Why Some Cyclists in Toronto Break the Rules

Cyclists Dismount Sign

I’ve stopped reading the comments from readers on almost all news articles on the topic of cycling in Toronto.

The anti-cycling advocates make my blood boil:
“Once, I saw this guy on a bike and he was going the wrong way, he deserves to die!”
That’s not a direct quote, but I’m sure you’ve read the same sort of comment.
And, the pro-cycling team also has been contributing their own leaps in logic:
“Cars are destroying our planet and you are selfish for owning one!”
While, I tend to agree with this to some extent, this argument has nothing to do with the article on cyclists you were just reading. And it has nothing to do with expressing the fact that both vehicles of all manner and size and bicycles are allowed on Toronto’s streets.
As the major media outlets try to find more ways to talk about the Sheppard/Bryant case, we’re starting to see more articles on cycling in general. For the most part, I believe they all read like they were paid for by the manufacturers of automobiles:
“Cyclists deserve to be fined and imprisoned! There’s no room on OUR roads for them! They need to stop behaving like children and follow the rules!”
Why do some cyclists choose to break the rules? Please, note my wording here. Breaking the rules is a choice made by people riding their bicycles. We all know the rules. Two-year olds know what a stop sign means. Anyone who has ever even seen a road knows which side goes in what direction. Anyone claiming ignorance of the rules is lying to you…

A police officer on his bike chased down and fined the first-year U of T student yesterday on St. George St. after he ran a red light on his bicycle. The visibly upset student, who wouldn’t give his name, said he was from China and didn’t know the rules.

The above snippet is from an article in the Toronto Sun. The writer also adds this pull quote:
Cycling organizations should also speak out more against their “radical” members, Burrows added.

“We know that 99.9% of drivers will stop at a red light. We don’t know that with cyclists,” he said.

I ask again, why do some cyclists in Toronto break the rules of the road?

1) Safety

How can running a red light increase safety? How does not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign increase anyone’s safety?

It is unfair and unreasonable to assume that just because I’m on a bicycle, I have some sort of twisted death wish. If I really wanted to die in Toronto, I’d get in a car. When approaching a red light I know there’s going to be a stream of cars piling up behind me. Some of the drivers are going to try and push to get in front of me at the light, the rest are going to push me in the intersection as I’m trying to build speed again. This is why you see so many cyclists in crosswalks, when you’re being tailed by monstrous steel machines, you’re going to move to where you know they aren’t going to go.

Why then, would I run a red light? If the way is clear, running the red gets me through an intersection without impatient drivers riding my ass or trying to squeeze me out of the lane. Once through the intersection, I can now establish my line, so the drivers coming up quickly behind me can react and pass me safely.

Same goes for stop signs. I proceed safely without coming to a full stop and I preserve some momentum and get to continue on in a predictable fashion. And that’s what motorists want, isn’t it? Predictability.

2) Lack of enforcement

Even Toronto Police Services admits to this. They are lack on enforcing the rules of the road when it comes to cyclists. And, we can all see why. Cyclists very, very, very rarely kill people. Cyclists, even with our growing numbers, are still a minority. And what’s more dangerous? The guy in his car eating a breakfast sandwich and speeding along a side street, or a cyclist, going less than 20 km/h, who doesn’t fully stop at a stop sign? It’s not like either of these are rare occurrences on our roads.

3) Laziness

Even though it takes far more physical energy to operate a bicycle vs. a car, cyclists can be and are often lazy. We want to get where we’re going as fast as possible.

Motorists, doesn’t that sound familiar? Isn’t that why we have drive-thru banks and coffee shops? Isn’t that why there are HOV lanes on highways? Isn’t that why your car can go 160 km/h when you legally should never reach speeds greater than 100 km/h, and much lower in our city?

We go the wrong way on streets because it is simply easier than trying to get into a turning lane, then wait for oncoming traffic while watching behind us for anyone who doesn’t see us and then get honked at because we turn too slow. We go the wrong way because our destination is on the side of the street we’re on and we don’t want to deal with street car tracks. The reasons are numerous, even if they aren’t in the name of safety and following the rules.

