Behind the table as I walked in sat a smiling PR receptionist who welcomed me and asked me if I would like to fill out the sign-in form.
The first thing you see when you take in the windowless 1,000 square foot rectangular studio space are 12 easels supporting large architects’ top-elevation drawings and artists’ landscape perspectives. In the middle of the room was a table full of really sweet treats and single serving bottles of spring water and coloured ones that look like they might have fruit in them. Situated on the opposite wall from the easels is a table with feedback forms to fill out after your tour.
This was the Open House at Revival 629 – a public pre-presentation of a proposed ‘mixed-use facility’ development dubbbed “StudioCentre” — brought to you by “SmartCentres”, the same corporation that tried unsuccessfully 5 years back to develop this parcel of land into a Big Box Store / Big Parking Lot retail extravaganza anchored by a Wall Mart.
I was guided through the easels by Ornella Richichi, Senior Vice President of Land Development for SmartCentres, the person in charge of this entire development, who told us that the entire plan – as far as land use and building heights – falls completely with-in City of Toronto planning guidelines for this area – which is – it is important to note, with-in ‘The Port Lands Development’, being overseen by WaterFront Toronto.
Later on – in the company of Health Promoter at South Riverdale CHC, landscape architect and urban designer, Paul Young – had a good listen to – and discussion with – City of Toronto Senior Planner Kyle Knoeck – who was there to give City Planning’s perspective.
The last time around the developers plan for this site created a broad based public backlash that changed City of Toronto development law and planning criteria – and created a strong community movement that has lead to much good development in the neighbourhood, and in the city in the years hence.
This Open House was a ‘pre-submission, community feedback presentation’; in other words, this development plan has not yet been submitted to the City of Toronto Planning Department. If SmartCentres does submit this plan to the City, the regular public consultation process will then kick in. It seems this pre-submission public consolation is part of an extra-careful process being pursued this time by SmartCentres.
Good news is:
By the incorporation into this plan of many of the ideas central to Jane Jacobs’ and the New Urbanism Architects’ ‘Living City’ model (much of which, I should note, is also official City of Toronto Policy) – I believe SmartCentres has started this conversation from a fundamentally different starting point than that of their last attempt at developing this site.
Of coarse the journey from drawings to community rarely reflects even the most un-utopian, architects’ vision.
The 9 story Office Tower, the adjacent Hotel, and a Loblaws sized building proposed for the South and South-East of the site will pull customers in cars from Lake Shore Blvd.
Three streets cross the Lower Don Recreation Trail now along this development. 15,235 square metres retail space, plus 44,795 square metres (of existing) studio and (new) office space – means 60,030 square metres of leases will pull a lot more car traffic across the Lower Don Recreation Trail. The plan does have a Bike Track inked in along the east side of the development – that connects the Eastern Avenue Bike Lanes to the Lower Don Recreation Trail – but with the East West usability of the Trail being so impacted by increased flows across it … one wonders if anyone will be taking the track down to the Lower Don Recreation Trail anyway.
The wider picture has to be taken into account as we continue forth in the Port Lands Development.
How does the Bike Lane in these drawings fit into the grander vision for a sustainable transportation network for the entire Portlands?
How will that network connect to the rest of the city – East North and West?
How do we move people North and South from where they live, down to the Port Lands where they may play or work or connect?
How are we going to move people on their East / West commutes to work and back?
I like this development proposal over-all —as a pixel in the picture — but the North / South bicycle network is not made much better in this early vision; and the East / West bicycle network is considerably harmed by it.
About a year after the Ford Administration started taking out bike lanes, I came upon a style of bicycle riding called, ‘taking the primary position in the traffic lane’; taking the middle-left of the right lane of a major arterial street — *whenever it does not hinder the speed of traffic at that time and place* (Ontario Highway Traffic Act – S.147).
(Primary Position is, far enough from the curb that a car must change lanes to make a 1 metre (legal) pass on my left – and close enough to the curb that a car cannot pass safely to my right [amazing to me, this overtake on the right is a legal move! Ontario Highway Traffic Act - S.150.1 allows the driver of a motor vehicle to "pass to the right of another vehicle only where the movement can be made in safety..."])
