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Rob Ford has a point in “CYCLISTS ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS…” speech – Let’s break it down

On May 25 2009 Rob Ford made a speech about Bike Lanes. The spectacle media and knee jerk liberals reacted to the use of the word “ass” and laughed at the idea of widening sidewalks and separating Bikes from the highway like arterial roads in the “519″, wards in the City of Toronto – the regions of the city that have what I’m calling, a “Squiggly Grid” – which are all the suburban planning built after the second world war as part of the Interstate Highway System in America, which was mirrored here in Canada.

Youtube user HOOFandCYCLE posted a video on September 25, 2010 called “ROB FORD – ‘CYCLISTS ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS…’“, which I have edited and uploaded portions of for this article.
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Here’s the part of the speech where he lays out his vision – which I think is a good one…

“… We have boulevards in Etobicoke, green, that are 4 or 5 yards wide” he says, “if we have to take some of the green space, widen the sidewalk and have a bike only lane, it will work…”

I’ve been out there in suburbia a couple of times. Once over in Scarborough, I biked up this huge wide three-lane-each-way road (McCowan Road?) with a centre turning lane. The houses backed onto the road in those curly cue culdesacs on each side of the road. I didn’t feel safe out there.

I think, like on the 400 series of highways, bikes should not be allowed on these roads – they are not built for us, they are highways with stoplights on them – damn straight. The traffic laws concerning bikes on these neighbourhood freeways enable a collective denial that allow us to bury our heads in the sand to the fact that these are dangerous killer roads running through neighbourhoods full of children and people who would chose cycling if it were any kind of option at all. The non-exclusion of cyclists perpetrates a myth that this transportation framework is not at fault for dividing communities and the individuals with-in communities, one from another.

McCowan Road south of Ellsmere Road at Brimorton Drive - looking South --- Can we agree that City of Toronto needs to appropriate a metre or so of yard space along arterial roads for Bikeways?

This stretch of McCowan is a good example of what Mayor Ford is thinking. I imagine a wider boulevard and a two way Bikeway on the side closest to the street in this case, and the sidewalk over by the fences (a Bikeway should be wide enough in one direction to pass another cyclist, about 3 metres wide, so X2, 6 metres wide for a two way Bikeway). The city would have to appropriate about 2 metres for yard from every rate payer along here and could offer planting hedges in place of fences which are great sound barriers, help reduce green house gases and trees process the highly toxic heavy elements in car exhaust really effectively. Of coarse safety is probably a factor in the fencing as well as noise pollution – but the Bikeway also addresses boththose issues – more bikes equals less automobile traffic volume – and non-vehicular traffic is a neighbourhood watch program with out any meetings.

That done people would begin opening up their back yards to access the infrastructure, and it would look a whole lot nicer pretty quickly.

..to be continued…

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Addendum

Looking at maps of suburbia in the writing of this article I discovered another new way to get commuting cyclists through the Squiggly Grid (see comments at City of Toronto Transportation Grid: “Graph Paper” layout vs “Squiggly Grid”), Hydro Corridors! – like this one in Scarborough – that runs from the Don Valley at Eglinton Avenue to Pickering’s Brock Road.

I also made a map of my Bicycle-Freeway Vision called “Pickering to Don Valley Bikeway“.
(http://goo.gl/maps/KSVb)

Here’s an Image (links to Google Map for a closer look).

mh



Posted: December 16th, 2010
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7 Comments on “Rob Ford has a point in “CYCLISTS ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS…” speech – Let’s break it down”

  1. 1 Todd Tyrtle said at 9:29 pm on December 16th, 2010:

    The Finch and Gatineau hydro corridors are, if I recall correctly, meant to be multi-use trails soon as stimulus projects. Now, digging through google I see at least Finch was supposed to be made this year. So who knows.

    As for the widened sidewalks: I’ve been saying this for years: Since ’07 I have been taking Dufferin from Finch to Steeles and there is no way I will do it on the road during rush hour. On the other hand there’s a huge empty sidewalk, unbroken for the most part even by driveways and mostly pedestrian free. But the point I kept pushing about this street is that there is a wide sidewalk, separated from the road by a wide bit of grass and then more grass on the other side. There is *no* reason this couldn’t be a physically separated bike lane which could then connect up to Vaughan’s Dufferin bike lane. And this isn’t the only street of its kind. The suburbs are filled with arterials just like this that could be upgraded to have bike lanes with *zero* impact on traffic. I’m not sure why this isn’t happening…

  2. 2 michael holloway said at 12:54 am on December 17th, 2010:

    Nice stuff Todd,

    Good to hear from someone who has more experience on the Squiggly Grid than I do.

    Good to hear about the stimulus spending.

    The key I think, is a vision of long commutes, not these squiggly bike trails for bird watchers – that’s not a transportation grid – I hope the planners are becoming aware of this.

