Cycle Toronto Has Moved!

Cycle Toronto has moved to a new address:


Thanks for your support and please continue to read Cycle Toronto at its new home.


Creating Culture and Inviting People to Use Public Space

The other day I watched an excellent video of a presentation given by Kristian S. Villadsen of Gehl Architects.  The presentation was part of a conference at McGill University, put on by the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre.

Gehl Architects is an excellent Danish firm that specializes in urban and public space design and architecture.  The firm was founded by Jan Gehl, who wrote the classic Life Between Buildings, and subsequently influenced the design and development of many great features of Copenhagen, including the longest pedestrian street in Europe and it’s excellent pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

The video below is called Designing Streets as Public Spaces in Northern Climate Cities. The original post I found on copenhagenize.com, which I recently found out is the term used to describe the copenhagenization of urban spaces; that is, the redevelopment of urban spaces and streets to invite pedestrians and cyclists.

The presentation is about an hour long and well worth the watch. Enjoy!


(Sorry, I tried, but couldn’t figure out how to embed this video)


The Results Are In!

Long time since my last post, but I have a good excuse.  I spent the last two weeks preparing for my bike lane presentation in my land use planning class. Now that it’s over I can turn my attention back to the blog.

At the start of my presentation I handed out an informal survey to find out about the  cycling habits of my class mates. And… the results are in. First though, a copy of the survey itself:

Now, for the results. There were 14 surveys filled out in total.

Q1: Do you own a bicycle?

11 people do and 3 don’t.

Q2: How do you use it?

2 people are utilitarian riders (i.e. commuting to work/school or for errands), 7 are recreational, 2 people said both, and 3 n/a (the three who don’t own bikes)

Q3: How often do you use your bicycle?

3 people cycle daily, 8 occasionally (ranging from very rarely, once a month, or once a week, to seasonally – not in winter), 3 n/a

Q4: Do you ride your bicycle on major streets?

6 people do ride on major streets, 6 people don’t, 2 n/a

Q5: How comfortable and safe do you feel riding your bike on major streets? (rating from 0=not very to 10=very)

9 people rated their comfort and safety level at 5 or below (0, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5) and 4 people rated 6 or above (6, 6, 8, 9)

Q6: What would make you feel more comfortable and safer when riding on major streets? (check all that apply)

Everyone who answered this question (11) said that physically separated bike lanes would make them feel more comfortable and safe cycling on the road; additionally 3 people said bike specific traffic lights, 2 people said bike road signs, 1 said greater driver awareness

Q7: Are you satisfied with the cycling infrastructure in the city where you ride your bike?

1 person answered yes (qualifying their answer that they bike back home in the UK, which has physically separated lanes), 9 said no

Q8: If you own a bike but don’t use it for utilitarian purposes, what are the reasons why?

4 included safety, 6 included distance to work/school, 3 included comfort, 3 included convenience, 1 indicated that the city (presumably Windsor, ON) does not maintain the roads for bikes (e.g. pot holes and sewer grates)

Q9: What would make you more likely to use your bike for commuting/errands?

The answers to this question were varied and included: shorter distance, dedicated bike lanes, driver awareness, and safety

Q10: If you don’t own a bike, what would motivate you to buy one and use it for utilitarian purposes?

For those who don’t own bikes only one person indicated that greater road safety would motivate him or her to buy a bike.

As for an analysis of the results, it was nice to see that most respondents own bikes and use them somewhat regularly. Not surprisingly, most people don’t find major streets to be very safe for cycling and would feel much more comfortable with physically separated bike lanes. Encouraging cyclists to ride for utilitarian purposes seems to be a matter of creating more bike lanes, dedicated bike lanes, and issues related generally to distances being too great for cycling over driving.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this survey!


Toronto Makes Cycle Chic!

Who said bike riding can’t be sexy?

Cycle Chic, the original blog devoted to photographing stylish and cool cyclists in Copenhagen, recently posted their top 5 cycle chic cites. In order:

  1. Copenhagen, Denmark (of course)
  2. Tokyo, Japan
  3. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  4. Paris, France
  5. London, England

True, Toronto is not on that list. But, Toronto did make honourable mention!

So who’s coming up fast from behind? What cities are – hopefully – soon reaching a level of mainstream urban cycling and therewith glorious Cycle Chicaliciousness? Three come to mind right off the bat.