In practice riding in the primary position such that it “..does not hinder the speed of traffic at that time and place…” – means – when there is enough space between cars and the speed of traffic is such that a driver behind me can: come to the realization that I’m taking the lane; look behind them to see if is safe to make a lane change; make the lane change; and pass me – without appreciably slowing their speed.
So there is a metric that every cyclist who wishes to ride like this will have to come to understand through experience. That metric pivots around traffic volumes (which determines average traffic speed) – combined with that individual cyclists’ normal average speed.
I’ve found that only during a brief period at the beginning and at the end of the rush hours is there a combination of too much volume and too high an average car speed that a cyclist cannot safely – and legally – take the primary position.
For example: In the morning rush (7am-8am) along Queen Street East – between Leslie Street and Jimmy Simpson Park (the CN train tracks overpass) cars usually maintain speeds of around 40km/h and traffic volumes are almost bumper to bumper (drivers aren’t leaving a safe distance between themselves and the car ahead). With conditions like this you CANNOT take the primary position – you will slow traffic and likely end up either getting hit, or getting into a raging fist-fight with a motorist at a stop light.
But at a certain point in the morning rush the volume of cars on Queen reaches a point where average speeds plummet – it’s stop and go – waves of slow moving traffic ‘pulse’ down the street towards the core – in these conditions it is advisable to take the primary position. It’s the safeest way to ride in this kind of congested traffic.
To be clear, I’m not doing this to spite anyone – or to ‘war against the car’ — I’m simply trying to keep myself as safe as possible within the law. I’m sharing the road in a way that is safe for me and also at the same time not producing an intolerable hindrance to other road users progress..
Once you try it you’ll realize it’s just logical, it is a natural form – it ‘feels’ right.
One problem with it is that many drivers have neurotic knee jerk reaction as part of their driving style that can lead to horn blasting – that if they simply changed lanes – they wouldn’t have time for. I began to ride like this in the spring of 2012 – my first horn from behind came four weeks later! It worked very well. I felt very safe out there in the middle-left of the lane – and surprisingly to me, the vast majority of drivers understood the metric right away – they saw me as a slower moving vehicle and did the natural thing – they simply changed lanes and passed me.
Early adopters of this style will bear a brunt of ignorance as motorists get used to seeing us in the middle of the lane (your welcome). That means those amoung us who are dark and negative to begin with, with use the inovative cyclists’ aberrant behaviour as a medium to get the twisted blackness out of themselves – and try to ruin your day with lots of horn blasting and animated rage (let it flow off your back – it is of no concern to you).
So now two years in, I’ve come up with just one ‘best practice’ for this style of riding – beyond what I’ve described above:
Now that you are a vehicle – just like any other vehicle driving in your lane – you must Que up at stop-lights behind the last car in the right lane. Stay in the primary position and put your foot down. Sneaking up the side of stopped cars defeats everything you’ve accomplished by taking the primary position – and it causes a great deal of confusion when you try to merge with the traffic flow after the light changes to green.
By the deafening silence at the Facebook thread where I published a version of this yesterday – I assume that most cycling advocates think I’m absolutely nuts … and that if they just ignore the post I’ll realize that I was in error – out on the radical edges of transportation theory – and recant my position.
But as I wrote above – once you start this style of riding you’ll realize it is the most natural form. It’s logical – and it ‘feels’ right.
I know I’m right on this and will continue to practice this form and advocate for it’s adoption by others.
If we continue to allow ourselves to be cowed over to the edge of the road we will never get the safe, separated infrastructure we need – especially for the less aplomb riders who are the vast majority of commuters too afraid to commute by bike on our streets.
Take your lane! And perhaps this will lead to separated infrastructure.
New York Cities, “Transportation Alternatives, the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group, is bracing for a new administration less friendly to the agenda it has pushed for decades.”