    Keys: straight, direct, flat.

    Next thing I’m thinking about is how to connect this proposed Bikeway to the core. Down the Don Valley Bike Trail is good if your going all the way to the Lake Shore Boulevard connection to the Martin Goodman Trail, the rise out of the valley there is zero, but not so good for getting out of the valley anywhere further up stream.

    But the great thing in this example is that the Hydro corridor gets one all the way to the “Graph Paper Grid” – so there the inner city type Bikeways (yet to be realized) can take over there.

  3. 3 michael holloway said at 1:09 am on December 17th, 2010:

    Finch and Gatineau hydro corridors: City Of Toronto Major Multi-Use Trail Network map:
    http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/rinc_projects/pdf/rinc_map-projects.pdf

    Projects index: New and upgraded Multi-Use Trails:
    http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/rinc_projects/index.htm

    Still with the Trails… :(

  4. 4 Todd Tyrtle said at 6:57 am on December 17th, 2010:

    As a commuting ‘artery’, I found the Don Valley Trail to be pretty poor. When I lived on the East End I would sometimes take it from Cummer down – one time all the way to Thorncliffe Park. What I found is that multi-use trails are really not good for commuting. With families meandering 3-4 abreast and sometimes huge crowds in places like Edwards Gardens, at times you are confined to walking speeds in order to be safe. And even on the less popular parts of the trail the likelihood of coming around a corner to find a toddler wobbling down the middle of the path is such that one’s average speed needs to be really low. In future trips I found that going from Cummer down to York Mills was a better bet. I got to use a car-free tunnel under the 401 (one of only *two* in the city) and the quieter parts of the trail but then switched to Don Mills Rd. which was much quicker.

    In Quebec City I often saw this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ttyrtle/2459708649/ – the trail you see there is bikes-only. Pedestrians have a separate trail (which if you zoom in you can see on the left – sadly at this point due to spring flooding it was underwater). It made a HUGE difference.

  5. 5 michael holloway said at 6:39 pm on December 17th, 2010:

    I had the same experience with multi-use trails. The Martin Goodman Trail through Ashbridges Bay Park for example; there is the Trail, and there is the boardwalk; on a sunny afternoon in the summer pedestrians use both and there are children running everywhere – it is after all, a park!

    Pedestrian flow is north/south from Lake Shore right to the waters edge. It is not a commute Bikeway – that needs to be on Queen. My work-around map of the route with the assistance of Google’s new “Bicycling Directions” feature — http://goo.gl/maps/LFAH — .

    I had an idea while thinking about the Mayors ‘wider sidewalks idea’ – to keep pedestrians off Bikeways planners need to include a Curb. To pedestrians a curb is an icon that means you’re stepping into danger; there MUST be a curb (at least) between Bike paths and sidewalks (or walking trail) but that doesn’t solve the children problem they haven’t learned the curb icon meaning yet and they are the smallest of us – so Bikeway’s must have a physical barrier, something you have to step over, you cant ‘wander’ into it.

    I made the work around route using the new “Get Directions – Bicycling” feature in Google Maps. Just discovered you can adjust the suggested route and then get a link for your new route. No embed yet, but you can save it in the “My Maps” feature.

  6. 6 Michael Smart said at 7:49 pm on December 19th, 2010:

    The Gatineau corridor could be useful for cyclists whenever it’s done (looks well behind schedule to me). Multiuse isn’t ideal but I’d be surprised if conflicts with pedestrians would be much of a problem along there. Too bad it ends at Vic Park. If they took it down into the Don Valley you could connect to Overlea, Millwood, and so to midtown Toronto. The valley walls are not particularly steep at that point. (But there’s the Don River and a private golf course in the way.)

    By the way, the bikes-only path on the north side of Lake Shore, which is pretty awesome, extends all the way east to Coxwell, how come you don’t go that way?

  7. 7 michael holloway said at 8:27 pm on December 19th, 2010:

    Michael,

    Thanks for pointing that out, I just changed the map to go down Northern Dancer Boulevard – which I see is also connected to the north side Bikeway. You could also take Boardwalk Drive via Rainsford Rd. – which swings around to N-D Blvd.

    I see there is a proposal to extend the Gatineau corridor Trail to the Valley. Seems to me like a very necessary addition to the plan – all that existing infrastructure is already there.

    A golf club eh? I just looked closely at that and there appears to be a road to the railway tracks and so we can build a tunnel under that and a bridge over the river… and I see there is no bicycling infrastructure at all around there until you get down to Taylor Creek! We’ve got a lot of work to do.

    It’s quite likely I think that all these trails in the valley were put in with “bird watching” in mind; a whole lot of money is going to have to be invested in straight, flat, safe routes.


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