Bike Spotting: Bi-directional bike lanes proposed on Harbord

Bike Spotting: Bi-directional bike lanes proposed on Harbord

This June, the City announced it’s plan to replace the bike lanes on Harbord between Queens Park Circle and Ossington with bi-directional, Montreal-style lanes. Now that the plans have been unveiled, we hit Harbord for a roundup of cyclists’ reactions to the proposed lanes.

The proposed lanes will run on only the north side of Harbord. The lane on the south side of the street will be removed. It has not been decided how the lanes will be separated yet, but the bi-directional lanes will allow for dual 1.5 metre-wide lanes in each direction, which is a bit narrower than those on Harbord now, which currently stretch two metres across.

Public consultation on the proposed changes will be held until October. For more information and to sumbit feedback, go to the City of Toronto’s page.

On a sunny summer evening, the Harbord bike lane has a steady traffic flow. We talked to cyclists stopped at the lights at Harbord and Manning, and asked: Were you aware of the plans to install a bi-directional bike lane on Harbord? and Do you think this will improve the street?

Here’s what they had to say:

Photos by Tammy Thorne


I don’t think it’s a good idea to have only one street in the city done that way. If they want to do it I think they need to do it throughout the entire city and not just one street.

Marco Polo

The separated from traffic part is good. I’ve seen the ones in Montreal but I haven’t used them. I guess I’m not 100% convinced that having both side by side like that is safe. As a pedestrian, I was crossing one and I didn’t look both ways because I’m used to traffic coming from only one direction. So that was a little confusing. As a cyclist I’m sure it’s fine because you’re on the path and you can see what’s going on. It also has to be real separation, not like Sherbourne where the cars can still roll up.


Michael Simms

I’ve heard about the proposed lanes. I have the same concern about this as I had when I heard about Sherbourne’s raised lanes, and that’s being able to pass safely. One and a half metres is not enough room to pass. And if the new lanes are separated by raised cement that’s squared and not round, then passing is pretty much impossible.


Kevin D’Souza

Yeah, it’s fantastic! I really like it. I’ve never really considered a bi-directional lane on one side of the street. I like it the way that it is, it’s really accessible. I’m not sure it needs the change. But I’m also not sure what the studies have indicated, so I will read into it more.


Stephanie Allen

I cycle on Harbord every day and am happy with the current lane set up – It’s really great early in the morning when it’s not too busy. I think a new bike lane system may be a good idea as long as it’s not like the nightmare on Sherbourne, which has a major problem with parked cars blocking the lane. The proposed bi-directional lane could be an improvement here, although there needs to be enough room for passing slower cyclists since Harbord gets a lot of bike traffic, especially during rush hour.


Michael Cummings

That sounds like a bad idea. I’ve had experiences riding in Holland for many years and it doesn’t seem like the City learns from what’s going on in other cities that are bicycle friendly. It seems like they make up solutions that are not designed very well. Sherbourne, for example, has a poor design, and Roncesvalles as well, speaking as a designer and a cyclist. So no, I don’t think that it’s a good idea, but that’s typical, for them to come up with a solution and not carry it out very well.


Derek Chadbourne

I think it’s stupid. If the police want bikes to behave like traffic, we should be treated like traffic. Cars don’t have separated bi directional car lanes, so why should bikes? If the Harbord bike lane is going to be anything like Sherbourne’s divided bike lane, which is only divided in name, cars can still park in the bike lane. So cyclists will have to dismount and walk their bikes around the barrier to go around the parked truck or cop car. And with a bi-directional lane, you only need one truck to screw up both lanes. So I think that Harbord is an excellent bike lane, and it’s not broken so they shouldn’t try to fix it. One thing they should do is paint it like they did on Sherbourne to make it more visible as a bike lane.


Ceilidh Hughes

I didn’t know they were planning on putting a bi-directional bike lane in, but I think that it would be pretty cool. I’m not a big cyclist, but I use the lanes on Harbord.


Related on the dandyBLOG

City plans to install bi-directional lanes on Harbord in 2014

Bike Spotting with safety in focus

Bike Spotting at the Toronto Public Library

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

4 responses to “Bike Spotting: Bi-directional bike lanes proposed on Harbord”

  1. Ben says:

    I agree that it’s a weird plan, and really not needed on Harbord. I suppose they need a “test case” somewhere, but why mess with one of the few already bike-laned streets in Toronto that works?

    P.S. There were a lot of guys named “Michael Simms” out on Harbord that day!

