Passing the Buck on Safety at Ontario Place Parking Lot Entrances

There’s a steaming pile of mess out front of Ontario Place, and for once it isn’t left behind by our mounted police officers.

To redirect cyclists, joggers, rollerbladers and other non-Ontario Place guests from interfering with park entrance line ups (do they even exist these days?), the Martin Goodman Trail was redirected in 2008 and now runs beside Lake Shore Boulevard. In the process of straightening the trail and separating it from park visitor foot traffic, which is a good thing and a benefit to the hundreds who use this path to commute year round, a new issue has arisen.

As seen above, there are signs, there are traffic lights, and there are p-gates that narrow the path drastically.

I’ve written why these gates create more hazards than they supposedly prevent. Toronto Star’s The Fixer has written about the gates, not once, not twice but three times now.

First, The Fixer: Barricades are a big bang for cyclists:

The barriers, which are mounted to poles on both sides and swing out to cut the width of the trail by half, force cyclists to squeeze between them, sometimes with disastrous results, said McNally.

“I had a bad crash into one more than six weeks ago, when they were unexpectedly closed for the first time in my memory, during a morning commute,” he said.

“While I waited for assistance, another cyclist had similar spill,” he said, adding that it took five weeks to recover from the accident.

Then, The Fixer gets action: Martin Goodman Trail a little safer already:

The trio talked over ideas for thwarting motorists while reducing the risk to cyclists from the barriers, nearby utility poles and vehicles crossing the bike path as they turn onto Ontario Place Blvd.

The ideas include better signage for cyclists and painting the path red at the approach to the intersection (to warn them to slow down), as well as barriers made of flexible material that will give if a cyclist runs into one.

For now, Dann has agreed to open barriers on one side of the path, which will allow more space for cyclists to pass each other, while still serving as an impediment to vehicles.

And he’s looking hard at the other ideas, saying anything that is feasible and will improve safety at the intersection will be seriously considered.

And now, The Fixer: Metal gates return to menace cyclists:

The city parks department, which is responsible for the trail, decided to open them after our column, figuring the hazard they posed to cyclists was greater than the need to keep cars off.

But Ontario Place owns the property over which the trail runs and overruled the decision. It closed the gates again last week, saying vehicles on the trail are more dangerous to people than the barriers.

Jonathan Daley, Ontario Place’s director of corporate affairs, said drivers leaving from the Remembrance Dr. entrance at the west end of the park try to sneak onto the trail to get a jump on slow traffic.

Ontario Place decided to close them to ensure drivers don’t start using the trail again, said Daley, adding it is responsible for the safety of people on its property, even those using the trail.

In The Fixer’s follow-up, a van is seen driving along the trail. How did that van get there if the gates were closed? Obviously, the only activity these gates are actually inhibiting is the use of common sense in intersection design.

It appears as though Jonathan Daley at Ontario Place needs more encouragement to not only open and remove these p-gates, but he also needs a hand when it comes to creating a solution that does not put trail users into dangerous situations. Let’s take a visual look at what can be done to stave off the supposed problem of trail driving dummies:

portland springwater trail road intersection

How staggeringly simple! A single bollard on the dividing line and two more permanent fixtures on the path’s edge. The Martin Goodman Trail is cleared of snow all winter and to allow snow removal vehicles the p-gates remain open all winter. Using the above solution, the centre bollard can easily be removed and will not impede snow clearing vehicles.

Why then does Ontario Place (or at least their representative) feel that trail users must take full responsibility for a problem not caused by them and deal with a current solution that places them at greater risk of personal injury?

Send an e-mail to Jonathan Daley, Ontario Place’s director of corporate affairs, jonathan.daley@ontarioplace.com and let him know that the current situation along the Martin Goodman Trail is unacceptable, needlessly dangerous and finally, easily fixable.

 

Poor Planning at Martin Goodman Trail and Ontario Place

The photo above should be studied by city planners and infrastructure builders around the world. And the lesson should be, this is the worst possible way to build an intersection.

Every one of the signs in the photo, including the two cattle gates, are an admission of planning failure.

“Yield to pedestrians because we’ve created a terrible intersection where pedestrians are expected to wait to cross Lake Shore Boulevard in the same area where through traffic from the path is expected to proceed.”

