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.

Report Toronto Traffic Problems Online

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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

Councillor Ana Bailão Proposes Reversible Centre Lane on Dupont

Here’s a letter I received from Cllr. Bailão in response a plea I sent for councillors to not accept PWIC’s motions to remove the Jarvis bike lane and to not begin removing the Dupont bike lane:

Thank you for taking the time to email me with regards to Toronto’s bikelanes and for your patience in awaiting my reply.

As our city grows, the need for cleaner, alternative methods of transportation becomes increasingly necessary for a healthy and mobile city. The predicted population increases for Toronto will put further strain on rush hour traffic use. To alleviate this we must invest in infrastructure that supports alternative ways of moving around Toronto. Bicycling reduces vehicle traffic, promotes health, is environmentally-friendly and I will continue to support bicycle infrastructure in the City of Toronto.

The proposed removal of the Jarvis Street bike lane was due to concerns that traffic, specifically travelling North in the evening, is being significantly delayed. Traffic congestion is a serious issue in the City of Toronto and poses a significant economic threat due to lost productivity.

I feel strongly that it is irresponsible for Council to remove the Jarvis Street bike lane before City staff has an opportunity to implement their solution and revaluate the situation which is why I voted to maintain the existing bike lane. I am particularly disappointed with Council’s decision to eliminate the Jarvis bike lane because it offers a safe commuting option to hundreds of cyclists every day, and without the most up-to-date information, the removal of this bike lane is premature and unjustified.

The bicycle lanes on Dupont Street were installed under the previous Councillor and I feel strongly that many concerns surrounding their installation could have been resolved with greater community consultation.

These bicycle lanes have caused significant congestion for vehicle traffic during peak commuting periods. Not only has this made it very difficult for residents living in the area to access their homes, but the idling of stationary vehicles in this congestion can offset the environmental benefits of the bicyclists using the lane.

City Staff indicated that a large amount of congestion was occurring around the Landsdowne and Dupont intersection, where the bike lane begins. On staff’s recommendation, moving the Dupont bike lane a short distance West of this intersection will allow vehicles to more easily turn at this intersection and reduce traffic backlog.

In order to alleviate the concerns of residents in the area, I have been working with City staff to develop a strategy to improve traffic flow while maintaining bicycle lanes on Dupont as it is a critical East-West cycling route. During the last meeting of the Public Works Committee, a motion was approved to have City staff examine the installation of a middle vehicle lane on Dupont Street that would alternate with rush hour to provide an extra lane of traffic during peak hours.

By working with the interests of cyclists, local residents, and City staff, these changes will go a long way to improving traffic concerns in this area. I will continue to create forums of dialogue between groups in addition to supporting the increase of cycling infrastructure in the City of Toronto.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact my office and please do not hesitate to do so in the future.

Sincerely,
Ana Bailão
City Councillor
Ward 18, Davenport

councillor_bailao@toronto.ca (416) 392-7012 www.AnaBailao.ca

I guess this motion means removing either sidewalks, the bike lanes or on-street parking to make room for an alternating lane of doom on Dupont. I’ve written the councillor asking for further information about this proposal as it appears nowhere in PWIC or City Council records online.

“We Need to Slow Traffic Down” Gabe Klein – Chicago

While a few selfish councillors are trying to encourage speeding on a downtown Toronto street, in Chicago they’re trying to slow people down… and with good reason:

“Makes it safer for everybody, including the people who are driving too fast.”

The Perils of Bike Lane Riding

Just because it’s a bike lane doesn’t mean everyone respects it. Case in point, College Street.

Via Neistat Brothers

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:

What Happened to the “Bike Lane” on Spadina?

Sharrow

What exactly is going on with the blacked out “bike lane” on Spadina Avenue?

Well, what may or may not actually have been intended to be a bike lane is now gone, sanded away leaving a thick black stripe in its place. According to the Toronto Cyclists Union the stripe is to soon be replaced by sharrows:

What’s Up with Spadina – where’d that lane go?

Many of you will have noticed that the ‘gutter lane’, the white stripe that ran along the edge of the curb lane all the way along Spadina Ave., was scrubbed off the roadway about two weeks ago.  Please note that this was done in order to prepare the roadway for the application of Sharrows on most of Spadina, and full bike lanes where the road widens enough to fit them in at Spadina circle.

