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:

A Different Bicycle Shapes a Different Kind of Cyclist

Today in the Toronto Star, Catherine Porter writes about her unintentional conversion to a different kind of cyclist. Her conversion is from a “road warrior” to a “Mary Poppins” or as some would say, she’s become a convert to the Slow Bicycle Movement.

In North America the bicycle is a sporting tool. If you’re an adult, then the market sees you either as an aggressive trail shredder on super-suspension or as a spandex-clad Tour de France hopeful. Yet most North American cyclists are neither of these. $3,000 carbon fibre, full suspension rigs are used for leisurely rides along the lake shore and paper-light road bicycles become commuter rides with far more potential for speed than our roads can allow.

Currently, the type of bicycle pictured above and now owned by Catherine Porter, make up less than 10% of the annual bicycle sales in North America. Yet, these bicycles, with their upright positioning, room for baskets and limited gearing are possibly the best fit for the majority of people who use bicycles here.

Hidden within this small market is a growing movement, one that praises the ride over the destination, preaches respect on the roads and asks just one thing of all members; simply slow down. Slow bicycle movements are born of a particularly European kind of cycling. The kind of lazy Sunday morning cycling where no one is overly rushed, no one seems to be racing and everyone appears to be smiling. Only they ride like this every day.

For Catherine Porter, the gift of one of these city or urban or cruiser bicycles has changed how she rides. A less aggressive positioning helps one develop a less aggressive riding style. On my single-speed I am transformed into the racer I never was. Pedestrian crosswalk countdown timers give me reason to race through intersections and every car I pass is a notch on my belt, a step closer towards “winning” my commute. However, on my city bike, it’s about the journey. I’ll take a side street that I know will probably end or turn into a one way the wrong way, but that’s OK because I have my camera and will probably find some hidden part of the city.

If these bicycles are such a fit for many North Americans, then why do they make up such a small percentage of sales? Quite frankly, and as Catherine Porter also mentions, it’s that our infrastructure doesn’t promote this style of cycling:

The Highway Traffic Act is not written for bikes. The city’s roads were not made with them in mind. And the cycling equivalent — the bikeway network — remains a tattered quilt, leaving drivers irritated and cyclists unsafe.

Earlier this month, city hall decided to shelve a proposal to stitch up the network in the downtown core for yet “more study.” (The city’s bike plan is nearing 10 years old and still less than half done, despite a pro-cycling mayor.) Infuriating. Until things improve, even Mary Poppins will have to break the law from time to time.

Read Catherine Porter’s full article here.
Learn about The Slow Bicycle Movement here.
Photo is of the OPUS Cervin.

67 km of Separated On-Street Bike Lanes in Montreal and Other Numbers That May Make Me Cry

Montreal, Canada’s second most populated city boasts 502 km of cycling paths and bike lanes and is currently increasing that number by another 51 km this year.

In Toronto, we just painted 2 km of bike lanes along Jarvis.

But, you may be thinking, Quebec and Montreal are known for having fantastic trails and much of this cycling infrastructure must be through parks and just for recreational riders. So, let’s let the Montreal Gazette break down the numbers for us (click on the image for a clearer look):

http://communities.canada.com/montrealgazette/blogs/metropolitannews/archive/2010/05/27/bike-paths-montreal-network-piste-bande-cyclable.aspx

More information about Montreals expanding cycling network from the Montreal Gazette:
breaking down montreal’s 502-km cycling network
montreal adding to its cycling path network

“Jarvis lanes tell the story of a city that pretends to be committed to the bicycle” Hume

Taking over Jarvis

Via Toronto Star:

Hume: Cycling in Toronto is a joke
July 29, 2010 18:07:00
Christopher Hume
Star Columnist

Toronto’s bicycle policy is no policy at all; it’s a series of half-measures that add up to little.

The latest example, the much loathed bike lanes on Jarvis St., finally came to pass this week after years of rancorous debate. The new lanes begin at Charles St. in the north and end, as abruptly as they begin, on Queen St. to the south.

In other words, the new lanes are all but useless to anyone who happens to be travelling anywhere above or below that particular stretch of Jarvis. The new lanes do connect with others that run along Wellesley, Carlton and Gerrard; the failure, of course, is that they don’t connect with either Bloor St. or the waterfront.

Yet in their way, the Jarvis lanes tell the story of a city that pretends to be committed to the bicycle as an alternative means of urban transportation, but is anything but.

Instead, city officials have responded with rhetoric about the War on the Car. If only.

Rather than build a cycling network that would enable riders to reach all parts of the city, we have a hodge-podge of rules, regulations and lanes that probably make a bad situation worse.

Read the full article here.