“Watch for turning vehicles because we haven’t planned to properly handle conflicts that arise from turning cars and trucks and we’d never make them actually stop because that impedes traffic flow.”

And then there’s the cattle gates. A sign states that no unauthorized vehicles are permitted on the trail so these may be to keep pushy, lazy drivers from taking a shortcut on the mixed-use trail. But they also work as the last line of protecting-our-ass infrastructure because who ever designed this intersection was unable to learn from 100 years of street design and handle pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers and motorized vehicles.

All of this may not be instantly obvious, so let’s have a look at what trail users are expected to do upon approaching this intersection:

1) Yield to pedestrians – If you’re on your feet you simply stay right as the path narrows, watch out for other people and act like you do on any sidewalk. As a cyclist you must avoid a) the cattle gates, b) watch for oncoming pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers, whatevers and also c) watch for pedestrians approaching from your right who have just parked their cars and plan to cross Lake Shore Boulevard to access the CNE grounds.

2) Watch for turning vehicles – While watching for pedestrians, avoiding the cattle gates and preparing to cross the intersection you must also shoulder check to your left to watch that vehicles turning from Lake Shore into the parking lot both see you and are prepared to stop. While you’re at it, also shoulder check to your left even further to make sure that whoever is behind you is prepared to slow down while you navigate the cattle gates and isn’t about to overtake you. And once you make it into the intersection you have to watch again for turning vehicles exiting the parking lot because a right turn on red is legal in Ontario and while stopping in a crosswalk is illegal, the legal turn often requires the illegal stop and when’s the last time you saw someone ticketed for stopping in a crosswalk?

3) Watch for and obey the pedestrian and bicycle lights – While looking to your left, right and rear you must also be aware not only of the cattle gates in front of you but also of the bicycle traffic lights where green means “Go” but doesn’t mean “Go because turning traffic from Lake Shore isn’t going to just pop-up in front of you.”

Are you exhausted yet? Is this how anyone should be expected to handle an intersection? Yes, we must approach all crossings with caution and be aware of our surroundings but why would someone intentionally create any intersection where the possibility of a collision is actually increased by the infrastructure?

While trail user heads are bobbing and twisting to stay aware of every possible conflict point, what are drivers expected to do? A medium-sized yellow sign instructs drivers to yield to pedestrians and cyclists. Excellent. Yield is a specific command that means proceed only when clear. Wait, aren’t we missing a step? How are drivers going to know that there isn’t anyone approaching if they do not stop? The lights controlling motorized traffic do nothing to ensure that drivers stop and properly yield here. Solid green, yellow, and red are the only lights you’ll see. Green means “Go,” so who’s going to read that yellow sign? Red means “Stop and proceed right when clear,” but when is the last time you actually saw a driver stop at a red light before a right turn?

I’m not a city planner and yet I can identify that this intersection above is an absolute mess. An absolute mess built in just the past few years. This isn’t old infrasture, everything is new.

Did the planners here not know about traffic lights that can be used to control right turning traffic? Did the planners not see that pedestrians waiting to cross Lake Shore would be standing directly in the path of oncoming trail traffic? And why does pedestrian and bicycle traffic split while crossing the parking entrance forcing awkward merging that in my experience no one does.

If Team Ford is so gung-ho on building off-road trails and if this is the example they’ll be following then I’d rather ride my bicycle on a 400 series highway. At least there everyone will be going the same direction.

Acura brings “elegance” to vehicular homicide

Acura ad in Toronto encourages aggressive driving

Since I work in marketing, and advertising is a large part of what I do, I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about words.

I’ll turn over a short sentence dozens of times trying to find a word or words that instantly convey my message. Some sentences speak volumes and every ad copy writer knows this.

The above ad is currently on display in Toronto. It overlooks both the Martin Goodman Trail and Lake Shore Boulevard West. This ad can be seen by thousands of commuters heading into downtown Toronto for work. I ride this stretch of trail by bicycle almost every day. I witness bumper to bumper traffic and on more days than not there are traffic police positioned to stop speeders and control aggressive driving.

