Bicycles on Bloor?

Construction on Bloor between Avenue Road in the west and Yonge Street in the east is starting to be cleared. Revealed beneath the trucks and equipment are bicycle stencils on the fresh asphalt.

Now, these aren’t sharrows as they are missing directional chevrons.

And these aren’t bike lanes as they are missing painted lines and the diamond.

Best guess is that these are sharrows simply missing their hats as there are sharrows on Bloor east of Yonge. After studies and continuous calls from the public for better bicycle infrastructure on Bloor, it looks like all we’re getting for now is a little paint that cars can soon park on.

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Handling Street Car Tracks and Difficult Intersections With “Indirect Left Turns”

Indirect Left Turn Sign on Bloor at Sherbourne

What is an indirect left turn and how can it help you navigate streetcar tracks and other awkward intersections?

Making a left turn through a busy intersection can be a very tense situation for many cyclists. You’re worried about getting hit from behind, you’re trying to watch for oncoming vehicles, you’re watching the sidewalk for pedestrians, you’re hoping to cross streetcar tracks at a 90 degree angle and you can’t be sure everyone around you actually sees you waiting in the middle of all this.

To help make left turns a less stressful experience, the indirect left turn allows cyclists to proceed through an intersection on a green light in the curb lane (or bike lane should one be there) and join the curb lane of the cross street to wait for the next green light. This eliminates the hazards of waiting in the left most lane and allows cyclists to remain in the right most lane completing a left turn in a two part process.

In Toronto, there are 2 intersections where indirect left turns are suggested through existing infrastructure.

Heading West on Bloor Street in the bike lane extending from the Prince Edward Viaduct, an indirect left turn allows cyclists to turn from Bloor and head south on Sherbourne. Here’s an explanation from a 1997 issue of Cyclometer:

As you cycle west on Bloor St. towards Sherbourne St. there are two blue signs with a pictogram describing an ‘indirect left turn’ for westbound cyclists wanting to turn left onto Sherbourne. Cyclists can ride straight through on the westbound green and stop at the far curb in the white painted ‘box’ to wait for the southbound green light. To ensure that waiting cyclists aren’t in conflict with right turning drivers, the southbound ‘right turn on green’ has been prohibited. Also the crosswalk was moved north just enough so that cyclists don’t have to block the crosswalk while waiting for the southbound green. The ‘box’ is large enough to accommodate 2 or 3 cyclists at a time.

The bike lane and sign still exist (although the sign is hung exceptionally high for cyclists):

Bloor Street Bike Lane Sherbourne indirect left turn

Unfortunately, the past 13 years have not been kind to the “box”:

Box location for indirect left turn Sherbourne

Early Bike Box location Sherbourne

The second location where an indirect left turn is suggested for cyclists is at the awkward intersection of Dupont, Dundas Street West and Annette.

In order to get to the bike lane on Annette from the bike lane on Dupont, simply follow the sharrows. While I did not notice a sign explaining the turn at this intersection, the sharrows quite clearly illustrate a path for cyclists:

Sharrows for indirect left turn at Dupont Dundas Street West

Sharrows connect Old Weston Road to Annette bike lane

The indirect left turn is also popular with motorists at this intersection as I witnessed 4 drivers make a similar move on the underused Old Weston Road to avoid waiting in the left turn lane.

Indirect left turns are a great way to help people on bikes build confidence on busier roads where turning left can be both nerve-wracking and dangerous. In fact, the Toronto Cyclists Handbook even recommends this strategy, calling it a “two-part left-turn from right of lane”:

I’ve used this turning method at intersections with streetcar tracks and multiple traffic lanes and you’re bound to witness it at many intersections along Spadina. However, is it legal to make this type of turn?

I contacted Sgt. Tim Burrows of Traffic Services and here’s what he had to offer on the subject:

Why I like the indirect left turn.

