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City of Toronto Transportation Grid: “Graph Paper” layout vs “Squiggly Grid”

City of Toronto Transportation Grid: "Graph Paper" layout is the

Over at Cat B’s VeloT.O. Blog, Cat put up an interesting article, Nice jacket Mr. Cherry
about the ranting Mayor and a hockey coach.

‘Nodders’ posted on this idea just after the October 25th 2010 election, 3,000 kms and Positioning the Toronto Cycling Community in a Non-Bike Friendly Environment.

The cycle community needs to project a united and coherent message out to the voters of the city to get what we all need; a city that moves, and moves safely.

It is important that we cyclists have the ears of the thoughtful voters of the city right now; a united, effective message.

Towards a better understanding here’s something I’ve been thinking about recently:

Unfortunately for cycling infrastructure planning there is not just one Toronto, there are two – the old and the new: The “Graph Paper” grid – the black box on the map – and the “Squiggly Grid”, which is everywhere else.

Planning Cycling Transportation Infrastructure: The Great Divide: The Graph Paper meets the Squiggly Grid

The Great Divide: The old Graph Paper Grid meets the new Squiggly Grid at Taylor Creek, East York near Dawes Road

As such, planning a cycling infrastructure that works needs to first understand what we’re dealing with so cyclists aren’t talking at cross purposes. The conversation needs to be based on the infrastructure as it is; and going forward how to make changes that are possible as per how cyclists and cars use these two very different kinds of traffic grids – differently.

In the core of the city the road grid is like a page of graph paper; it’s easy to find off-arterial streets that work as direct, convenient, safe Bikeways.

In my opinion, these side streets that can be chosen to be Bikeways need to be “Enabled” to attract cyclists off the main streets, which are extremely dangerous, and to make driving a car on them a pain in the ass (sort of exactly opposite to the way things are now). These Bikeways on the old grid need lights where they cross main streets (and timed for bikes where possible) bike centric governance like Yield signs instead of 4-Way stops, no speed bumps in the shoulders, and painted solid bikeway lanes – to name a few ideas.

Then there’s the newer transportation infrastructure that is characterized by a grid of wide, highway type roads, about 2 kilometres apart, lined with boxes of separated neighbourhoods with roads that are full of curly-cues, circles and culdesacs – and that exit onto the arterial roads only at a few places. Here in my opinion and off the top of my head, Bikeways need to be two-way separated bike only roads *beside* the sidewalk and separated from arterial traffic by a physical barrier. People who actually live in these areas may have different and better ideas on this.

What do you think?

Posted: December 12th, 2010
Filed under: Uncategorized
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16 Comments on “City of Toronto Transportation Grid: “Graph Paper” layout vs “Squiggly Grid””

  1. 1 michael holloway said at 11:03 am on December 12th, 2010:

    Thinking a little more on this – there are actually Three different grids. The ‘Core’ (clockwise around: Spadina, Bloor, Parliament) is another kettle of fish.

  2. 2 Cat B said at 12:44 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    I like these descriptions here – they make sense. I think the bike-highway type roads are more feasible in the burbs, where there is more space… your ideas for channeling cyclists and drivers to different networks are really great. This kind of talk could also help diffuse the so-called war on cars, since it acknowledges the stress drivers face when sharing the road with a cyclist AND provides a possible (and safer!) solution for sharing nicely.

  3. 3 michael holloway said at 1:03 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    Well Thank You Cat B,

    I’m glad, you seem to have picked up on all the ideas I was trying to get across.

    Are you Graph Paper, or a Squiggly cyclist?

  4. 4 lock said at 2:18 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    If I were King of Toronto I’d start building these over all our major roads:

    …`cept enclosed for Canadian weather/ winters. `Cause bike traffic is so lightweight it would be relatively cheap to construct and as a bonus would reduce road snow clearing costs…


  5. 5 michael holloway said at 2:32 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    Beautiful photo.

    These would work well in the outlying new squiggly grids?

    As a former carpenter I say YES! lets get on with it. The roofs could be solar panels to light the Bikeway at night, and feed the grid in the day.

    In the winter, self cycling miniature thermal tubes under a polymer road surface could melt wind blown snow and ice on sunny days.

    OK now I’m getting carried away; I love design.

  6. 6 lock said at 2:51 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    Glad you like :)
    Not sure about snow-covered solar panels, but anywhooo…

    When ya think about it the City already plants poles along the roads to support hydro/phone/cable wires, street lights, signs, etc.

    So elevated cycleways could replace a lot of these costs as well.

    In other words they could be built for free(?) by taking the funds from other budgets for snow clearing and other infrastructure.

    I like the idea of wood at least for the decking. Enclosed it wood last for decades without needing resurfacing.


  7. 7 michael holloway said at 3:15 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    I wood say those are good ideas.

    Shade for grid locked commuters as well.

