Posts Tagged ‘Bike Lanes


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)


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?


“A strip of paint at the side of the road”

The idea behind Cycle Toronto is to push for better cycling infrastructure in Toronto. I spent four months living in Copenhagen last autumn, and the cycling infrastructure was just amazing. The basic premise underlying their bike lane system is physically separated lanes. The idea is that with safe space for cyclists, more people will choose to use their bikes for daily commuting. According to the Copenhagen Bicycle Account 2008, 37% of people in Copenhagen (including residents of surrounding suburbs) cycle to work or education every day. Restricting this to just residents of Copenhagen, the statistic jumps to 55%. Brilliant!

There are many ways to build physically separated bike lanes. Here is a basic diagram to illustrate the idea:


Check out this Streetfilms video about cycling in Copenhagen:

In the midst of my Danish cycling exuberance, I put together a small proposal for physically separated bike lanes called “Cycle Toronto” which I sent in to my Toronto city councillor. The hope was to make use of cycling infrastructure in Copenhagen as a model for Toronto. (More on this to come in future posts)

Just a few days ago I received a refreshing article about physically separated bike lanes in Toronto. Our current lanes were described as “a strip of paint at the side of the road”.  Some good news: the article reports that the Toronto Cycling Committee (at City Hall) has endorsed physically separated bike lanes as the preferred design for the upcoming reconstruction of Sherbourne Street. It must now go through the city planning department and be approved by Council. The adoption of a physically separated bike lane would be precedent setting in Toronto, and may very well lead the future development of our cycling infrastructure.


Toronto Mayoral Race, Part I

Since Miller’s announcement that he won’t be seeking a third term as Toronto’s mayor, the race has begun for his successor.  According to the Toronto Star, there are 21 candidates currently in the running.

Earlier this month, Spacing Toronto posted a neat visual of the political spectrum of some of the main candidates. Using the Hans Slomp projection, which measures political leaning on a right-left/authoritarian-libertarian basis, you can get a sense of where the Toronto mayor hopefuls fall.

What does all this have to do with bikes? Not all of the candidates are as keen on growing Toronto’s transit system and cycling infrastructure as you and I would hope.  Rocco Rossi appears to be downright hostile to Transit City construction and bike lanes, as reported by another Spacing Toronto post. Guess we know who not to vote for.

Maybe Adam Giambrone will be able to inspire us?


Physically Separated Bike Lanes

The problem with bike lanes in Toronto is that they are nothing more than paint on the road. Although this paint may give the impression of an actual lane reserved for cyclists, it often ends up getting used for other purposes, like parking your car. Take, for example, this picture from a Toronto Star article about a newly painted bike lane in which sits a parked car.

For more photographic evidence of this phenomenon take a look at

More than an inconvenience-to-cyclists issue, bike lanes that are mere paint on the road do not provide a safe space for cyclists to ride. Unlike the picture above, many of the bike lanes in Toronto are on busy main streets where there are lots of cars going at fast speeds.  Anyone who has ridden on these lanes – take College St. for example – knows well the fight for space and the vigilance with which you have to ride.

What Toronto needs is physically separated bike lanes. Take a look at this great video on physically separated bike lanes, primarily set in NYC.

For more videos like this one, check out the excellent site I recently discovered: Streetfilms.

Bike lanes, cycling infrastructure, and land use planning law