Janet Joy Wilson and Jun Nogami of Ward 13 invited local City Councillor Sarah Doucette and MP Peggy Nash to join them on a ride through the neighbourhood to audit cycling facilities and point out opportunities for improvement.
Ward 13 Ride with Peggy Nash and Sarah Doucette
Story and photos by Janet Joy Wilson and Jun Nogami
The Ward 13 Advocacy Group of Cycle Toronto has been working to improve safe access to the waterfront for cyclists and pedestrians for several years. The recent opening of the Sunnyside Bike Park has provided the impetus for action to be taken now. The City of Toronto cannot ignore this area any longer, as there has been a rapid "densification" in recent years with multiple condo and townhouse developments. The combination of increased traffic, and a new destination for cyclists and families, provide a tipping point for positive change.
In June, 2014, we submitted a proposal for infrastructure improvements to our local Councillor, Sarah Doucette, and to City of Toronto transportation staff. To illustrate community support we collected more than 300 signatures for our proposal over the course of a few hours one weekend at the intersections we are targeting. Councillor Doucette is solidly in support of our application, and she is working to arrange a meeting with City of Toronto staff to make these improvements a reality.
Councillor Doucette (left) rides with Janet Joy Wilson of the Ward 13 advocacy group, heading down Coe Hill Rd. towards the lakefront.
On Saturday, August 16, Councillor Doucette and Parkdale-High Park MP Peggy Nash joined us (Janet Joy Wilson and Jun Nogami, co captains of the Ward 13 group) for a ride to survey the current conditions that exist at the six intersections between Windermere Ave., Ellis Ave., and Colborne Lodge Drive with the Queensway and Lakeshore Boulevard.
The four of us at the intesection of Ellis and the Queensway.
Ellis Avenue is an official (signed) bike route and is also the most gradual slope down to the lake from both Swansea and the Bloor West Village area. The Sunnyside Bike Park is also located at the foot of Ellis between the Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard, which has significantly increased the amount of bike traffic along this route, particularly families with children. Our proposal is to have sharrows extending across the intersection in the north/south direction to make cars more aware of bike traffic. Sharrows are slated to be painted all along Ellis Ave., but we have been advised that this will not happen until after the PanAm Games in 2015.
We then made our way to the intersection of Lakeshore and Windermere, which has the most fully developed bike and pedestrian infrastructure in place. There is a pedestrian and bicycle crossing on the west side of the intersection with separate signal lights for both.
The crosswalks are also colour coded to separate bikes from foot traffic. Unfortunately, from the behaviour that we observed, it was clear that many people did not know which part of the crosswalk was intended for bikes. Our proposal here is to put sharrows on the bike crossing to mark where bi-directional bike crossing is supposed to flow.
From this point, we proceeded to the Ellis and Lakeshore intersection, which is in the most need of improvement because of its proximity to the bike park on the northeast corner. Here, there is one crosswalk available that is used by both cyclists and pedestrians on the west side of the intersection.
This picture illustrates a major problem: northbound bike and foot traffic is trapped on a tiny triangular island that is bounded by a right turn lane for car traffic.
You can see a family with bikes occupying the island and a pedestrian that has been crowded off of the island. They are all are waiting for the light to cross Ellis Avenue to the northwest corner.
Here our proposal is to have a comprehensive reworking of the intersection with separated bike and foot crosswalks on the west, east, and north sides of the intersection.
It is important to note: There are quite a few improvements that could be done in the short term. It would be highly desirable to remove the right turn lane from southbound Ellis to westbound Lakeshore Boulevard so that cars would have to stop and then to make a full stop and sharp right turn at the intersection. (Just as they are doing now at Hoskin and Queen's Park Crescent.) This would allow an expansion of the sidewalk area on the northwest corner and eliminate the small triangular island where pedestrians and bikes get trapped. The eventual solution would be to provide a proper crossing on the east side of the intersection as well.
We also made a brief visit to the Sunnyside Bike Park to enjoy the delight of cyclists of all ages enjoying this fantastic facility.
Our next stop was the intersection between Lakeshore and Colborne. This is also a critical intersection since the short section of Colborne Lodge under the Gardiner is a designated (painted) bike lane.
Here there is one crosswalk on the west side of the intersection that is also used by southbound cyclists. There is a bikes-only crossing on the east side for northbound cyclists. There are two major issues with the bikes-only crossing. The first issue is that it is not very well signed, and the majority of northbound cyclists do not know about it and thus use the pedestrian crosswalk on the west side. The second issue is that the timing of the bicycle light is only 10 seconds long. This is absolutely not enough time for the average cyclist to get across eight lanes of traffic, and is certainly not nearly enough time for younger children and slower cyclists. This picture shows a father and child trapped at the median after the light changed.
We discussed our desire for this intersection to be upgraded in a similar manner to what we proposed for Ellis, as noted above.
Besides these two major intersection overhauls, many of the improvements we've suggested can be implemented in the short term with just road markings, revised signage, and light timing. We proposed sharrows crossing Lakeshore Boulevard, southbound on the west side, and northbound on the east side. We would also like to see the timing of the bike light changed so that people have at least 15 seconds to cross, and a reasonable interval of yellow light as well. Finally, we would like to see a no right turn on red for eastbound cars on Lakeshore turning north onto Colborne Lodge. Councillor Doucette heartily agreed with all of these suggestions.
We asked Peggy what could be done at the federal level, and she said that she is working on a proposal for a national strategy for cycling infrastructure, perhaps to be introduced as a motion for consideration by the government. Very simple things such as a sharing of best practices for cycling infrastructure across the country would be very helpful.
Both our City Councillor and our MP fully support a #minimumgrid of bike lanes in Toronto.
Our ride ended at the High Park Zoo, where Councillor Doucette had arranged for a new bike rack that was installed just a couple of weeks ago for the many families who visit the Zoo.
As stated earlier, Sarah is now working to arrange a meeting to push the infrastructure improvements at the waterfront forward. If you are interested in a few more details about the proposal, you can consult the Ward13Bikes website.
If you are in support of what we are proposing, the above link will also lead you to an online petition.
Following up on a previous dandyhorse blog post from Ward 14, we look forward to working with all the relevant ward groups to improve safe access all along the lake for all Torontonians.
We leave you with this telling quote from Councillor Doucette:
“I knew about all of your proposals for these intersections, but to have seen them on two wheels is a totally different experience."
If only we could get all city, provincial and federal politicians on two wheels then perhaps more cycling infrastructure would be implemented.
Related on the dandyBLOG:
Flash to the past, with dandy publisher Tammy Thorne and Peggy Nash:
Cyclist Profile: Peggy Nash (Spacing magazine)
Bike Friday with Peggy Nash (BikingToronto.com)