By Duncan Hurd
Images courtesy City of Toronto
Big changes are on the way for Toronto's bumpiest bike lane.
On January 26, 2012, City of Toronto staff unveiled plans for a continuous cycle track on Sherbourne Street running from Bloor Street East in the north down to Lakeshore Boulevard in the south end.
While bicycle lanes currently exist on the street, the proposed plan upgrades the painted lanes to those separated from motorized vehicles using curbs and raised cycle tracks. The Sherbourne cycle track is set to be the first in a series of new separated lanes that will help form a connected and separated network for people who use bikes to get around the downtown area, a plan approved by City Council in July, 2011. (Background info here.)
By coordinating with planned resurfacing of the pock-marked asphalt, cycle tracks installed between Gerrard and Front streets will be raised above street level similar to those found in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Portland, a Toronto first. North of Gerrard to Bloor Street East only patch work repairs are being undertaken so this section will remain at street level and derive its separation with a rolled curb and plastic bollards.
In Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa, recent separated bicycle infrastructure has been created by adding planters and large curbs to prevent motorized vehicles from entering the cycling lanes. Sherbourne, with its comparatively narrow width to the other streets, will be separated by rolled curbs allowing motor vehicles to still have access to the lane. This access is meant to be restricted to Wheel-Trans and emergency vehicles. The addition of painted buffers and in some places plastic bollards should make it clear that the cycle tracks are for bicycles only.
In addition to separating cyclists from motor vehicles, the proposed design will change how cyclists handle left turns. Along Sherbourne between Bloor Street and Front Street are 15 intersections. Four of these cross streets considered part of Toronto's bike route network, and have existing bicycle lanes: Wellesley, Gerrard, Shuter and Bloor Street East.
As separated lanes run right to the crosswalk, merging into the left-most lane will no longer be possible for people on bikes. To allow for left turns, Sherbourne will see the installation of marked space within the intersection for cyclists to perform indirect left turns. These spaces are placed ahead of crosswalks and allow for cyclists to stop and wait for the light to change before proceeding with the rest of their left turn.
Similar to bike boxes installed on Harbord and College streets, these spaces will be painted with a bicycle symbol and turning arrow and allow for cyclists to stop ahead of motorized vehicles, increasing visibility. However, due to placement ahead of both the vehicle stop line and pedestrian crosswalk, these waiting areas are intended for cyclists who have already entered the intersection completing the first half of a left turn and are not intended to allow cyclists to jump to the head of the queued motorized traffic.
Toronto currently has just three intersections that provide space and signs for indirect left turns though few people know of them: Dupont & Annette, Bloor Street East & Sherbourne and Browns Line & Lake Shore Blvd W. As indicated by the proposal illustrations, signs will be installed to explain indirect left turns.
The City is requesting input from area businesses and residents as well as the general public who may use or be affected by these changes until February 17, 2012.
For more information visit: toronto.ca/cycling/network/sherbourne.htm
To provide your feedback, you can use this form (PDF): toronto.ca/cycling/network/pdf/2012-01-26_sherbourne_comment_sheet.pdf