So, the next time you see a cyclist breaking the rules, ask yourself why they are behaving in this manner. There is always a reason for a cyclists behaviour. Cyclists aren’t always making the right choices, and we do need to address not only the problem action, but also the reason behind why this action was made.

What do you think of the rules of the road and why cyclists break them in Toronto?

Photo by ammiiirrr posted to Flickr

On Passing – What Are the Rules?

My Bike Wheel Meets A Useless Toronto Driver

A little room, please!

That’s all I ask. You, in your car, you’ve got airbags and steel and power brakes and power steering and mirrors. To pass me, all it takes is a simple set of movements. Check your mirrors, check your blind spots and slightly move your hands on the steering wheel.

Honest, that’s all it takes.

Why then, do the motorists who pass me on Keele, on Bathurst, on Jane, streets with at least 2 lanes running in each direction, fail to give me room?

When I confronted a driver about why he didn’t yield at all, he said, “You get 18 inches of space, you need to stop weaving.”

I was dodging pot holes and sewer grates, oh and I get 1 metre, that’s 40 inches of space. And I get an additional 1 metre of space around me to protect me when you pass.

Or do I?

The Ontario Driver’s Handbook suggests this of drivers (emphasis mine):

Bicycles and mopeds that cannot keep up with traffic are expected to keep to the right of the lane; however, they can use any part of the lane if necessary for safety, such as to avoid potholes and sewer grates. Cyclists need a metre on either side of themselves as a safety zone. When passing a cyclist, allow at least one metre between your car and the cyclist.

If the lane is too narrow to share, change lanes to pass the cyclist. When turning right, signal and check your mirrors and the blind spot to your right to make sure you do not cut off a cyclist. When parked on the side of the street, look behind you and check your mirrors and blinds spots for a passing cyclist before opening a door.

I like the sounds of that, sounds like a rule to me!

But, it is only just a suggestion. One that many drivers simply choose to ignore, or have forgotten. Aside from just now, I hadn’t looked at a Driver’s Handbook in over a decade. And for the drivers failing to give me space, who often appear to be much older than I am, well it’s probably too long ago for them to remember at all.

Perhaps there’s something more concrete in the Highway Traffic Act:

Vehicles meeting bicycles

(4) Every person in charge of a vehicle on a highway meeting a person travelling on a bicycle shall allow the cyclist sufficient room on the roadway to pass. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (4).

“Sufficient room?” To the motorist I encountered, the 18 inches I supposedly was to occupy, was his definition of “sufficient room” and by “weaving” I was forfeiting my access to more “sufficient room” when he passed me, so close his mirror passed below my handlebars.

What we need is a concrete definition of “sufficient room,” one backed by law.

Groups like 3feet2pass are working towards establishing such laws across the United States. Isn’t it time we saw this in Ontario?

Share your thoughts and developments on this issue in the Biking Toronto Forum

Photo from Erik Twight’s Flickr Photostream

NYC Commuter Helmet – Let’s see a YYZ version

Bicycle helmets can be really ugly. And personally, I think the super-vent, NASCAR colour versions that are saturating the market all sit too high on my head. While I’m using a skate-style helmet now, I’m not too sure how my ears are going to hold up once the temperature drops.

A project commissioned by the City of New York has set out to encourage the average commuter to wear a functional, and in my opinion, pretty good looking helmet.

Designed by fuseproject, cyclists can customize the look and function of their helmets by adding and removing visors and full covers depending on the weather.

NYC Helmet Visor

NYC Helmet Green Cover

This looks like something that could really take off outside of NYC.
What do you think of the NYC Helmet?

Via Greenwala

Learning to Travel Like a Cyclist in Toronto

Traffic Accident Blues

It’s been about 4 years since I first moved to Toronto.

I came here with a car and the intention of furthering my career and learn to survive in the big city. Over the past four years I’ve established a career, lost a car along the way and learned that survival on the streets of Toronto is achieved in more ways than one.

I really can’t say I miss my car. Even when it’s raining or snowing or when I have to buy a lot of groceries, I can honestly say I don’t miss my old green menace one bit (green as in the colour and not as in some environmentally beneficial quality of my old car, so I guess it was a “green menace” in a few ways).