  2. hamish wilson says:

    It’s helpful to ask actual users about this – I don’t think the City really got to advertising/telling the bike riders using it about the Council-approved plans, and some of the promoters won’t necessarily be so honest as to get criticism out there.
    Given the unacted-upon crash stats for the last few decades, it is truly a waste and wrong to rebuild an existing, not-bad lane. We need changes on Bloor, (easiest in theory), College, Dundas, Queen and King since the side streets don’t link well and we have a lot of harms on the pre-dominant east-west travel patterns, and Harbord stops at Ossington.
    About 16 years ago, a similar plan for re-doing Bloor St. in the Annex was put forward by then-Futures owner Boris Wrenzysnki – but if memory serves, it was deflected on the grounds that there were far too many intersections, and thus conflict points, so it wouldn’t be that safe as motorists won’t be seeing all of the bike traffic. This is backed up by recent Danish and Quebec bikeway books with suggestions that these type of bikeways be avoided in cities, or limited to long stretches of 300m. The blocks along Harbord tend to be around 75m.
    We need new bike lanes; we need bike lanes in the long-sought Bloor corridor now being repaved; we need real road repairs everywhere and we don’t need to have such a major push for these types of lanes in the wrong places.
    Just to show I’m not merely pushing Bloor out of sour grapes, these types of lanes might be ok on a part of the Danforth, likely north side say Sherbourne to Victoria Park (though issues with short blocks and traffic mazes exist); on north side of College (maybe) from Brock to Sorarsen (with a set of real issues between Lansdowne and Brock, plus track issues); and on Dundas St. W. from Bloor up to Annette (maybe).
    But how about innovating with following the Places to Grow Act and the Environmental Assessment Act and putting bike lanes in along Bloor with that repaving? That’s what’s truly needed in the west end as a starting point after decades of knowing the extra hazards to cyclists…

  3. Steve says:

    Build additional infrastructure, don’t replace what isn’t broke. More kilometres of infrastructure versus the same.

  4. Sam Perry says:

    More info:
    Good stuff! Logical concerns from current users. I’d like to try to address a few of them:
    Why just Harbord?: Actually, the Harbord/Hoskin cycle track is part of a physically separated network, along with Sherbourne and, one day, Wellesley, Beverly, Richmond/Adelaide, and the Prince Edward Viaduct (Bloor/Danforth bridge over Don Valley)
    Confused peds/drivers: good point! A liberal sprinkling of chevrons and “LOOK FOR BIKES ” paint would help, especially at/around intersections.
    Passing: the proposed cycle track will be 4.0m wide Queen’s Park to St George, 3.5m wide St George to Ossington, a width comparable to the Martin Goodman Trail down by the lake, so passing room should not be an issue, as long as we all remember to: 1. stick to the right! 2. ring your bell or say “on your left” to pass!
    “Poor design”: the website linked in the article and the one at the beginning of this comment explain some of the logic behind the design, which is a balance between multiple interests. Sherbourne has a similar website: ( The city welcomes feedback on its designs; contact info is included at the bottom of the pages.
    Bike lane blocking: This is a big problem right now on many routes, especially Sherbourne. Cycle Toronto and local advocacy groups are working with T.O. Police Services Parking Enforcement to crack down on bike lane blockers. If you see one, please snap a photo and upload it to
    Bikes=vehicles: this argument has been used against various forms of bike infra for years. It’s likely the cyclists who feel comfortable riding alongside motor vehicles are already doing so; it is the large number of *would-be* cyclists, who don’t feel as comfortable sharing the road with cars and trucks, that really stand to benefit from infra like cycle tracks. Cycle tracks also provide significantly better accessibility for children, the elderly and mobility device users ( Let’s remember this is just one element of one route; vehicular cyclists are still free to mix it up with cars and trucks wherever they please throughout the city, province and country, including the mixed-use lanes on Harbord. (Note: we should, however, be prepared to fight against any law making mixed-lane cycling illegal where bike lanes exist, as in NYC)
    IMO the Harbord/Hoskin cycle track may not be the greatest piece of bike infrastructure ever created, but if we address a few specific issues and solutions, we can make it very high quality (read: better than Sherbourne). It’s also important to note that one of the benefits of a bi-directional cycle track is the extra space for a robust physical separation: 0.5-1.5m wide, curb/bollards/*planters* (compare to Sherbourne’s “rolled curbs”, the rest of the city’s “nothing”)

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