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


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:


  1. That is so confusing! I bike and know what a bike box is and yet I would still be tripped up with these markings. There is no way a motorist will understand the difference between this and sharrows.

  2. The city should paint the box itself green or blue, or something to alert drivers that it’s really different from what they’ve seen before or been trained to identify. Also, a small PR blitz (newspaper ads, tv news spot) wouldn’t have hurt, either.

  3. Looking at other cities with bike boxes, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle, the use of both bright paint and public education campaigns go hand in hand. Here’s a video of the Portland bike boxes. Here’s a video of the San Francisco bike box (paired with a left side bike lane). And here’s the Seattle Department of Transportation explaining their bike boxes.

  4. jamesschwartz says:

    Duncan, you state in the article that bike boxes are to allow cyclists faster/safer left turns. I’m not sure how bike boxes are being implemented in Toronto, but historically, they are not for turning left – they are to allow cyclists to proceed straight through an intersection while allowing cyclists to be visible to drivers and to avoid getting “squeezed” at an intersection.

    There may be situations where bike boxes can facilitate left turns (Dupont and Davenport or College and St. George), but that isn’t their primary purpose. In fact, I don’t know how the left turn would work on College and St. George anyway without an advance green for bicycles only (cars aren’t allowed to turn left there during rush hour).

    In my experience in riding around the city, I would say the best place to implement a bike box would be at Queens Quay and Spadina. Riding a bicycle through this intersection (heading west) almost always causes you to get squeezed by automobiles (if you don’t take the lane). If you take the lane, drivers get pissed, if you don’t take the lane, you get squeezed. Bike boxes would position cyclists in front of automobiles to prevent this type of conflict.

    For left turns, I would prefer the Dutch left-turns which are basically equivalent to riding into the pedestrian crossing zone on the right to avoid having to merge with multiple lanes of automobile traffic (except there is a designated area for cyclists to go that is separated from the pedestrian crossing).

    On busy streets like College at St. George, I almost always do a pedestrian crossing – it’s much safer than blocking the left lane of traffic and crossing 2 lanes of oncoming traffic. So even if there were a bike box, I still wouldn’t use it for left turns unless there was a left turn signal for bikes – which I know Toronto wouldn’t be willing to install in our current political climate.

  5. Because our city is still getting it’s head around bicycles becoming a more viable option of travel, and drivers are still taking up space that needs to be used by cyclists, I always do pedestrian crossing at intersections, especially busy ones. Too many times I’ve been squeezed on the street, and not even taking a turn, and most recently by the busses on detour on Beverley. Safety is important and although pedestrians sometimes get annoyed, I’d much prefer that than to have an injury by a vehicle.

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