However, my car (and my time as a motorist) has left me with a few personal habits that I’m trying to kick. When I set out on my bicycle, I have to remind myself that I no longer have to travel like a motorist. I’m no longer confined to the routes that cars and trucks must follow. It’s difficult at first, but freeing myself from my “motorist habits” is one of the most liberating aspects of becoming a bicycle commuter or, more simply, a cyclist.

There are some habits I can’t give up. Like stopping for red lights, signaling my intentions and not driving the wrong way down one-way streets. Those are good habits that I developed behind the wheel. And I still follow these today.

However, finding the most direct and fastest route to my destination is a habit I’m trying to break. Whether I take the main arterial roads or if I choose to discover a few quiet side streets and paths through parks, the time difference is often negligible.

Toronto’s lack of safe and consistent cycling infrastructure provides the opportunity to be more creative with your route. In cities like Amsterdam, cycling infrastructure is so prominent it makes more sense to take the main routes. Side streets in Amsterdam are cobblestone-paved, car-parked, child-playing areas that simply don’t offer the opportunities to escape main street mayhem like the park trails and side streets of Toronto.

For example, to get from Davisville to Parkdale I could follow the subway and street car lines. Taking Yonge south to King, and then King west to Parkdale is an option. There’s a lot of traffic and a lot of obstacles along the way, but it is direct and a route that the motorist in me would take.

On my bike it’s a whole other story. I can cut through the quiet streets of Summerhill, bypassing the traffic throttling barriers to keep motorists from cutting through this area on their way from Yonge to Avenue road (or vice-versa). I can follow the bike lanes down Bedford or wind my way through the quiet streets in the Annex. Further south I can get from Dundas to Queen Street through Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Sure, I’ve taken a few wrong turns, but these never end in disaster. A wrong turn on a bicycle becomes a chance for discovery. New routes are always possible by bicycle, and rarely will they be blocked by rush hour traffic.

In Toronto, surviving the city streets on a bicycle means developing the habit of seeing possible connections between our side streets and park trails and the places we want to go.

Have you made a few “short cut” discoveries in your travels through Toronto? You can share them in the BikingToronto Bicycle Route Mapping Wiki.

Photo via the_lake_effect’s Flickr

By Bike or Bus: My North Toronto Commute


Recently, a cyclist in Brisbane put together a fun cartoon to compare the time, effort and money spent on commuting by bicycle versus bus.

After recording times he discovers there is little difference in the time taken cycling versus taking the bus. He saves more than $600.00 a year on bus fare. And he gains the fitness of cycling 2,100 km.

Now, without the cartoon (which makes his version far more readable) I want to compare my own commute in this way.

Here’s the details of my commute:

I live at Yonge and Davisville in Toronto.

I work just south of Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan.

That’s a distance of 23.3 km (according to Google maps tracing my bike route)

To get to work by TTC I have to take the subway from Davisville station to Finch station, transfer to the Steeles bus, and then transfer again to the Jane bus.

I can do this by spending $47 per week on a GTA pass, or by forking over $9 a day should I choose not to buy the pass and pay as I go.

Since I have yet to bike to work in the winter, I’ll take 20 summer weeks as my example.

My average bus commute is typically 1 hour and 30 mins each way. I commute to work 4 days a week.

That’s 12 hours on transit each week. 240 hours over 20 weeks spent sitting on a bus or train. And, should I buy a GTA pass, this will cost me $940.00

240 hours and $940.00!

Since I started biking in to work I tend to average 1 hour and 10 mins each way. But, by the time I get home I need a shower. So, tack on another 10 mins showering and another 10 minutes changing at work (morning and afternoon combined) and my bus and bicycle commute times balance out.

However, my bicycle cost me just under $600. So, right off the bat I’m saving $340 this year alone. And by cycling 23.3 km, each way, I gain the physical fitness benefits of cycling 3,728 km over 20 weeks.

So far so good. But, let’s look at this a little further. My transit route by bus and train is relatively safe. The TTC isn’t known for losing passengers on a regular basis, so I can assume that aside from not getting any physical activity, my health will remain as is while taking the bus (the odd cold aside).

