The Adelaide bike lane is getting a physical barrier after all.
The lane on the busy eastbound downtown street became the centre of controversy last week when cycling advocates accused the city transportation department of ignoring council's direction to install a physically separated lane along the route.
In June council approved a pilot project of separated cycle tracks along the Richmond-Adelaide corridor, but when the Adelaide lane was unveiled two weeks ago the only separation provided was a thick buffer painted on the road. Cycling advocates complained that cars were entering the lane and endangering riders' safety.
In response to the controversy, General Manager of Transportation Services Stephen Buckley told NOW that physical separation might be added over the course of the pilot, but gave no timeline. He told the Toronto Sun the lane would remain as is until the spring.
But on Monday the city appeared to change course. In an email sent to cycling activists Transportation Services said that "flexi-posts will be installed this week in a couple blocks of Adelaide" and the separation of the rest of the lane will be completed by September.
Buckley was on vacation Tuesday and couldn't be reached for comment. But despite what Buckley told the press last week, Daniel Egan, Manager of Cycling Infrastructure Projects, says that it was always the plan to install a physical barrier on Adelaide in the fall. The work wasn't done initially because the city didn't have enough flexi-posts in stock and the department felt that putting in a painted buffer was better than doing nothing while it waited for the posts to arrive. The department also wanted to collect data about how a painted buffer worked before putting a barrier in, Egan says.
The two sections of Adelaide just west of Spadina and just west of Simcoe will be the first to have posts installed. At both spots drivers have been using the bike lane to queue-jump around traffic and make right-hand turns.
Egan was on vacation last week when the controversy erupted, but admits that his department didn't do a great job informing residents about its plans.
"Obviously we've not done a very good job communicating with the public on this project cause there's been a lot of confusion," he said.
Jared Kolb, Executive Director of Cycle Toronto, says he's pleased the city is "back on course" but he wishes transportation services had been clearer from the start about its plans to separate the lane.
"We could have avoided a lot of heartache had this been the message that had been stated right from the beginning," he said. "We're certainly pleased to see that reaffirmed."
While he welcomes new cycling infrastructure, Kolb believes that the Adelaide project isn't ambitious enough. Instead of testing out flexi-posts, which are already in use in other parts of Toronto, the city should be experimenting with more robust forms of separation like hard curbs or planter pots, he argues.
"In a pilot project we should be trying new things. It's great that we've got new lanes, but we've got fairly minimal separation through the flexi-posts."
Work is still continuing on Richmond and Simcoe, the two other streets included in the $390,000 pilot project. City crews have yet to install the Richmond lane but it will begin as just a painted buffer, with flexi-posts being added sometime next month. The Simcoe lane was launched in early July and crews will finish putting in flexi-posts along the route this week.