New York Times | For Bike Advocates, Delayed Gratification
Commissioner of NYC Transportation on Sustainable Transportation implementation
Janette Sadik-Khan, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, in not an architect (B.A. in Political Science from Occidental College, and a law degree from Columbia University School of Law) – but she is implementing transportation infrastructure changes that are part of a New Urbanist inspired vision of what cities are at their essence: people and neighbourhoods.
Jane Jacobs began thinking about cities as neighbourhoods of people in the 1950′s – when most urban planners were allowing latest technology to drive the planning process — rather than as Jane Jacobs postulated: create infrastructure, and apply technology to support what people who live and work in neighbourhoods are doing. Communities of People as ‘drivers’ of planning.
“[Jane Jacobs] .. was instrumental in the eventual cancellation of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, and after moving to Canada in 1968, equally influential in cancelling the Spadina Expressway and the associated network of expressways in Toronto planned and under construction.
Wikipedia | Jane Jacobs
Janette Sadik-Khan gave the Eighth Annual Lewis Mumford Lecture on Urbanism this spring (April 5, 2012) at The City College of New York at the The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture. Janette Sadik-Khan’s lecture marks a full circle, the administrator applying an ‘outsider’ theory. The person who gave the first Lewis Mumford Lecture on Urbanism was Jane Jacobs – in 2004 – who when she wrote her great work, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” (1961) was a radical to say the least.
The Eighth Annual Lewis Mumford Lecture on Urbanism “Janette Sadik-Khan: It’s Not Impossible To Change A City”
April 5, 2012, City College of New York http://www.totalwebcasting.com/view/?id=ccnyssa- begins at 11:40 (best experience: click ‘Menu’ Tab, click “2012 Mumford…”; then on ‘Slide’ tab – to see the slide presentation that goes with Ms. Sadik-Khan‘s talk)
Great question in the Q and A section, where an individuaal asks if she has ant ideas about creating safe spces for political protest – referencing with out saying it, Occupy Wall Street. The way she side steps the question, while not being antagonistic to the idea, was to say essentially, ‘ it’s not my department’. The question and the answer for me, brought to the fore the idea that what is needed is an Infrastructure Czar (currently the Mayor) – to institute a comprehensive plan – a mirror of the Sustainable Cities meme itself.
Janette Sadik-Khan on Sustainability:
Janette Sadik-Khan, New York’s Sustainable Streets – Part 1 (at “The City of New York. reSITE conference” – 5/24/2012 – Prague Czech Republic)
New York Times | N.Y. / Region | August 10, 2012 | For Bike Advocates, Delayed Gratification | by J. David Goodman | http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/nyregion/for-new-york-bike-advocates-delayed-gratification.html
See VIDEO below, “TEDxCarlton – Gil Penalosa – Creating 8-80 Cities, from thinking to doing” – in this writers opinion, the point of the recommendations in this Coroner’s Report is to arrive at something close to what Gil Penalosa lays out in this TedXCarlton Talk.
The motto of the Coroner is to ‘Speak for the Dead to Protect the Living’.
It is difficult therefore to pick out the positive elements in this report – that is by necessity – about 129 deaths of cyclists over the period – it’s a statistical break down of those who died: children out playing; adults riding casually; groups of cyclists hit by a car; commuters dying on the way to work – what time of day they died, what caused their deaths… .
So of coarse the second part of the coroners motto, ‘to protect the living‘, is where the hope is – and the hope is a vision that the recommendations try to capsulize – and in this cycling advocate’s opinion, they are very good recommendations; and a very good vision. It’s not new; it’s the New Urbanism school; it’s the Complete Streets meme; it’s Sustainable Transportation; it’s Livable Cities.
Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario:
Cycling Death Review A Review of All Accidental Cycling Deaths in Ontario from January 1st, 2006 to December 31st, 2010
Dan Cass BSc, MD, FRCPC
Deputy Chief Coroner – Investigations
Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario
Chair, Cycling Death Review
Team: Dr. Dan Cass as Chair, Dr. Bert Lauwers, Dr. Nav Persaud, Ms. Dorothy Zwolakowski and Ms. Emily Coleman
Published: June 2012
• Adoption of a “complete streets” approach – focused on the safety of all road users – to guide the redevelopment of existing communities and the design of new communities throughout Ontario.