On my bicycle, it is a whole other game. My route takes me along major arterial routes for the majority of my trip. These routes have posted speed limits of 60 and 70 km/h. On long stretches between stop lights it is not uncommon for motorists to greatly exceed these postings. There are no bike lanes and there is barely enough room in the existing lanes to fit a mid-sized car and my bicycle safely. So, when the pickup trucks, cube vans, dump trucks, garbage trucks and transports try to share a lane with me, well my life flashes before my eyes.

My safety is greatly reduced by taking my bicycle. So, is the trade off worth it? My safety on the bus without any health benefits or the health benefits gained by placing myself in countless dangerous situations a day?

I keep riding, so I’m certainly not turned off by the dangers. That story could change any day though, but I’m hoping it won’t.

Share your own bicycle and bus commuting stories in the Biking Toronto Commuting Group.

Bicycle v Bus in Brisbane via Copenhagenize
Photo from flickr user gbalogh

Is it Really Safe for Cyclists on the New Simcoe Street Underpass?

Safety First
As with most of my trips to new bike lanes in Toronto, I approached the new Simcoe Street underpass on a day when no one was around.

Prior to completion, an article in the National Post from October, 2008, makes no mention of cyclists or bike lanes. But really, who is thinking about cycling at the beginning of winter? The article addresses the ability of condo residents to walk to work or quickly access trains using the underpass and, as councillor Adam Vaughan stated:

β€œThe biggest impediment to get people down to the waterfront is … the [lack of] north-south connections, especially ones that are pedestrian-friendly,” Mr. Vaughan said. β€œIt gives that possibility of accidentally ending up at the waterfront.”

Now that construction is finished, the addition of bike lanes here provide another option aside from driving, walking or taking transit through this area.

On a Saturday just before noon I spent about 20 minutes at this underpass. In that time I counted 3 cyclists, 2 tour buses and 1 pickup truck. Of course, this underpass was built to allow the residents of condos in the area to walk faster (or drive) to work above Front street. However, the added bonus of helping people access the waterfront seems to have gone unnoticed in the first few days that this section has been open.

Heading south, the bike lane starts on the south side of Front Street and ends at Bremner Boulevard. Under the bridge the lane runs along a retaining wall and in the middle of 4 lanes for motorists there is a median.

Personally, I do not like cycling under (or over) bridges in Toronto. Heading downhill at underpasses results in drivers speeding and the transition from light to dark can often make visibility a huge issue. Bike lanes here do address that problem and help position motorists prior to going under the bridge, but is it enough?

Do you feel safe under here?
The retaining wall here makes me worry. Why protect pedestrians and the support beams and not cyclists? Why not place the retaining wall so that it separates cyclists and pedestrians from motorists? In the mornings motorists traveling along here may be familiar with the area. But, with the Air Canada Centre, Harbourfront and the Rogers Centre attracting motorists unfamiliar with the area, the potential for collisions between motorists and cyclists certainly must increase.

The bike lanes on the Simcoe Street underpass are a start, but will they ever continue and create a safe passage from the condos and waterfront to downtown?

This lane ends. Proceed with caution.

I’d like to hear from commuters in the area? Is this bike lane a safe addition?

The Time I was a Shady Bike Seller on Craigslist Toronto

I found myself with a glut of bikes in the summer of 2008.

My mother had picked up cycling a few years before. Each year she’d upgrade to a newer model, and leave a perfectly fine bicycle locked in her garage. She lives beyond Hamilton in a town with very little interest in used bikes. So, I offered to help her sell them in Toronto. I wasn’t seeing too many repeat listings on Craigslist, cycling was hot in the summer of 2008, so I figured this would be easy.

The first bike I listed for a fair price in comparison to what was being posted. It was a couple years older, a Giant hybrid in perfect working condition. Right away I received about a dozen e-mails. If I couldn’t understand what the person was saying I didn’t reply. Not to be a snob, but if you can’t type a simple sentence, I’m afraid we’ll have a hard time doing business. Really, it’s me, not you.

Then I received a few replies that resembled this:

“Got in garage the basket of my bicycle flavour forever to trees”

Really? I don’t know what kind of spambots are trolling Craigslist, but they sent me some of the most bizarre haiku poetry I’ve ever read.

Well, I exchanged a few e-mails with potential buyers and arranged for them to come see the bike. I had a great spot picked out, in front of a bank on a busy corner. Don’t have the cash? Pow, there’s a Green Machine! Wanna jack me for my bike? Look at all the witnesses!