1.) Avoid potential conflict by trying to cut through traffic to move into
proper turn position. (safer)
2.) Most drivers expect to see bicycles on right side of road adding to the
‘predictability factor,’ (safer)
3.) Riders can always keep eyes forward, with glances to left/right for
safety instead of turning back to get a ‘big picture.’ (safer)
4.) Faster (better for cyclist)

Intersections are one of the most dangerous areas for all our road users
and especially so for our vulnerable groups such as cyclists.  Anytime we
can find safer means for them to travel…its better for all of us.

The Sherbourne site has one draw back. The sign shows a painted stop line,
but there isn’t one.  Maybe this is a given, but I wouldn’t want cyclists
to think they are supposed to drive into the pedestrian walk way, nor have
officers ticketing a cyclist for riding too close to the crosswalk.

As long as you stay out of the crosswalk indirect left turns are a perfectly acceptable and possibly even faster way to make a left turn on a bicycle at busier intersections.

While I’m uncertain if there are plans to add indirect left turn infrastructure in the current Bike Plan, Toronto may soon see something similar in the form of “Bike Boxes.”

Over at Giddy Up Toronto, a blogger has suggested that we use indirect left turn boxes instead of the proposed bike boxes. The planned bike boxes would allow cyclists to move to the head of the line at red lights and position themselves for a left turn from the centre-most lane. While this clearly marks a space where cyclists will be turning it doesn’t address the issue that you’re still in a position that makes it difficult to cross streetcar tracks at a 90 degree angle. Both our planned bike boxes and indirect left turn boxes work best when right turns are prohibited on red lights, but only the indirect left turn box positions cyclists to safely cross streetcar tracks.

The most important aspect when considering any piece of infrastructure, and this is something that Sgt. Burrows also mentions, is that we create an environment that promotes predictable behaviour. Intersections, especially busy ones with streetcar right-of-ways and multiple lanes (including bike lanes) provide the greatest opportunity for serious collisions. Clearly marking paths for all users helps to promote predictable behaviours and can keep all road users “on the same page” reducing the possibility of confusion and ultimately collisions.

Update November 12, 2010: A sign explaining indirect left turns has been posted at the Dupont/Dundas/Annette intersection. Although to make this sort of turn here as indicated means you’re now blocking the bike lane. Here’s the sign as photographed by Martinho:

P1010685

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

Every day I hear Bells on Bloor

Every day I hear bells on Bloor.

Bike Lanes on BloorWalking down the street, I hear bells. Sitting and sipping in a coffee shop, I hear bells. At the library, running errands, meeting with friends, and all the time, I hear bells.

Each one of those bells is connected to a cyclist. A mother riding her bicycle to work. A family riding their bikes home from the park. Students riding their bikes to class.

And each one of those bells is asking so little of you. That bell is a kind request for a little attention and a little space. “See me,” says these bells.

On Saturday, May 29th, 2010, a symphony of bells launched from High Park and made its way with music and joy to Queen’s Park. Bells on Bloor brings together the individual bells you hear on Bloor Street each and every day and asks for attention, we ask you for bike lanes on Bloor.

Orange and Yellow

Speaker

Speaker 2

Performance

Supporters

She and Him

Sing a Song of Support

A Symphony of Bells

Group Riding

Downhill

Uphill

Pirates Sing

Musical Accompaniment

Tutu

ToddT

Eye in the Sky

And the band played on

Little One

Queen's Park

Bells on Bloor Cycle Chic

The End

Show your support, sign the petition: Bike Lanes on Bloor

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.

Hey, Harry! I Like Your Bikes

The Harry Rosen storefront on Bloor Street displays a few interesting accessories for Spring.

Harry 1

Gary Fisher Simple City at Harry Rosen Toronto

Gary Fisher Simple City at Harry Rosen Toronto

Trek at Harry Rosen Toronto

Electra at Harry Rosen Toronto

Trek Belleville
Gary Fisher Simple City
Electra Bikes