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Google Maps’ crowd sourcing helps highlight cycling infrastructure need

Cycle Route: Leslieville to The Annex (Bathurst South of Bloor)

Google Maps’ crowd sourcing of preferred bicycle routes indicates that East-West bicycle commuters are using the Queens Park’s North Lawn walking trails to connect Harbord/Hoskin to Wellesley. At a minimum – painted lines are needed to indicate a cycle-way in order prevent collisions with pedestrians, and encourage more bicycle commuting.  As well, Hoskin Av and Queen’s Park Crescent West intersection needs separated bicycle crossing ways and signals – and automobile traffic signals set so cyclists have right of way over turning traffic on both East and West bound routes.

Google Maps Toronto, ‘Bicycling directions’ has been sourcing user’s opinions about best cycling routes in Toronto for about a year and a half (since 29 Nov 2010).

To test the quality of Google Map’s Bicycling Directions today, I clicked on “Get Directions” and typed in a destination I wanted to get to yesterday; I then rode the suggested route.

Starting at my default Google Map start point, 43.666°n, 79.3345°w (118 Jones Av. Jones Branch, Toronto Public Library), I typed in my destination: “Centre for Social Innovation 720 Bathurst St Toronto, ON M5S 2R4″, and clicked the Bicycle Icon.

This top map here is the route Google chose. It’s a really nice route! I’m very impressed!

View Google’s Route: Leslieville to Annex in a larger map

To illustrate just how well Google Maps’ crowd sourcing is working; the other day I took a Wellesley Street route over to St. George for a meeting at OISIE (at Bedford Road and Bloor) at 4:30pm. On the way I noticed that the North Lawn walking path that angles from Harbord down to Wellesley was very busy with East / West bicycle commuters. Google Maps’ Bicycling directions includes it.

This even though, anyone who has been to the Hoskin Av and Queen’s Park Crescent West on a bicycle knows cyclists have to dismount and use the crosswalks to cross Queen’s Park Crescent West, and then the ‘off ramp’ exit onto Hoskin Av West bound. East bound commuters must also dismount at the corner, cross with the lights onto the raised median and then wait for crosswalk signal lights to change across Queen’s Park Crescent West. (Attention: City of Toronto, City Planning Office, and the Toronto Cycling Committee) This intersection needs bicycle lanes and crossing signals separate from the pedestrian infrastructure. This needs to be accomplished for both East bound, and West bound routes.

Google crowd sources better cycling routes in ‘Bicycling directions’ by allowing users to drag and drop points along a searched Google route.

Below is my drag and drop edited Google ‘Bicycle directions’ route; I only had to make two changes.

View Cycle Route: Leslieville to The Annex – Bathurst South of Bloor in a larger map

Google’s Bicycle directions for this route has a neat detail that I would only use as a recreational option – not a commute route. Google’s crowd sourced route (top map) suggests, from River Street and Gerrard, a jog West on Gerrard to Dyer Lane, up to Spruce Street, and a jog East to a series of trails and alley ways along the western rim of Riverdale Park West – then along a walking trail in the park to the West of Riverdale Farm that shoots diagonally across the park to Sumach at Winchester Street, two blocks south of Wellesley.

On a commute west, I suggest West on Gerrard to Sumach, and straight up Sumach to Wellesley.

The second change that Google allowed me (Google won’t let you change cycling routes that contravene One Way traffic laws),  I choose Borden north off Harbord, up to Lennox, over to Bathurst —  to avoid Bathurst up from Harbord – Bathurst is a death trap, from the Lake to North York.

(Attention: City of Toronto, City Planning Office, and the Toronto Cycling Committee) -  Actually, I take St. Huron Street North off Harbord, Westbound on Sussex all the way West to Borden.

At Spadina and Sussex the light only changes via a weight pad at the intersection that senses a car is stopped and that commits the signals to begin a change cycle. The weight of a bicycle and rider does not cause the change cycle.

West of Spadina this perfect bicycle route is ruined by a reverse One Way between Robert and Major (*for traffic calming!*).

At the end of Sussex, I jog North up Borden to Lennox, then take Lennox West to Bathurst – 720 Bathurst is 50 metres South of Lennox.

Below is My map, with all the wrong-way-one-ways that City Planning Office should be aware, encorage cyclists onto busy arterial roads – where people in cars with road-rage problems can expand on their cyclist murder fantasies twice a day.

These alternating One Ways, so called Traffic Calming Zones should be signed ‘Two Way Cycle Route’ and a two way bicycle lane should be painted on one side of the road. The 4-way stops common along these routes should be signed ‘Yield to Cyclists’.

View My Cycle Route: Leslieville to The Annex – Bathurst South of Bloor in a larger map


Google is also making adjustments to suggested cycle routes through a user feedback Form. Under the “Get Directions” widget in all routes searches there is a short blurb in a yellow background:

Bicycling directions are in beta.
Use caution and please report unmapped bike routes, streets that aren’t suited for cycling, and other problems here.

In Google Maps, click “here” to use the Form.
( for details about what you can report about with the Form see image below).

Google_Maps _Form_-_Report_a_problem_with_the_directions

Image of Google Maps Form: "Report a problem with the directions"








Posted: July 11th, 2012
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Separated cycling infrastructure key to reaching a future we all want

The video embedded below describes “How the Dutch got their cycle paths“. Key was a rapid increase in the cost of energy – mirroring in a large part, today’s economic crisis.

In the early 1970′s the formation of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) caused a spike in oil prices. In the Netherlands, that lead to a government policy that encouraged cycling transportation. 40 years later the result is an extrodinary decrease in traffic death and injury, shorter average commute distances, and a rise in the quality of life an entire nation.

Today “Peak Oil” and/or the rise of Finance as an dominant sector of the economy, has lead to increased speculation in oil – and has again caused a spike in the price of energy. The same problems as the Netherlands solved through diversifying their transportation planning approach, now offers an example for North America today.

Along with this excellent lesson from a very recent implementation, are the understandings amoungst Urban Planners of the “New Urbanism” school – that cities have reached their peak holding capacity for automobile traffic; and a understanding by climate scientists – that we must reduce carbon emissions going froward or face extreme economic and political hardship in the near future … all pointing that progress lays in this direction.

Some great lessons also in the video for political tactics that might work today – towards beginning a great  project to create separated bicycling infrastructure that is key to reaching the critical mass of commuters that do not use the automobile — in order to result in the quality of live improvement we all – including Mayor Ford – desire.

The project to create connected, separated cycling infrastructure from the suburbs to the cities core would be a generational project that will require an investment of Billions. It would be an investment in the future; a way to jump start the economy today; and a way to pull away from the dead-end economic policies that are leading to less public spending at a time when we must re-new our countries aging, great cities.

Here’s the description – with links intact – from under the video:


Uploaded by  - Oct 9, 2011

The Netherlands is well known for its excellent cycling infrastructure. How did the Dutch get this network of bicycle paths?
Read more:…
Click CC for subtitles in Chinese, Czech, Dutch, English, French, Greek, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish or Turkish.

If you also want to contribute with subtitles in your language please send me a message with your e-mail address, so I can send you the original text file to work with.

“How the Dutch got their cycle paths”




Posted: July 2nd, 2012
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