There was a chill in the air that day. In fact, it was downright arctic outside. I had on a black windbreaker with the hood up and pulled a black toque on underneath. For some reason I also felt that black jeans and black converse runners were also necessary.

Looking downright shady, I stood by the corner looking for someone who I would hope would recognize the bike from the photos I’d sent. A few minutes after our scheduled meeting time I started to think I’d blown it. Why all black? Geez, I should have put on sunglasses and carried a big chain to complete the look.

Well, a few minutes later the cyclist who would end up purchasing my bike showed up. Everything went exceptionally easy. She took a quick test ride. I told her about my mother’s bike adventures (as this was obviously not my bicycle) and I heard about how her bicycle had been whisked away in the night by some heathen.

By the end of the summer I had sold two more bikes this way and was on the look out for friends and family looking to get rid of their old bikes. What a thrill this was. The buyers approached me with hesitation and yet I was always almost sick with worry that this would be the time I would be robbed at knife point.

So, got an old bike you want to get rid of? Make like thousands of Torontonians and sell it online. Here’s a few pointers to help you get started:

1) Be detailed and honest in your listing: List the size, make and model of the bike you are selling. Be honest about problems and as an added way to attract attention, state who you believe this bike would be good for, such as, “Perfect for a casual cyclist, under 5’8″ who doesn’t know anything about bike maintenance.”
2) Use a new or “junk” e-mail address: It was only my first listing that received a few spam replies. But, better safe to use a new, free address than risk your busy, personal inbox filling up with useless messages.
3) Meet in an open, public space: Buying or selling, meet near a busy road and near a bank machine, too.
4) Be willing to negotiate: I priced the bicycles I sold near what I was hoping to get for them. If someone wanted to negotiate, I was ready. You can always say, “No” and walk away from a transaction.
Sold a bicycle on Craigslist or any other online classifieds site? Share your stories in the Biking Toronto Forum.

How to Buy a Bicycle in Toronto Using Craigslist

I first moved to Toronto with a carbon fibre mountain bike in tow. I’d had the bike for years and it meant a lot to me (and well, it still does). I took my old faithful through the Don trails almost daily and discovered that riding around again was a blast.

But something was missing. I kept the bicycle in my room for fear of theft. I didn’t even buy a lock for it because I could never stand to leave the guy alone and rubbing up against some abrasive ring and post.

So, this was my problem. All this time on my hands to bike around, and well, I couldn’t even think of leaving my trusty steed alone for ten minutes.

I needed another bike, but without much income I had to get something cheap. I needed my first beater bike.

Craigslist is an online classifieds site that you’ve probably heard about. Job hunters, apartment renters, furniture buyers and those with a taste for more illicit “items” turn to Craigslist every day. And so my search began here.

First, I set my budget. $150 max.

Second, I decided on what I wanted. I already had a mountain bike, so anything with chubby tires was out. I’d never owned a road bike or “10 Speed” but I knew I wanted skinny tires, drop bars and a large frame.

A word of warning; searching through Craigslist ads can be an exercise in frustration.

“You want how much for that??” “C’mon, I could get that at Canadian Tire for half that price.”

Expect to skip over a lot of ads. But, searching is made easier using the built in search engine on the site. I find that simply scrolling through the ads after hitting “show images” is easy enough.

I found a few bicycles, with images that seemed like a fit. Many advertisers will list their phone number but most will allow you to contact them using an anonymous e-mail address.

My first contacts involve a short list of questions. Ask for further information if the seller hasn’t listed all of the measurements or components. As about any problems. And ask about when the best time to arrange to view bike will be, stating your own availability. This simply speeds up the process.

I immediately ruled out a few of the bikes I’d selected due to broken components, rust spots and general lack of further interest.

I arranged to meet one seller on a quiet Saturday afternoon. Personally, I prefer to meet in a public place where I can test out what I’m buying. Sellers know that you’re showing up with cash in hand, so to avoid becoming a victim of fraud or theft try to keep things in the open.

Partially ignoring my own advice I met this seller at his home. His daughter was playing in the back yard and he was fixing a few other bicycles on the lawn. We spoke briefly about the weather and he let me take the bike for a quick spin.