Laughing cyclist
There is a great deal of effort being made in Toronto to push cycling over into the mainstream realm and already the streets are graced with chic cyclists of both sexes.

So, congratulations to Toronto. (The other two were Montreal and San Francisco)

There are lots of great copycat sites out there and Toronto has a few of its own: 416cyclestyle and Toronto Bike Chic.

So, style it up Toronto and maybe you’ll find yourself on one of these sites soon!


Looking to Montreal

Nothing gets Torontonians riled up like a good ol’ comparison to Montreal. (Is this rivalry even real?) But when we’re looking at how Toronto is progressing as a cycling city, perhaps it is fairer to compare it to Montreal than, say, Copenhagen or Amsterdam, both of which are pretty advanced in terms of their cycling infrastructure (not to mention a long history of an urban cycling culture).  As far as Canada is concerned, Montreal is leading the pack.

Montreal is a good comparison to Toronto because the two cities share many of the same physical and geographical characteristics that are relevant to cycling: namely, long, cold and snowy winters, and hills. So, if Montreal can develop a good cycling infrastructure with these ‘impediments’, then so can Toronto.

In Montreal’s 2008 Transportation Plan, they set out proposals for improving their bike path system and cycling infrastructure.

The present system contains nearly 400 km of bike paths. It will double in size to 800 km within seven years.

In 2007, Montreal built a physically separated, right of way bike lane on Boulevard De Maisonneuve, which is right in the downtown.  Here is a mock up picture from the Transportation Plan:

And another photo of the real thing:

(credit: paulhillsdon.com)

Cyclists have the right of way over cars on the road, and Montreal has even started using bicycle traffic lights.

(credit: Transportation Plan)

Within Montreal’s bike network, the city explicitly recognizes physically separated bike lanes.  With the example of the Boulevard De Maisonneuve bike lane, the city showed how to build a safe bike lane on a major downtown road. In the Transportation plan, the city explains:

Bike paths with their own rights-of-way are completely isolated from vehicular traffic and primarily located in parks. On-street bike paths are physically separated from other lanes of traffic and thus provide greater safety for more vulnerable groups of riders (children, seniors and families).

Not only this, but Montreal recently embarked upon North America’s first large scale bike share program with the introduction of the BIXI (bike taxi) system.  According to the New York Times,  it is the continent’s “most ambitious bike share program”.  This bike share program is designed for short distance bike rides, with 400 bike stations set up across the city, making available 5000 bikes.  Take a look at this video for more on Montreal’s BIXI bike share system:

So, there you have it. Montreal is up to no good. I plan to do a little more digging to see what I can find out about how Montreal is managing to do an excellent job upgrading its cycling infrastructure. And, what lessons can be learned for Toronto.


Toronto Mayoral Candidates and Where they Stand on Bike Lanes

I was looking around the Toronto Star website this morning for my dose of daily news and caught this article about the top five mayoral candidates.  It introduces them, gives their background, and says a little about their position on different issues. Seems like bike lanes have become a real issue for this race, which is nice to see. Joe Pantalone appears to be the most supportive candidate of bike lanes in the City. But it’s a short article with few details. Below are a few screen shots from the article. (the writing is small; click on the pictures for a larger view)

Who they are:

And what they have to say about bike lanes:


Amazing Bicycle Parking!

Taking a break from the law for a moment, I’d like to switch over to some examples of what I mean by cycling ‘infrastructure’.  Bicycle parking is always a concern, especially in cities where there are lots of bikes. Most often cities will use some kind of rack or post system to provide for parking. And, there are endless variations of bike parking.

In Toronto, the typical form you see on sidewalks and outside shops is the post and ring style.

(credit: rubiking.files.wordpress.com)

In Copenhagen, the typical street level parking is a rack with rings.  This allows lots of parking spaces in a small area.  The important difference between the two is that in Toronto, bikes are locked to the post, while in Copenhagen bikes are locked to themselves using a specialized or regular lock to prevent the back wheel from turning. So the bike rack design in Copenhagen allows you to put your front tire in between the rings.

(credit: me)

(credit: lindsey levy)

In addition to this type of rack parking, at busy places such as Nørreport station, which is Copenhagen’s busiest metro station, they use double level parking racks.

(credit: lindsey levy)

But wait… There’s more!

