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EDITORIAL: City staff ignore bike lanes (July 2018)

July 18th, 2018 · No Comments

In “The Pothole”, the award-winning 150th episode Seinfeld, Cosmo Kramer adopts a one mile stretch of the Arthur Burghardt Expressway after running over an abandoned sewing machine. Kramer decides to make his newly adopted section of a highway a more luxurious experience for drivers by reducing four lanes to two extra-wide ones. What results — to great comedic effect — is mass confusion and chaos and, a lesson in how not to manage a highway.

Here in the Annex, we are at risk of learning a similar lesson, though this time courtesy of city staff.

Reducing the number of car lanes on Bloor Street West between Shaw Street and Avenue Road to make way for bike lanes along the curb has been largely successful. The lanes launched as a pilot project in August 2016, and were later made permanent by Toronto City Council in November of 2017.

According to a city staff report submitted to city council’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in October of 2017, the Bloor Street West pilot had, even by then, become the “second highest bike facility by volume in the city, improved safety for all road users, and increased customer spending at local businesses within the pilot area”. Sixty-six per cent of motorists report feeling more comfortable driving next to cyclists, 85 per cent of cyclists feel safer with the lanes in place (compared to just 3 per cent prior to the installation), and pedestrians overwhelmingly said that their experience walking along (and across) Bloor Street felt the same or safer. Collisions between motor vehicles have been reduced, perhaps because the hazard of changing lanes is no longer possible. Even with more bikes on the road, the bike/motorized collision data has not changed, which means that the effective collision rate has gone down.

So it all appears to be a win-win for all users.

But the bike lane design on Bloor Street is no panacea. Tragically, cyclist Dalia Chako was struck and killed by a right-turning truck at St. George and Bloor streets in June, one of 21 cyclists and pedestrians who have died in Toronto this year.

Her death is a reminder that the pilot design of the bike lane was never supposed to be cast in concrete. It was a test and now that the city has learned from it, there is a chance to make it better. The “build it and they will come” plan worked as there is now a street full of bikes, and the city now has a duty to protect them.

City council anticipated this when it decided to make the lanes permanent in November 2017. Council instructed the general manager of transportation services to make safety improvements in 2018: setting back parking areas to improve sight lines for all road users, better signage, and adding green area markings in conflict zones.

City staff responded by doing nothing. No improvements to the bollards, no road paint, no new signage. It’s shameful, irresponsible, and insubordinate.

So frustrated by staff inaction, local councillors Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) and Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) led a motion — passed in June — directing staff to “accelerate plans to improve separation in the Bloor Street West bike lane to enhance corridor safety” and to “immediately improve corridor safety along the bike lane route”.

While a good step forward for all road users, the bike lanes are not perfect.

We expect the city’s transportation division to be more conscious and conscientious about how the changes are affecting our streets and our safety.

Otherwise it will become yet another lesson in how not to manage a roadway.

 

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Tags: Annex · Editorial · General