City Cyclist: Toronto construction and bad bike lanes

The latest video by City Cyclist: Bad Bike Lanes Toronto Construction

by City Cyclist

I ride all year round. In anything. So I'm used to the obstacles and annoying dangers of city cycling, but for the growing number of newbie or fair-weather cyclists there are several areas of the city that are dangerous right now due to the seemingly ever-present and ongoing construction. Check out this cool interactive road works map that shows just how much road work is happening right now: and keep in mind, that’s just roadwork (doesn’t include condo developments and the like.)

I ride along Queen Street, in front of City Hall every day. Joy fills my heart as I have the opportunity to wave to our mayor as he zooms by in his Cadillac Escalade, talking on his cell phone and doing paperwork on his way to the office. He often gestures back, but you wouldn't call it a wave, really.

Perhaps that's the reason the dangerous construction has been going on for so many months in front of City Hall. Since May, the westbound lanes on Queen have been partially blocked by blue construction gates (which you can see in my latest video) that force cyclists and cars to merge with other traffic. There are also streetcar tracks. So cyclists are sort of forced to squeeze between the metal fence in the road and the streetcar track, while avoiding cars and trucks forced into the same situation. It's not safe. A lot of cyclists – especially those aforementioned newbies – fear streetcar tracks. This is their nightmare. If the gates were pushed back even a foot or two, it would provide more safety. And it sucks that the construction work is taking so long.

Wellesley is a drag right now too. I just heard that they are redoing it, putting in dedicated bike lanes and fixing up the road for all users, so in the long term it should be great! This will be a nice addition to Toronto's cycling infrastructure. But right now? The stretch between University and Yonge is a construction mess, with no thought of current use. There is one lane, shared by all...no bike lane, no spiffy paint, and no plastic sticks which somebody named bollards. Or maybe it's bollocks, I'm not sure. Anyway, I've taken to riding parts of Wellesley because it's kind of nice. I rode eastbound on Wellesley, starting at University Ave., the other day. What did I find? A bunch more of those metal fences that the mayor has been using to block my way on Queen St. for the whole summer. Honestly, where did he find all of these gates and why is he stalking my bike routes and putting up fences? On Wellesley now, cars merge into the bike lane! So we get to, quite literally, 'share’ the road. Which sounds nice, but the guy honking behind me when I rode there didn't seem to want to share. Even though I'm a 'vehicle' according to the Highway Traffic Act, it doesn’t seem to take into account that bicycles are quite different from other vehicles. In fact, if you want us all to be exactly like vehicles, we could try that for a week. We could take up the lanes, just like all of the other vehicles, go into the left turn lanes just like the rest of the vehicles, slowing everyone down, block the whole lane when we stop for a minute to text or talk to someone, just like all of the vehicles, etc. But we aren't like other vehicles! We move slower (unless you are stuck in your car in gridlock - sorry!) and are much more vulnerable. All that said, one of the mayor's friends was behind me honking, and that stretch of Wellesley sucks right now. No alternative route has been offered. Hopefully, once it's fixed up, it will be Biking Mecca.

Finally, the Bloor Viaduct. The big bridge that links Bloor and Danforth has a nice, painted bike lane – currently without any separation from fast moving motor vehicle traffic. It truly needs to be separated. Suddenly this week, the bike lane is gone, replaced by a bunch of signs and huge concrete barriers! (Eds note: Ironically, these are the same kind of barriers that would make great dividers for the bike lane.) The mayor must have run out of metal fences though, because he just has a bunch of signs (saying very unhelpful things like, “bike lanes ends here”) plus lots of concrete barriers – right in the middle of the bike lane, forcing cyclists to merge with fast moving traffic. And cars go really fast here – like  60, 70, 80 km. The police have speed traps there almost every week. I saw a 57-year-old cyclist hit in the bike lane there two years ago by a car whose driver got distracted for a moment. A few of us stopped to help. The cyclist went to the hospital in critical condition. (I hope you're okay, but the way!) There were no charges laid. There should have been. That said, it's a dangerous stretch of road, and then a construction crew from the city just blocked the bike lane with no thought to what the large number of cyclists who use the bridge would do. Again, apparently the city is doing some work to the route, fixing the catch basins, which have been flooding a lot so, kudos! And maybe they'll give us some more bollards if they can find any. And I just heard today that they added some barrels to make it safer, which is good.

Construction is clearly a fact of life in Toronto, but so is cycling. I look forward to the day when our mayor rides a bike. Until then, ride safe everyone.

…Ed’s note: We noticed that City Council will be discussing cyclist’s safety in chambers next week on August 25 and that Councillor McMahon – a cyclist and ally for cyclists at City Hall – will be speaking to the issue of construction zone safety. So dandyhorse asked her about the Viaduct incident and what can be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Here’s what Councillor McMahon said:

"The Bloor Viaduct incident this week clearly demonstrates that we need to do a better job of protecting cyclists around construction zones. If we want to encourage average Torontonians to commute by bike, we need to make the entire city bike friendly, construction or not. We also need to create a "habit of mind" so that contractors and city departments are thinking of ALL road users (pedestrians,drivers AND cyclists) when doing work."

 

 Related on the dandyBLOG:

Bike Spotting on Adelaide: Do you like these bollards?

Bike Spotting on Adelaide: Does this bike lane needs bollards?

Heels on Wheels: Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon

Elsewhere:

City Cyclist: Bike Lanes in Toronto

City Cyclist: So THIS is a bike lane

Bike Lanes by Casey Neistat (NYC)

 

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