I recently saw an old post on Copenhagenize.com about an amazing new underground bike parking facility designed in Japan. Check out these two videos below.


Provincial Policy Statement

The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is responsible for much of the land use planning decisions in the province. It’s stated goal is:

an Ontario made up of safe and strong urban and rural communities with dynamic local economies, abundant greenspace and a quality of life that is second to none.

That’s a pretty good goal.

On their website you can access the Citizen’s Guide to Land-Use Planning, which goes into greater detail about the laws, administration and process of planning. You can also access the Provincial Policy Statement 2005.

The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), as the name would suggest, sets out the province’s land use planning policy. It contains a planning vision for the province and sets out specific policies and implementation plans.

Section 1.0 deals with ‘Building Strong Communities’ and says:

Ontario’s long-term prosperity, environmental health and social well-being depend on wisely managing change and promoting efficient land use and development patterns.  Efficient land use and development patterns support strong, liveable and healthy communities, protect the environment and public health and safety, and facilitate economic growth.

What I’m going to do, instead of editorializing about it, is provide relevant extracts of the PPS below.

Section 1.1.1

Healthy, liveable and safe communities are sustained by:

g) ensuring that necessary infrastructure and public service facilities are or will be available to meet current and projected needs.

Section 1.6.5 Transportation Systems Transportation systems should be provided which are safe, energy efficient, facilitate the movement of people and goods, and are appropriate to address projected needs. Efficient use shall be made of existing and planned infrastructure. Connectivity within and among transportation systems and modes should be maintained and, where possible, improved including connections which cross jurisdictional boundaries. A land use pattern, density and mix of uses should be promoted that minimize the length and number of vehicle trips and support the development of viable choices and plans for public transit and other alternative transportation modes, including commuter rail and bus. Transportation and land use considerations shall be integrated at all stages of the planning process.

Section 1.7 Long-Term Economic Prosperity

1.7.1 Long-term economic prosperity should be supported by:

d) providing for an efficient, cost-effective, reliable multi-modal transportation system that is integrated with adjacent systems and those of other jurisdictions, and is appropriate to address projected needs;

Section 1.8 Energy and Air Quality

1.8.1 Planning authorities shall support energy efficiency and improved air quality through land use and development patterns which:

b) promote the use of public transit and other alternative transportation modes in and between residential, employment (including commercial, industrial and institutional uses) and other areas where these exist or are to be developed;

Section 4.0 Implementation and Interpretation

4.2   In accordance with Section 3 of the Planning Act, as amended by the Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act, 2004, a decision of the council of a municipality, a local board, a planning board, a minister of the Crown and a ministry, board, commission or agency of the government, including the Municipal Board, in respect of the exercise of any authority that affects a planning matter, “shall be consistent with” this Provincial Policy Statement.

And some relevant definitions of terms used throughout the PPS, which actually mention cycling!

Infrastructure: means physical structures (facilities and corridors) that form the foundation for development.  Infrastructure includes: sewage and water systems, septage treatment systems, waste management systems, electric power generation and transmission, communications/telecommunications, transit and transportation corridors and facilities, oil and gas pipelines and associated facilities.

Multi-modal transportation system: means a transportation system which may include several forms of transportation such as automobiles, walking, trucks, cycling, buses, rapid transit, rail (such as commuter and freight), air and marine.

Transportation systems: means a system consisting of corridors and rights-of way for the movement of people and goods, and associated transportation facilities including transit stops and stations, cycle lanes, bus lanes, high occupancy vehicle lanes, rail facilities, park’n’ride lots, service centres, rest stops, vehicle inspection stations, intermodal terminals, harbours, and associated facilities such as storage and maintenance.

As you can see, the PPS shows that transportation methods such as cycling are linked to a variety of planning concerns ranging from efficient and effective use of land, to issues of accessibility, economic prosperity, and air quality.  Like the Planning Act, the PPS sets out the parameters of provincial public policy on land use planning issues and in some cases even specifies that cycling and cycling infrastructure are integral to fulfilling the PPS and achieving sustainable planning.

Moreover, it’s important to keep in mind that decisions and by-laws of a municipality must be consistent with the PPS, and this may open up arguments for the improvement of cycling infrastructure in Toronto.


