Sharrows Miss the Point on Harbord

In the cover of night, workers began installing sharrows along Harbord.

A point of contention for years, the disconnected bike lane between Bathurst and Spadina has inspired Urban Repair Squad intervention and left Councilor Adam Vaughan singing the same old tune that the very sparse car parking on this strip is essential to the survival of the businesses here.

Ignoring the fact that this is one of the most direct east/west bicycle routes connecting west end residents to downtown work and school this gap reflects the overall disinterest in the City of Toronto for providing continuous, consistent and much needed bicycle infrastructure.

Like placing a band-aid over an axe wound, sharrows, painted stencils that encourage motorists and drivers to ride right over them, now “fill” the gap.

There’s no denying that space is limited along this street. Yet while further west street parking alternates sides of the street to accommodate bike lanes this effective use of space is ignored and instead pictures of bicycles place cyclists directly in the door zone:

And to make matters worse, the boxed in parking space designations are too small, maximizing the potential for door prizes:

It is clear that steps to improve this route for cyclists have been taken. Repaving the curbside lanes has eliminated sticky seam sealing and countless potholes meaning that cyclists can spend more time looking ahead than scanning below for hazards. Bike boxes have also been installed in the heart of the University of Toronto at Harbord/Hoskin and St. George to increase the visibility of cyclists and decrease the possibility of right hooks.

Yet, while the effectiveness of sharrows in Toronto is currently being studied, including part-time sharrows in use along the west end of College Street, it is clear that these stencils are a compromise. Sharing the road is a feat accomplished day after day by most motorists and cyclists. Sharrows offer up a reminder that space is limited and we must do what we can to make room for everyone. However, sharrows ignore more issues than they address. In the case of the new Harbord sharrows, they do nothing to prevent the problematic door prize and do even less to convince aggressive drivers to share space.

I must note that I am not a city planner and I am not diligently studying the road use along Harbord or College, however, I do ride along these streets almost daily and in my experience sharrows do little more than remind me of where better bicycle infrastructure is needed and how poorly our demands are being met.

More photos of the sharrows on Harbord in the slideshow by Martinho below:

BIKE Drinks with Toronto Cyclists Union and T-shirts: August 5, 2010

Bike Union t-shirts, photo by Yvonne Bambrick

Via Toronto Cyclists Union:

BIKE DRINKS – Monthly Toronto Cyclists Union Social!

First Thursday of the month starting August 5th, 2010
6:30 to 7:00pm – New bike union member welcome & sign up
7:00 to 9:00pm – Bike social

BIKE Drinks kicks off at a special location on August 5th!
215 Spadina Ave. Suite 120 @ Centre for Social Innovation
From 6:30pm – presentation at 7pm
BYO – (Beverage sponsor TBC)

Regular location: Victory Cafe – 581 Markham Street (1 block S of Bloor, 1 block W of Bathurst) The Victory Cafe is a family-friendly environment.

We thought it was time to get a regular social started up again and we’re going to kick it off with a special presentation by the bike union’s Yvonne Bambrick.

Yvonne will be giving a short and informal presentation about her recent trip to the Velo-City global cycling conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, and will also share some observations on the 20,000 Velib public bikes and new infrastructure from her short stop in Paris.

  • Brand new bike union T-shirts will be available for purchase ($20 including tax)
  • Special Announcement regarding a custom painted bike giveaway!

More details about this monthly social can be found here – http://bikeunion.to/bike-drinks-monthly-toronto-cyclists-union-social

This really should also be a “covet” post as these three Toronto Cyclists Union t-shirts designed by Simon Farla are fantastic.

Photo via Yvonne Bambrick
Become a Toronto Cyclists Union member today, go here.

“I try and head to places that will offer a rewarding bike ride” – Rich Terfry (aka Buck 65)

Richard Terfry aka Buck 65 via buck65.com

From PostedToronto My Toronto: Buck 65:

Bike 65 I get around town by bike, so I try and head to places that will offer a rewarding bike ride, like the Roncesvalles neighbourhood, or the area around Bloor and Bathurst, where I have a bunch of friends and favourite spots. The Bloor Cinema [506 Bloor St. W.] is one, and there’s a pretty great bike shop there, too [Curbside Cycle, 412 Bloor St. W.] where I bought both my bike and my wife’s bike. It’s a semi-regular stop if we need repairs or accessories or anything like that.

Read the rest of the article here.
Photo via Buck65.com

Do Pedestrian Crossings Make for Safer City Cycling?

Crossing

A few weeks after getting my G2 driver’s license, I was on a trip through Guelph when I made a huge mistake. Even though I saw the flashing yellow lights and painted yellow stripes on the ground I blew right through a pedestrian controlled crossing. My passenger gave me a pretty good scolding, “How could you be so ignorant?” “Why didn’t you stop?”