Photo via BikingToronto’s Flickr Pool

City Wants You To Create Art We Can Lock Our Bikes To

Kensington I

In the latest issue of Cyclometer (#167 July 2010) the city has announced a call for “Artistic Bike Parking” to be installed along the new multi-use paths currently being installed in Toronto. Here’s what they are asking for:

Call to Artists for Artistic Bike Parking

The City of Toronto is developing new multi-use off-road trail projects in hydro and former rail corridors.  Street furniture such as benches, bike parking and pedestrian scale lighting will be installed to help transform these corridors from industrial spaces, into spaces for public transportation and recreation.

Based on the City of Toronto’s 1% policy for public art on capital projects, a contest is being established for the design and fabrication of artistic bike parking as part of these projects.

Details on how local and national artists or artist teams may submit resumes and proposals to the Toronto Culture office are also available online.   Submissions must be received by Friday, 13 August 2010 at 4:00 p.m.

The city is no stranger to bike parking design contests. In collaboration with Ryerson University, a call for bicycle rack designs to be installed in Mount Pleasant Cemetery resulted in this unique winning submission:

More photos of the winning design and the runners up can be found here.

And another design competition was held at OCAD in 2009, yielding this winning concept:

Submission by Justin Rosete (second-year Industrial Design) and Erica Mach (second-year Drawing & Painting).

You can see the rest of the submissions that made up the top 10 designs here.

Lead photo of the Kensington bike rack via BikingToronto Flickr Pool

Scenes from Toronto’s Group Commute – May 31, 2010

Bike to Work TorontoWhile I no longer bike to work, (I actually roll and then step to work in my home office) I still wanted free breakfast pancakes and chose to join the hundreds of Torontonians in the Bike Month Group Commute.

A whole lot of cyclists on the same route sure slows things down, but unlike when this happens with cars (every day), you can chit chat with your neighbour, sing a song or two and simply enjoy the fresh morning air.

Every day should be bike to work day for you. If it isn’t, ask yourself why? What is keeping you from biking to work? Is it because you feel you live too far? Is it because you don’t want to get sweaty? Is it because you don’t have a bike?

Remember, there are no good REASONS for not cycling to work, there are only EXCUSES.

Police Escort

Taking the Lane on Bloor Street

Join the Group

Into the Light

Congestion

The Meet Up

Cyclops in the Morning Light

Cyclops Dance

Political Will

Ontario Transportation Minister

Bike Union Mobile Service Station

Bike Route Blues – Crawford Needs Some Help

Crawford and Dundas North SideYou’ve just finished a tennis match/drum circle/swim/ball hockey game/Frisbee session/baseball practice at Trinity Bellwoods Park and now you want a continuous street to take you North beyond Bloor Street.

Well, you could try Bathurst with its awkward intersections, streetcar tracks and speedy drivers. You could head over to Ossington, a street with more potholes than parking spaces. Or, you could simply head North on Crawford, a one-way street with a gentle uphill grade and even a touch of cycling infrastructure.

Although there are blue bicycle signs along Crawford, you won’t find this residential street listed as part of Toronto’s Bikeway Network.

Toronto Bicycle Map Detail - No Hint of Crawford

No YES No

While not an official signed route, there is signage alerting drivers to the presence of cyclists.

Who You Callin' a Bike Route?

Just north of Dundas, Crawford is spacious and their are speed bumps and stop signs to help slow motorists who are also supposed to keep their speed at or below 30 km/h.

Although the extra space on this street often encourages illegal parking:

Parking Infraction

A slight uphill and a few minutes later and you reach a controlled intersection at College Street:

Crawford at College Street

If you’re turning left, stand on the dots:

Dots

There are no dots here, but if you’re going straight this may set the traffic signals in motion. I’ve never waited here more than a few seconds:

No Dots

Just north of College, Crawford takes a twisty turn lined with street parking. The right curb side has uneven manhole coverings, so take the lane:

Narrow Take the Lane

Here’s where it gets strange. Where do I go?

Where Now?

If you can spot the cyclist on the left of the above photo, that’s where Crawford continues. Head right, and you’ll end up on Montrose. There’s a blue circle bicycle sign hidden, too:

I See You Now

A few short minutes later and you’ll reach Harbord where you can connect to bicycle lanes. Should you want to go straight through this is where Montrose one street over to the East is a better option. At Harbord you have a stop sign, yet the east/west traffic does not. Depending on the time of day you may have to wait awhile to get across:

At Harbord Wait Wait Wait

Watch out for right hooks while you wait:

The Right Hook

And then carry on:

Slow Bike Movement

And once again, prepare to wait at the even busier Bloor Street:

Waiting at Bloor

Walk it on Bloor

As bike lanes continue to be a major issue in the upcoming Toronto mayoral elections, it is important to consider our entire network. Bike lanes are needed on major arterial roads and bicycle-friendly infrastructure is needed on our secondary street routes. That includes signaled crossings, something that would improve Crawford and earn it a permanent role in Toronto’s Bikeway Network.