The Planning Act

In Ontario, land use planning is governed by the Planning Act.  Section 1.1 lists the purposes of this Act:

(a) to promote sustainable economic development in a healthy natural environment within the policy and by the means provided under this Act;

(b) to provide for a land use planning system led by provincial policy;

(c) to integrate matters of provincial interest in provincial and municipal planning decisions;

(d) to provide for planning processes that are fair by making them open, accessible, timely and efficient;

(e) to encourage co-operation and co-ordination among various interests;

(f) to recognize the decision-making authority and accountability of municipal councils in planning.

I can’t find any pictures to illustrate the Planning Act, so instead below is a picture of the Ontario Legislative Building in Toronto, the place where our provincial legislation is debated and cast into law!

(credit: markfile.com)

One may wonder about the site planning and construction of the Ontario Legislative Building.  Below is an aerial view of the building and Queen’s Park in Toronto.

(credit: Wikipedia)

Notice that the site is essentially an island with a moat of cars whizzing around it. Ha! How’s that for government accessibility.  And, no, presently there are no bike lanes on that road.

Back to the point though.  The Planning Act sets out, among other things, the provincial administration and interest in planning (s. 2); the need for and contents of official plans (s. 16); and the requirement that public works and municipal by-laws conform with the official plan (s. 24).  The Planning Act also sets out the rules governing local planning administration (Part II), community improvement (Part IV), and land use controls such as zoning by-laws (Part V).

The Planning Act is not the kind of document that says anything in particular about such things as biking or cycling infrastructure.  Rather it merely sets out the rules governing generally land use planning in the Province.  The Act is not inconsistent with improving cycling infrastructure though (that is, it doesn’t prevent better bike lanes).

Section 2 does speak of transportation and other areas that may be relevant to developing better cycling infrastructure:

2. The Minister, the council of a municipality, a local board, a planning board and the Municipal Board, in carrying out their responsibilities under this Act, shall have regard to, among other matters, matters of provincial interest such as,

(f) the adequate provision and efficient use of communication, transportation, sewage and water services and waste management systems;

(h) the orderly development of safe and healthy communities;

(o) the protection of public health and safety;

(q) the promotion of development that is designed to be sustainable, to support public transit and to be oriented to pedestrians.

The last of these concerns does speak of public transit and pedestrians, so I suppose the government could have mentioned cyclists. But maybe that’s asking too much.

Up next we’ll be investigating the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Provincial Policy Statement.


Division of Powers

This is the first of many entries to come on the more specific issue of land use planning law.  In the coming days and weeks (as I prepare for my class presentation on cycling infrastructure) I will be going through the basics of planning law that is relevant to the promotion of cycling in Toronto.  First I’d like to start with a nice quote from an article called Our Common Past: An Interpretation of Canadian Planning History (July 1994, Plan Canada 12), by Jeanne M. Wolfe:

Planning is about change.

So true it is.  If we are going to get our heads around seriously improving cycling infrastructure in Toronto we are all going to have to come to terms with change.  For too long our cities have been designed for and dominated by cars.  With the many issues related to fossil fuel emissions, pollution, global warming, and accessibility, bike culture has re-emerged as a positive solution.  But its re-emergence is stymied by a lagging improvement in infrastructure.  How many cars would we see if there were no roads to drive them on? So… let’s embrace some change.

The first thing to consider with the law of land use planning is who’s got the authority?  Our system of federalism means that powers and legal jurisdiction are divided between the federal Parliament and provincial legislatures.  This is called the division of powers. To find out which level of government has the jurisdiction for particular areas, one must take a look at sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Generally speaking, land use planning falls under the provincial head of power.  Subsections   8, 13 and 16 of section 92 make this clear:

92. In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,

8. Municipal Institutions in the Province.

13. Property and Civil Rights in the Province.

16. Generally all Matters of a merely local or private Nature in the Province.

Constitutionally, there are only two sovereign powers: the federal Parliament and the provincial legislatures.  This division means that municipalities are ‘constitutional orphans’.  By way of s. 92(8) then, it is the provinces that have the power to create cities.  And the provinces do create municipalities – which are essentially corporations – by way of acts of the legislature.  The Ontario Municipal Act, 2001, for example, sets out the rules governing municipalities in the province.  Toronto has a more specific statute called the City of Toronto Act, 2006.

Upcoming posts will look more deeply at the relevant planning law and powers of the province of Ontario.

Bike lanes, cycling infrastructure, and land use planning law