Guaranteed Bike Lane on College at Spadina

Derek Chadbourne, a member of Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists, is shown above holding the Guaranteed Bike Lane banner on College earlier this week.

Guaranteed Bike Lane on College near Spadina

Story by Derek Chadbourne, Photos by Martin Reis 

ARC, Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists, kicked off Bike Month with a Guaranteed Bike Lane at College and Spadina on May 27. As a Torontonian cyclist you may ask: "What pray tell is a 'guaranteed bike lane'?" How can you "guarantee" a bike lane, especially in congested Caronto. The city had put millions into making Sherbourne a 'separated' lane with limited success.  What could possibly stop an encroaching automobile from entering a regular ol' bike lane?

Scientists at ARC had been working on different deflector systems and the only one that made sense was, the pylon. The mighty pylon, perhaps more commonly known as a traffic cone, was invented in 1940 by American Charles D. Scanlon, while he worked as a painter for the street painting department of the City of Los Angeles.

The mighty pylons gloriously glow on College Street, as cyclists roll through unscathed.

The pylon was found to have a calming effect on drivers making them more compliant to suggestions of law and civility (and drivers also appear terrified of them.) But would it be effective enough to stop drivers from entering and parking in the always-tempting bike lane?

The theory: The lowly orange pylon, less than a foot tall, would stop all traffic from entering. To prove this correct, ARC decided to implement the age-old practice of a Guaranteed Bike Lane. (Age-old meaning they started doing it in the 90s.)

Cyclists looking happy as they ride along the Guaranteed Bike Lane along College. 

For those not of the know, a Guaranteed Bike Lane is where ninja advocates pick a block of bike lane and make sure none shall enter except those deemed worthy (aka those self-propelled two-wheelers). This week the block was, College, east of Spadina, south side, protected to Huron. The official reason: It’s a Bike Month event! The real reason, to see how the pylon works in its natural habitat.

For those who have never been, this poorly designed intersection brings three lanes of traffic, streetcar, vehicle and bicycle into a deadly pinch point, putting the cyclist at risk of impact. ARC ninja's descended like sneaky sneakers around 8 a.m. at the corner of Spadina and College earlier this week. About thirty pylons were mathematically distributed along the line, except for one that strayed off the line by inches.

The quilted banner was unfurled, "Guaranteed Bike Lane" it proclaimed in yellow and black, the official ARC colours.  Clipboards poised, cameras at the ready, they waited for cyclists, motorists and TTC to converge.

Happy cyclists a pylon makes.

As they charged across the intersection, following the dip of the road, streetcar, SUV and cyclist all heading towards the pinch where three shall enter, but only two shall make the pass. Low and behold, the SUV sensed the first pylon and slowed down and all three lanes merged perfectly. The magic orange cone had done its duty.

The pylons were a success.  Cyclists were cheered on by over-caffeinated roars of "Happy Bike Month" and #yabikes. Cyclists rode by with at first with suspicion and then smiles and waves, yelling back with thank yous.

An on-duty police officer walked by and stopped. He looked at the bike lane, at the pylons and then said, "That one pylon is off the line, better move it back on."  The pylon was moved back and the officer walked away, confident order had been restored.

Happy compromise for both cyclists and motorists borne by a simple orange cone.

And for the next hour-and-a-half it was all orderly and comfortable for cyclists and streetcar users. The sight of the pylons terrified drivers into becoming orderly citizens in this disorderly intersection. The pylon was a success, guaranteeing that bike lane at it's scariest point. And the price?  $65.00.  A saving of more than $2,000,000 in politicking-and-math speak. (The Sherbourne lanes cost $2.5 million to install.)  So there you have it City of Toronto: a cost effective way to safely make all your bike lanes guaranteed at a bargain basement price. Where shall ARC (aka as Ageless Rocking Corpses) take the Guaranteed Bike Lane too next?

The next ARC project for Guaranteed Bike Lanes had yet TBD.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Spotted: cars parked in the 'protected' bike lane

dandyARCHIVE: Cycle track vs. Separated lane 

Bike Spotting at Portland and Queen: Do you support the Richmond-Adelaide bikeway pilot project?

CBC TV clip at 4:22 about the need for enforcement for illegal parking in the bike lane

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