  8. 8 lock said at 3:22 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    It wood make cycling year-round more possible for more riders, make longer commutes possible for more folks, make more folks feel they can get around safer on two wheels… The numbers of accidents and injuries would be reduced (as seen anywhere that has truly separate bike lanes and paths…)

    With elevated cycleways the city would only need to plant more poles alongside the roads. No significant mucking about with existing roads and sidewalks…

  9. 9 lock said at 3:38 pm on December 13th, 2010:


    First scheduled meeting for the Citys Parks and Environment Committee is January 28. I’m gonna submit a presentation. Wish me luck.

  10. 10 michael holloway said at 3:47 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    Or digging canyons for subways.

    I’m in favour of massive green renewal and recovery spending on public transit; but enabling cycling transportation is a better way for sooo many reasons – very importantly as a cost benefit, in physical health – but also in mental health – the existential. Like the way Freeway type street disable communities, and cycling infrastructure empowers individuals and builds, and links communities.

    The 8.15 Billion coming from the Province over the next ten years wood plant a lot of poles.

  11. 11 michael holloway said at 3:52 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    Good Luck.

    On elevated Bikeways?

  12. 12 Todd Tyrtle said at 4:00 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    I’ve always dreamed of elevated bikeways and one person even drew up some sketches of the nice enclosed ones you were thinking of (

    The only thing I don’t like about that idea is that it makes it just that much more difficult to stop and enjoy the city. As it is now, if I see something interesting I pull over, lock up the bike and check it out. This is one of the big arguments in favour of bike infrastructure downtown. Put it somewhere where you have to ride a half a block or more to get to an exit and folks might not stop – if they even see the reason to stop at all.

    I *do* like the idea of using them as expressways, though – a bit wider than in the picture. The Ride for Heart showed me just how quickly I can get from the suburbs to downtown if I have a smooth path with no stoplights or pedestrians in the middle of a multi-use path. It was astonishingly fast – and I’m not a particularly speedy rider.

  13. 13 lock said at 4:28 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    That’s for that Todd! Direct link to the Velo-City site:

    Here’s a little bio on the architect:

    What Chris maybe failed to do is round out his concept with a financing plan… how to pay for this. I’ll write him. See if he wants to modify his concept a bit for a pitch to the City in January.

    The city spent $250,000 back in the day for the construction of the pedestrian bridge from the lakeshore to lower Parkdale…

  14. 14 michael holloway said at 4:35 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    Great link. BLDG BLOG is a big favourite.

    Good point on the Bikeway elevated expressways NOT building communities.

    Unfortunately we have to work with-in an existing and very dominant transportation meme. In a perfect world my city would look like this:


    A less revolutionary plan would be to use exiting railway corridors; separating bikeways from the trains with acoustic barriers, tunnels would need to be built where streets go over tracks, and special cycling bridges where tracks go over streets – but the railway bridge is too narrow to accommodate a Bikeway…

  15. 15 lock said at 5:19 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    Message from the Velo-City architect:

    Hi Lock,

    That would be cheaper but a lot harder to achieve due to the complexity of our city streets. It’s hard enough to get a bike lane on a city street due to the politics. Try working with hydro, bell, works, BIA’s etc… it’s a nightmare.

    There is one group in Rochester trying to do a cheap version where they build a roof for an existing off-road bike trail that goes along a river between the two universities. Haven’t heard from them for awhile.

    The new mayor supports off road bike lanes. Maybe it’s time to pitch velo-city again. It really is a suburban solution. Designed like a highway for cross-city commuting. And once you build it the maintenance costs are lower than any other system. Ford should love it.


  16. 16 michael holloway said at 7:13 pm on December 13th, 2010:

    I searched around a bit on my suggestion of using abandoned rail corridors and ones in use currently to double as Bikeways.

    David Pritchard has a map up at Google showing all the rail lines in the city:

    (Via his website:

    But this is too small a vision. What we’re talking about here, I think, is a cycling transportation plan much like the planning that happens around mass transit – planning that ends up moving millions of people/day. An economic foundation stone of the city and the country. A grand vision like the Central Waterfront Revitalization. (

    The problem is daunting and needs to be attacked step by step.

    First, I think we need a “Bikeways Summit” of planners, architects, engineers, mappers and cyclists from all walks of life.

    At this Summit people would develop a set of fundamental understandings that will guide the process of the development of a city wide, effective, safe, viable Bikeway Network.

    This set of understandings would then be put to work in the next step; the production of a blue print, the bricks and mortar requirements of such a Bikeway Network. Variously skilled people will work on real world problems at a local level to find solutions by any vision they can imagine, towards getting to where we want to be: to present to the commons a city wide, effective, safe, viable Bikeway Network that can move millions of people.

    This grand vision will then act to as a catalyst for all progressive who see the need to re-new transportation with a sustainable model. These advocates now united with one voice will lobby effectively in the political realm to fund the vision.


    Should have a vote in front of Council by March, eh what?


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