Yet some copy writer, some ad agency and some company executive who approved the above ad felt that “Aggression” was the best word to use. To them aggression may mean strength. To them aggression may symbolize the drive to succeed in a busy metropolis. To them aggression is a powerful buzzword that connects their product, a car, to a life of financial success.

But “aggression” is much, much more than that, especially in Toronto right now.

Aggression and violence are sibling words. Aggression is usually first on the scene but where aggression exists you can be sure that violence isn’t too far behind. Aggression is the reason we have the “Street Racing” law in Ontario. Aggression is the reason why hundreds of people every year are killed on roads around the world. Aggression is the reason why we have so many police officers on traffic patrol.

Acura, there is nothing “elegant” about aggression. Aggression is an ugly and offensive word. In a busy city where you are going to encounter people who drive slower than you, people who walk across streets and people who are in just as big a rush as you are, aggression leads to collisions and regrets and death.

Let’s ask the family of Darcy Allan Sheppard what the word “aggression” means to them.

Let’s ask the family of Tahir Khan what the word “aggression” means to them.

Aggression is why there is strong opposition to the current mayor’s use of war metaphors to describe transportation choices. Behind the wheel of a car, on the saddle of a bicycle or simply walking on your own two feet is never an act of aggression. Aggression leads to rash decisions. Aggression is the result of selfish, anti-social behaviour. Aggression exists outside of rational thought.

Yet here is an ad placed outside of Ontario Place, a family destination. This ad faces thousands of people who may be frustrated that their drive was so long. This ad faces the commuting cyclists who will each have a story or two to share about the face of aggression.

You see Acura, Toronto has no room on its roads for aggression.

Social Cycling: Go Green, Go Dutch, Go Bike! Toronto 2010

Go Dutch ShirtWhen people mention nations that are leading the way for cycling and cycling infrastructure, most often you’ll hear a thing or two about the Dutch.

In the Netherlands, 60% of the population prefers to make daily trips by bicycle. There are more bicycles in the Netherlands than there are people (1.11 to every person) and you don’t have to look far to find some of the best and most-used cycling infrastructure on the planet here.

Started in 2007, the Dutch Consulate in Toronto has been organizing a annual bicycle ride to raise funds and provide bicycles and resources for city children whose families are unable to afford them.

Go Green, Go Dutch, Go Bike! is also an excellent opportunity for Dutch ex-pats to get together, ride their bikes and enjoy some Dutch foods.

My girlfriend, mother and I rode our bikes to Etienne Brule park along Toronto’s Humber River on a sunny Sunday:

Orange Shirts

Mom and Cat

King of the Dutch

Speedy Gazelle

Dutch Family Car

Orange Under the Bridge

Orange Over the Bridge

Green and Orange Path

White Bridge Orange Shirts

Orange You Glad You Bike?

Lake Ontario

Snaking Along the Martin Goodman Trail

Looking Back Along Martin Goodman Trail

Riding Together

More Bike Lanes Please

Dutch Pride

Dutch Parking at City Hall

Kroketten

Presentation

Cycle Chic

Fourth Floor Cycle Chic

Deadly Nightshade Prairie Cycle Chic

And, did you know that as part of the Lets Go Ride a Bike Summer Games you could win your own Batavus BuB? Participating is fun and easy, in this post along you saw me join a group ride and go cycling with my family. Click on the image below to learn more and participate as well:

Panda shot on the Martin Goodman Trail

P4020766

Mother and son took the omafiet and the Globe out for a sunny spring ride.

Scenes from the Cold: Toronto’s Coldest Day of the Year Ride 2010

Minus 17 - Yeah, that's cold.Brr!

As part of Bike Winter, the city of Toronto hosted the Coldest Day of the Year Ride on Saturday, January 30th, 2010.

I bundled up in my down jacket, long johns, ski gloves and scarf and hopped on my Globe to join the ride.

While the weather did finally cool down to winter temperatures, it certainly doesn’t look like the end of January in Toronto. Where are the snowbanks? Where’s the slush?