I was later forgiven and thankfully I didn’t run anyone over. I don’t know why I didn’t stop. My hometown didn’t have crosswalks like this but that’s certainly no excuse.

Years later I moved to Toronto and, as a driver, it felt like there were pedestrian controlled crosswalks everywhere. I was always on the look out, careful not to drive through when the lights were flashing, careful even when they weren’t.

Pedestrian Crossovers (as they’re called in Toronto) allow pedestrians to cross safely under flashing lights at areas that do not have stop signs or traffic lights. There’s one on Christie Street at Fiesta Farms that gets a lot of use and for the most part drivers approach this crossing slower than they drive through other intersections in the area.

Now that I’ve ditched my car, the pedestrian crossovers I felt were everywhere have seemingly disappeared. Probably because the space between them takes just seconds to cover in a car yet on foot the time and space in between is much longer.

In fact, I’ve noticed that pedestrian crossovers are few and far between on roads where they would get the most use.

Along Bloor, between Bathurst and Spadina, there are only 2 pedestrian crossovers. One at Brunswick and one at Walmer and both at intersections with traffic lights. Yet, the distance from Bathurst to Brunswick is 300 metres. Now, that may not sound like a large distance, but consider that to cross from one side of Bloor to the other is only about 16 metres, well, who is going to walk an few extra hundred metres to get to the nearest crosswalk?

As anyone who’s traveled this strip in the very popular Annex area knows; most people will simply cross where they want. There is ample space to add more pedestrian crossovers here. There is certainly demand from the thousands of pedestrians who shop and live in this area, so why then aren’t there more crossovers? Well, when you design a city around cars and not people, just like much of Toronto has been, the answer becomes clear. Here arterial roads are for moving cars, with as little delay as possible.

As a cyclist I believe pedestrian crossovers can work to our advantage. On a busy street such as Bloor I’m constantly scanning parked cars to avoid door prizes, shoulder checking to see who is going to pass on my right and keeping an eye out for pedestrians who can pop up in the narrowest spaces. The more pedestrian crossovers along a stretch of popular road, the slower the cars will drive (for the most part) and the more predictable pedestrian crossings become. Yet, this isn’t how the city of Toronto handles streets that have a demand for more pedestrian crossings.

Take for example the intersection of Northumberland Street and Dovercourt Road just north of Bloor Street:

Dovercourt and Northumberland

Bloor Street is just a little further south, out of frame at the bottom of the above image.

This intersection is one where pedestrians want to cross. The city knows this and instead of installing a pedestrian crossover, we get a sign. Yes, Bloor Street is where pedestrians are expected to cross:

Cars and trucks tend to speed along here. Impatient drivers heading north from Bloor floor it after waiting at the lights and take the bend in the road at pretty intimidating speeds. Exactly the recipe for disaster when pedestrians are involved:

Why then isn’t there a pedestrian crossing here? Why not slow the cars and trucks down and make this street safer for pedestrians and cyclists? Why, instead, has the city ignored the bull in the china shop? Of course, the bull is asked to watch out, there are children around:

Bike lanes seem to be hogging the headlines in Toronto these days, but I want to know why there aren’t more pedestrian crossovers? Wouldn’t these be an easier sell to the neighbourhood residents who probably want little more than to just cross the street without running?

First photo via Flickr photographer Seeing Is
All other photos by Duncan

The Mysterious Mystery of the Bicycle Pile

Spotted on College Street at Brunswick. Spare part storage? Bike hoarding in plain sight?

Taking the Laneway Around

Last year I wrote about learning to travel like a cyclist in Toronto. A lack of connected cycling infrastructure and car-oriented city planning makes many of the most direct routes in Toronto also the ones with the greatest potential for door-prizes, right hooks and distracted drivers.

Traveling like a cyclist means exploring side streets, cutting through parks and taking multi-use trails where they exist. There’s also another option. One that can give you the feeling of urban exploration, even if it’s quite obvious many people pass through here on a daily basis.

In between many of Toronto’s downtown residential streets runs a grid of laneways. Barely wide enough for a large truck these laneways were originally used to deliver coal. Over the years they have become shared driveways with garages squeezed together lining each side.

Many of these laneways remain unnamed, they are often visible on Google Maps, yet can’t be integrated into trip planning. It’s as if they are a mirage, an extra layer of quiet streets untouchable online.

There are exceptions and the other day I took a winding way home starting at Croft Street:

Simple brick townhomes face this narrow laneway:

Colourful doors welcome home the owners of these bicycles:

Backyard trees throw shadows over the grey and graffiti of many laneways:

Several residents have decorated their garages, a secret pleasure for those who explore here:

Oddities abound:

Colour, though scarce, often makes a bold appearance:

Will you take the unnamed way home?

For more information on Toronto’s Laneways visit Graeme Parry’s Laneway Tour site.