The City has not been able to provide us with a specific application date, but we have been assured that they will be implemented before the end of the season.

What are sharrows you ask? Here’s what the City of Toronto has to say:

1. What is a shared lane pavement marking, or “sharrow”?
Sharrow is short-form for “shared lane pavement marking”. This pavement marking includes a bicycle symbol and two white chevrons.

2. What do these sharrow markings mean for cyclists?
Sharrows are used to indicate where cyclists should ride in a travel lane.

  • For safety reasons, cyclists should ride one metre from the curb to avoid debris and sewer grates.
  • In lanes that are too narrow for cyclists and motorists to travel side-by-side, cyclists should ride in the centre of the lane to discourage motorists from passing too closely.
  • Where there is on-street parking, cyclists should ride one metre from parked cars to avoid the “door zone”.

Although it is the motorist’s and/or passenger’s responsibility to look first before opening their door, riding too close to parked cars can lead to serious injuries that can be avoided.

Sharrows are also used through intersections and some merge zones to support straight-line cycling and to increase the visibility of cyclists.

3. What do these sharrow markings mean for motorists?
Sharrow markings are used to remind drivers to share the road with cyclists. Sharing the road means you should:

  • only pass a cyclist where there is enough room to to do safely (at least one metre between motorist and cyclist),
  • reduce your speed when passing a cyclist, and
  • watch for cyclists when making lane changes and turns.

Be aware that cyclists are vulnerable to different hazards than drivers (e.g. minor pot holes and debris), so give them space to manouvre. Even where there are no sharrows or bike lanes, motorists should always share the road.

4. Where can I expect to see these sharrow markings?
Sharrows are used in curb lanes, either adjacent to the curb or parked cars. You will also see sharrows painted in the middle of narrow lanes where there is not enough room for a cyclist and motorist to travel side-by-side. Sharrow markings are also used through intersections and areas where traffic merges, such as at highway on-ramps or intersections with multiple turning lanes. Sharrows are mostly found downtown where there are the greatest number of cyclists.

View the list of sharrow projects.

More answers to your sharrow questions can be found here: Sharrow Frequently Asked Questions

The Changing Face of the NYC Commute

11 miles is just shy of 18 kms and a fairly long commute. Yet, because of constant development and political support for cycling infrastructure 90% of this journey includes streets featuring some form of cycling infrastructure.

Notice that only a small percentage of the ride is along streets with sharrows and, notice too, that NYC DOT isn’t trying to squeeze one size fits all cycling infrastructure onto a wide variety of streets.

Thinking back on my former commute, 25 kms each way and exactly 0% of my route including any form of cycling infrastructure, it’s no wonder I was often alone on two wheels. Cycling along major arterials with boulevards wide enough to play soccer on I wondered why there wasn’t a bike path there. I would cross over multi-lane bridges that themselves spanned across 400 series highways and wondered why both cyclists and pedestrians were ignored there as well.

Real cycling infrastructure influences real change. How hard is that to understand?

Via StreetFilms.org

Let the Learning Begin; Bike Boxes at Harbord and St. George

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Considering how many cars I see stopped in the middle of crosswalks, there’s obviously going to be a few growing pains with these new bike boxes in Toronto.

What are bike boxes and what do they do? Bike Boxes allow cyclists to move to the front of the line at red lights and position themselves for faster/safer left turns. In addition to dedicated space for turning cyclists, bike boxes are paired with no right turn on red light restrictions, reducing the chances of right hooks at busy intersections.

More photos of the new bike boxes by Martinho below:

Updated October 12, 2010: Here’s the info card distributed by the City of Toronto explaining the use of Toronto bike boxes:

What are Bike Boxes?

The 2010 Toronto Cycling Map includes a brief description of bike boxes, a piece of infrastructure soon to be seen on Toronto streets.

Bike boxes will soon be installed at several intersections on Harbord and College. They allow cyclists to move to the head of waiting traffic, giving them priority for making left turns. Intersections with bike boxes will also restrict right turns on red lights (a safety feature I feel ALL Toronto/Ontario intersections should have) for both drivers and cyclists.

In anticipation of the soon to be installed bike boxes, the City of Toronto recently updated their cycling web site with a short postcard explaining bike boxes. I’ve include the postcard content below and you can also download the info here (PDF): Introducing Bike Boxes

Images via City of Toronto