• Development of an Ontario Cycling Plan to guide the development of policy, legislation and regulations and the commitment of infrastructure funding to support cycling in Ontario.
• A comprehensive cycling safety public awareness and education strategy, starting in public schools, and continuing through the purchase of every new and used bicycle and through driver’s license testing.
• Legislative change (Highway Traffic Act (HTA); Municipal Act; relevant Municipal By-Laws) aimed at ensuring clarity and consistency regarding interactions between cyclists and other road users.
• Strategies to promote and support helmet use for cyclists of all ages.
• Implementation of mandatory helmet legislation for cyclists of all ages, within the context of an evaluation of the impact of this legislation on cycling activity.
• Establishment of a “one-meter” rule for vehicles when passing cyclists.
• Prioritizing the development of paved shoulders on provincial highways.
• Mandatory side-guards for heavy trucks.
• Enforcement, education and public safety activities targeted to the specific issues of cycling safety identified in a given community.
The mass media a glommed onto the 6th of the recommendations, “Implementation of mandatory helmet legislation for cyclists of all ages…” to the exclusion of all the others – the others that are key to preventing death and injury, preventing 1,500 car / bike collisions per year in Toronto – and the key to increasing cycling numbers that will go a long way to solving traffic congestion crisis, the global warming crisis, the obesity crisis and … the economic crisis!
In a few words it is Dialectical Urban Planning.
The mass media’s distillation of the report is an old metric of easy answers at a time when the car – as the geopolitical centre of an economic universe, the basis of the post World War II economy – is over-represented in every aspect of our culture – where in, the oppressor culture fixates on a mandatory helmet law – that when taken separate from the whole of the list of recommendations – serves not to reduce death and injury – but rather, to blame victims for their lot.
Here’s a great essay on these things from the editors of the Kitchener Waterloo Record, from Friday June 22, 2012:
Helmets not the only answer
Humans naturally crave quick and easy fixes for tough problems, and this holds true whether the human is pedalling a bicycle or driving a car.
No surprise, then, that this week’s release of a report on bicycling deaths by the office of Ontario’s chief coroner sparked heated demands for a new law forcing every cyclist in the province — regardless of age — to wear a helmet.
The coroner’s report recommends precisely this change and a public debate on such legislation would surely be timely. Yet the report’s call to action includes so much more than just a mandatory helmet law that it would be wrong, in fact needlessly distracting, to focus on this issue alone. Too many people are doing this.
The public deludes itself if it thinks a tough new helmet law will suddenly end all the dangers cyclists face on the road or that the passage of such a new rule will free us to move onto other matters, confident our roads are safer. Not so. It might be quick and easy. But it would hardly confer the armour of invincibility on those who mount a bicycle for fun, recreation or a commute.
In fact, to read the Cycling Death Review of 129 fatal accidents involving cyclists in Ontario over a five-year period ending in 2010 is to reach a far different conclusion. Major changes, extensive changes, very expensive changes are needed in how this province builds its transportation networks.
One of the contributors to this Coroners Report was “8-80 Cities”.
8-80 Cities is a non-profit organization based in Toronto. 8-80 references the idea that (from the website), “If you create a city that’s good for an 8 year old and good for an 80 year old, you will create a successful city for everyone.” (http://www.8-80cities.org/about-us/the-8-80-philosophy.html)
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!
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.
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.
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’.
Your at the Blog - the Wiki is: "The Toronto/GTA Bicycle Route Mapping Wiki"
Click on the BikingToronto icon to go to this Blog's sister site"The Toronto/GTA Bicycle Route Mapping Wiki"
I manage two blogs here at BikingToronto: "@Blog_FreeWheel" and the "Toronto/GTA Bicycle Route Mapping Wiki". The Blog and the Wiki are two sides of a coin - the blog to discuss bicycle routes and the politics of bicycle routes - and the Mapping Wiki to publish bike route maps contributors and I have discovered to help city planners, cycling advocates and road users to choose and advocate for, safe and efficient cycling routes on Toronto's busy and dangerous car-centric infrastructure.