I arrive just a few minutes before noon and find parking at a premium:

If you want to know what’s big for cycling in 2010… it’s yellow, and lots of it:

There’s two little ones all bundled up in there:

Excuse me, Joe, can you tell me which way we’re supposed to go? Thanks:

Just a few weeks earlier and Grenadier Pond would have been covered with ice skaters:

Just after we passed under the Gardiner Expressway and cross over Lakeshore Highway (errr, Boulevard) to the Martin Goodman Trail:

The Pizza Pizza pagoda was closed… but Joe and HappyStuffing wouldn’t be affected by the stink had it been open for business:

Free Hot Chocolate! Thanks!:

The BikingToronto community has been talking a lot about visibility. With a little flash here’s HappyStuffing’s taped up and highly visible ride:

The visibility theme continues with a bright jacket and reflective belt and cuffs… excellent dollar store finds:

Of course, you don’t need day-glo to be visible. Sometimes a suggestive slogan on your rack-mounted crate is all you need:

Okay, enough bicycles for a second. Let’s just enjoy the waterfront view… I’m glad this long stretch isn’t littered with condos (yet):

And seriously, bicycle computer, you’re pretending that it’s much warmer than it is:

Sure, you’ve probably seen this view a million times, but have you seen it by bicycle? Loverly:

The end of the line:

Just as we all arrive at Little Norway Park this guy rolls up and asks the way to Copenhagen:

Confusion on the Waterfront

There’s a new mixed-use path down along the waterfront.

Only, it doesn’t go along the water. Ontario Place has claimed that stretch of land for parking.

Replacing a cumbersome diversion through a parking lot and past line ups of tourists, the Martin Goodman Trail now runs parallel to Lake Shore Boulevard and since it’s opening on July 31, 2009, has already brought about a concern for safety.

Over the long weekend I took a trip down the new path to see what all the fuss was about. Cycling west from Harbourfront along Queen’s Quay was jammed with cars, transit and bikes, reaching the Martin Goodman trail feels like a serene stretch of calm in comparison.

After looping around the Inukshuk at the beginning of the extension, I meet with the first of 3 crossings. Lake Shore Boulevard is quiet late in the afternoon today, the only traffic here is heading home and not turning in to Ontario Place. So, I don’t get to see the mayhem of motorists turning left and taking out cyclists. Although I can certainly see how this could happen.

All quiet at the new bicycle and pedestrian crossing in front of Ontario Place

In the photo above you can see the bicycle signal, the pedestrian signal and two separate paths across the intersection for each. The gates placed just before where the path meets the road do a decent job of slowing bicycle traffic and alerting users to the coming hazard of an intersection.

Of course, this doesn’t make for a continuous commute, but for the weekend warrior it’s a way of herding the crowds that will accumulate here on red lights.

The signals change quickly, and I believe wait times are less than 30 seconds from what I can tell.

Crossing without much panic
Once across the intersection I am greeted by this sign:

Authorized Vehicles Only
“AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY” Really? That’s the best wording you could use? This sounds so intimidating. Is my bicycle authorized? What are the other authorized vehicles? I thought this was a mixed-use path, not a passage for vehicles of any sort.

Under the assumption that I have full authorization, I continue along the path. I encounter mostly joggers, rollerbladers and cyclists. The roadies won’t like the slow pace here and I expect to see a lot of “scorchers” burning around everyone. But there is a good amount of space and I don’t feel I have to ride in the grass to avoid getting run over by faster users.

And just look at how everyone is getting along. On a quiet day no one seems upset after crossing at the parking lot entrances.

Mixed-use Happiness on the Martin Goodman Trail

While not perfect, the crossings are built to acknowledge safety concerns by slowing traffic along the path. Unfortunately, I neglect to see any notice to drivers to yield to cyclists and foot traffic. Although, in Toronto, motorists believe they have the right of way (and they make that claim with force) so it is reasonable to expect problems along this route at much busier times.

As a final thought, I did encounter a strange event. As I was crossing at the second intersection two motorcycle police made a wide u-turn on Lake Shore and turned into the CNE grounds. Another cyclist spotted this as well, and as he approached the intersection he hopped off of his bike and walked it through the green light eying the biker cops the whole time.

Obviously this cyclist wants to follow the rules, only he doesn’t know what they are. Why he didn’t follow the lead of every other cyclist and ride through the green light is beyond me. Hopefully another friendly cyclist will inform him to stay calm, carry on through the intersection next time.

Oh, and once I was beyond the “crossings of death” I am back along the waterfront where you get to see strange things like this: