city, places where law violations seriously risk the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, are ignored.

For example, the newly installed Bike Boxes on Harbord and College streets are a prime example. My daily travels take me by the intersections with bike boxes and more often than not there are drivers either ignoring the stop lines or making illegal right turns on red lights. Yet, I have never seen police officers on site ready to both educate and ticket drivers who make these violations.

Is it because Toronto police don’t know or don’t believe that these are trouble areas? Well, if the reason is the former then thankfully Toronto police have an easy-to-use online reporting system that allows you to submit complaints.

Is there a stop signed intersection that drivers constantly fail to stop for (like the entire stretch of Barton from Christie to Bathurst)? Is there a key area where you observe a large number of drivers using handheld devices? Is there a stretch of road where drivers consistently exceed posted speed limits?

Let Toronto police know! Submit your complaints here: Online Citizen Police Reporting System

Photo by Martinho

The Dogs on Bikes Problem; SOLVED!

So simple! Dog (or larger cat) rack.

P.S. This is a joke. Although, Fairdale do make a pretty cool skateboard attachment for bike racks. Check it out!

A Look at the 2012 Beater Bikes

Toronto-based indie bicycle company Beater Bikes will be back with 2 new models for 2012.

The step-through (loop frame) and roaster (diamond frame) models continue the bare-bones theme of the brand. In fact, for 2012 they’ve gone even more minimalist. Both steel frames are available in single speed with coaster brake or 3-speed internal gear hub models (also with coaster brakes) meaning no exposed derailleurs and no cables or brake levers. The branding on the bikes has been cut down with only a logo headbadge remaining.

Both models come equipped with full front and rear fenders, rear racks, partial chain covers and double kickstands. The step-through frame is pictured with battery operated front and rear lights, while the roadster model comes with a front rack in lieu of the lights.

The best part, the pricing:

Singlespeed models will retail for $299.99 while the 3-speed equipped bicycles will be $399.99

For more info and to find out when the 2012 models will be available, visit BeaterBikes.net

 

The Successful Push for Safer Infrastructure

How many of these factors exist in North America today? Outrageous number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities – Check. Absurd amounts of public space dedicated to the movement and storage of private vehicles – Check. Oil and financial crises – Double Check. Public outcry – Check. Political will to change – Very Little.

We’re seeing major changes in cities like New York, Chicago and in Canada Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa. The addition of cycling infrastructure isn’t just to make cycling more attractive or easier. This is people-friendly infrastructure. These are changes that promote shorter commutes and allow citizens to spend less money on day-to-day transportation costs.

For more, read David Hembrow’s blog.

The Cargo Bike Revolution

True story. On my 15 minute walk to the dry cleaners today I passed four cargo bikes (three in use at the time), three bikes pulling trailers, a half-dozen bikes with child seats and countless bikes with baskets, crates and panniers.

For more info on the film go to lizcanning.com