Having never bought a used bicycle before I missed a few things that could have made me walk away. I discovered this as the bike fell apart over the next few months as bolts rusted away or bent beyond repair. But, on a sunny afternoon with the wind in my hair, who could say no?

I regret not trying to haggle on the price. In fact, I’m pretty sure the seller was a little shocked when I said, “$150? Ok, I’ll take it.”

Of course, any how-to article is incomplete without an itemized list of tips, so here’s how to go about buying your own beater bike (or better bike) on Craigslist:

1) Don’t always trust what the seller claims: Is that bike really being sold for $1,000 a bike shops and he’s willing to part with it for just $120? I doubt it. Many sellers list the specs and brands of bikes so a quick Google search will save you the headache of showing up to view a marked down piece of junk.

2) Ask questions: Why are you getting rid of the bike? How long have you owned the bike? Have you had any problems with the bicycle? The more, the better. An honest seller will address your concerns and give you guidance. Someone who ignores your questions or refuses to answer doesn’t deserve your money, just walk away.

3) Be aware that scammers and thieves use Craigslist too: Never agree to meeting if you feel even the slightest bit suspicious. Set the terms yourself and inform someone you know where you are going. You don’t hear of many horror stories concerning bicycle buying, but better safe than sorry.

4) Be prepared to barter: Many sellers simply want to unload a bike that is taking up space and collecting dust. Be fair, be honest and simply ask for a price you feel comfortable paying.

5) Test your new ride: Take a quick spin, adjust the gears, squeeze the brakes hard and then inspect all of the parts. If you know what you’re doing and can fix parts, you’ll know what to look for. If not, check the areas where cables connect and look for fraying, spin the wheels to see if they are true and twist the front bars to see if they are tight. Bicycle repairs are needed whether you pay $100 or $10,000 for a bike, but looking for problems before they appear could save you money down the line and keep you safely riding for longer.

Have you bought a bicycle on Craigslist? Share your stories in the comments below.

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:

Sharrows, Bike Lanes and Shared Space on the Streets of Toronto

Toronto sharrow on Wellesley at Yonge
I remember back to when I was preparing to take my G-1 driver’s test. I stayed up really late the night before my exam studying the Ontario Driver’s Handbook. I treated this little book the same as one of my science or history texts. I looked for the possibility of trick questions and memorized the seemingly countless street signs while also trying to remember all of the rules.

After taking the short eye test and learning how tall I was I realized that the studying I had done was more than a little excessive. The rules of the road and the signs that dictate them are meant to be intuitive. You should be able to recognize the meaning of a sign with a little additional information and for the most part many people seem to be able to do just that.

While biking around Toronto over the past few years it is a pleasure to see more and more cycling-related signs and painted symbols along our city streets. But, are they enough?

The photo at the top of this page is a “sharrow” painted on Wellesley just west of Yonge and leads to a bike lane that is just beyond a delivery drop-off area.

I personally like sharrows and I believe they should be on most roads in the city. Sharrows inform cyclists that they are on a road with shared traffic. There are no exclusions to the rules and no segregation, to get along you have to go with the flow and you have to follow the rules. The chevrons point the way and even seem to demand that you notice them.

But, unlike many of the cycling-related signs on Toronto streets, sharrows are for both cyclists and motorists.

For motorists, sharrows ask that you give room to cyclists, that you must be aware of their presence and tell you to share the space you’re driving in.

While I appreciate bike lanes, and certainly want to see more of them in the city, I don’t feel they present a consistent message to the motorists and cyclists on Toronto’s streets. A bike lane can be perceived as something separate, something that has been “taken” from motorists and something many drivers feel they need to take back (or so it seems if you’ve been following the bike lane development along Annette and Dupont).

I find myself getting a little too comfortable in bike lanes, assuming that since I’m in my dedicated cycling space I’ll be safe from “door prizes” and unsignaled right turns. This false sense of security doesn’t promote safe cycling as much as I believe sharrows can.

On a recent trip to Vancouver Island I noticed that in many areas there is this focus on shared space. I often came across this sign:

Share the Road

It’s a simple sign. The graphic is clear, and the added instruction below leaves no room for misinterpretation.

What are your thoughts on sharrows and bike lanes?