We could start by getting a chair of Public Works and Infrastructure who doesn't view cycling as a recreational activity that should be tucked away in parks and ravines. The mayor's bike guy, Denzil Minnan-Wong, doesn't get it. But he's not the only problem when it comes to bike politics. More councillors need to stick up for cyclists. Outside the hardcore, the pols pushing pedal power at 100 Queen West can be counted on one hand. Every Toronto street is a cycling street. Check it. It says so in the Bike Plan.
Photo by Cheol Joon Baek
Bring back the Toronto Cycling Advisory Committee. The loss of this citizen advisory group, part of the Ford admin's "streamlining" of the decision-making process at City Hall, has silenced a powerful voice. TCAC provided one-of-a-kind input on the business of bikes - the cumulative experience of everyday riders and, yes, a few squeaky wheels among them. For all their commendable efforts, the Toronto Cyclists Union (now Cycle Toronto) has been too willing to roll over on the bike file.
Hurry up and make tracks on complete streets. Toronto's been slow to get rolling on the vision of planning inspired by more bike-going cities in the U.S. that pumps the importance of encouraging healthy, active communities. We're not really thinking about cycling when it comes to city planning.
Reduce speed limits, re-stripe streets. Toronto doesn't have a lot wide boulevards. Most streets in the core are narrow, too tight to accommodate both bike and car traffic comfortably. Elevated speed limits exacerbate the problem. Speeding cars and trucks squeezing by cyclists in curb lanes has become the norm. Parking prohibitions during peak hours give cyclists more space, but re-striping where street widths permit to create a little more space for cyclists isn't seen as an option, although it's encouraged in the Bike Plan.
Get on with Bloor. Apart from College and maybe Harbord and Davenport, there's no major east-west arterial. A major bike lane alongside the subway line opens up a number of possibilities, like park-and-ride stations for commuters all along Bloor. But the Ford admin put a flat in the Bloor plan when council voted to kill an environmental assessment. The sharrows there now are helpful (when cars respect them), but Bloor remains a dangerous no-go zone for most people on two wheels.
Go with the contra-flow lanes. It doesn't make sense to restrict bikes to all rules of the road. Now there's a radical thought. But the Bike Plan recommends exempting bikes from certain traffic bylaws, like, for example, restrictions on one-way streets. Putting bike lanes on these to allow bikes to ride counter to the flow of traffic would do two important things: a) provide safer side-street option for cyclists, and b) divert bike traffic from crowded major arterials. Then we could all be happy. We do have blue signs to mark bike routes through residential streets, and these are fine. But side streets would be more used (and safer) if they were striped with space for bike lanes.
Get over the underpass. Drainage problems and lack of lighting make two-wheeled travel under bridges a crapshoot. It happens to every cyclist: the decision to risk life and limb and head with the flow of traffic into a narrow underpass or to take the sidewalk and piss off pedestrians who will forever hold the transgression against you.
Give cyclists the green light. More than half the city's 1,800 intersections have semi-actuated lights. They turn green when a car or truck rolls up, thanks to sensors embedded in the concrete. Similar light-activating infrastructure for bikes has been installed at a few dozen intersections marked by a line of three white dots on the pavement. But most cyclists don't know what they're for, and some don't work. (Note to city cycling staff: check the one at Lascelles and Eglinton). Some jurisdictions use video to change traffic lights for cyclists. Cyclists would settle for a simple button at crossings.
Remember Jenna Morrison. Six months after the pregnant mother was killed by a truck at Dundas West and Sterling, meaningful changes have yet to be made to improve safety at the high-risk intersection. There's still no signage directing cyclists spilling into the intersection from the Railpath to the bike lane heading toward the core on the other side of the busy road. Activists painted lines on the pavement after Morrison's death, but those were soon erased, presumably by city staff. Photo by R. Jeanette Martin.
The curb lanes travelled by cyclists are the first to go bad, making navigation an ass-busting adventure even if there are no other obstacles to avoid, like road kill, sandwich boards or shards of glass from the latest car accident. It's obvious to cyclists, but everyone should know that bikes are more affected by broken pavement and poor weather than cars. Potholes easy for autos to roll over become rim-breakers, and the jolts can twist wrists off handlebars and cause riders to lose control. Catch basins wreaking havoc on bike tires have mostly been replaced, but crews don't always put the new grates back in place properly when they finish a job. The bigger danger, though, are the seams road crews like to fill with a bead of asphalt. Catch your tire in one of those on a hot day and it's like riding on rails. Photo by Martin Reis