Archive for the 'Bike Lanes' Category


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, 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!


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:


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:


Separated Lanes on University Avenue?

Some recent reports indicate that University Avenue may be poised to become the first street in Toronto with physically separated bike lanes.  A week ago the National Post ran an article on this.  It’s nice to see bike lanes getting some press, but I wish the media would stop framing the issue as a car-bike war.  It’s a false dichotomy and people are smart enough to be able to engage with an issue without it being an either-or war like situation.  But, I digress.

The article calls the proposed separated lanes “New York style” and further explains:

He said the “New York style” involves using paint and plastic flexible bollards to separate the bike lanes from traffic and parking, while keeping the parking there. “The street can pretty much function the way it is now, but you’ve got a much safer, more comfortable space for cyclists to occupy,” said Mr. Egan.

Mr. Daniel Egan is manager of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure for the City. You can check out his cyclist profile on I Bike T.O.

Separated bike lanes are certainly a step in the right direction, although I would advocate for Danish style lanes – as I have in previous posts – rather than New York style lanes.


Jarvis Street Reconstruction

The impetus for my original Cycle Toronto proposal was to use the reconstruction of Jarvis Street as a template for future street and bike lane construction. If Jarvis Street could be reconstructed with a proper, physically separated bike lane, then it would serve as an important precedent.

From what I’ve read and seen about the project, it appears that the City has approved bike lanes for Jarvis Street. The design of the reconstruction, however, indicates that these bike lanes will take the usual Toronto form of “sharrows” (widened curb-side car lanes to be shared by cars and cyclists).

The photo below illustrates the before and after of the proposed changes. If you look closely in the “new” picture you can see cyclists riding between the cars and the trees.

This is the wrong way to construct bike lanes.

The City could easily create physically separated bike lanes by simply reversing where the trees and cyclists go.  The excellently doctored photo below illustrates how Jarvis Street should be reconstructed.

As you can see in this photo, the cyclists are separated from the cars by the tree line buffer.  In this scenario, all three users of the street – cars, cyclists, and pedestrians – have their own space, which creates a safer and more enjoyable experience.  This is one example of how to construct physically separated bike lanes.

In Copenhagen, the above type of physically separated bike lane is common.  The photos below show this type of construction in a real life example on Nørrebrogade – the busiest cycling street in Denmark.

If you’re interested in the Jarvis Street project, take a look around the City of Toronto site where you can download the environmental study report.


Ontario’s Best Traffic Sign

This is Ontario’s best traffic sign. By ‘best’ I really mean worst.

I notice this sign often when driving along Bathurst St. and Yonge St. and always stare at it with amazement. In what situation does reserving a lane for buses, taxis, carpools, and bicycles make sense? In what situation does putting the largest vehicle on the road (a bus) and the smallest vehicle on the road (a bike) together in one lane make sense?

So imagine this: during morning and afternoon rush hour you have a cyclist riding in the same lane with a bus, which will stop every few blocks, pull over to the side of the road where the cyclist is riding, and drop of/pick up passengers.

Really Ontario? Is this your idea of a bike lane?

Bike lanes, cycling infrastructure, and land use planning law