City Cyclist rides Richmond (above) to show us what the bike lane closure looks like now.
Richmond Street bike lane shut down until November: No alternate route offered
The city is notorious for poor planning when it comes to our roadways, and it’s got to stop
by Tammy Thorne
Toronto is congested. Officials didn’t plan well for the future, and now we’re all paying the price. Cyclists are part of the solution to gridlock, but as a constituency historically we’ve been treated as what could diplomatically be described as an afterthought.
In a world-class city, cyclists should not be treated as if they are a problem.
We felt hopeful last year as we saw the city’s first protected bikeway network installed in the downtown core along Richmond and Adelaide, and Simcoe. It’s considered a pilot project, but since cycling has increased 3-fold on the lanes, it would seem that the pilot is off to a flying start. But wait! Not even one year in to the precious pilot project and the city has announced that Richmond street – the best part hands down of this new ‘mini grid’ downtown, will be closed until November. That’s right, November – when it’s time to get the woolies out.
The city’s weak announcement, meekly suggests cyclists can use King or Queen – both horrendous and often impossible routes for cyclists with largely free on-street parking, street car tracks and bumper-to-bumper traffic even mid-day, these are not routes I would ever recommend to a cyclist. I avoid them both myself because I refuse to ride in the door zone – and if I must do (as they city often puts bike lanes that disappear after short stints in the door zone – think College) then I ride really really REALLY slowly, finger ready on the bell, voice perched to holler out “don’t hit me!” It’s no way to bike – and certainly not anything for the many tourists and new cyclists who may have heard Toronto is a great biking city and may want to try out the new expanded Bike Share program.
And in la belle province, our beloved Montreal knows how to treat their bike peeps. When a bike lane shuts down due to construction, it is par for the course that a detour for cyclists would be installed – of course! In this current example on Lachine along the canal, cyclists will be detoured onto a new bike route running next to Côte-St-Paul Street. It was widely publicized, and picked up by all the major news outlets including CBC, Global and the Montreal Gazette. Vive le Québec!
In Toronto, a press release goes out to the usual suspects (of which, I am one) and gets no further coverage in the media nor are cyclists really given adequate signage in the lead up to the zone that is shut down. As I biked down Richmond last week, it was unclear to me if it was actually shut down – there was still a space for me to get through on my bike, so I took it, instead of mixing with traffic. Drivers are angry in this city and I’d rather bike on the pavement next to a trench, with no one honking at me than be stuck behind a tailpipe in the blazing heat with an aggressive driver honking loudly at me from behind.
When asked why Toronto wasn’t considering the kind of official detour we see in other cities - we suggested that Queen would be an obvious detour choice if the city would remove on-street parking to make room - the City’s cycling manager, Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, said; “Yes, this was considered but we did not have a viable option for a designated cycle track detour route in the core, as the adjacent routes are also streetcar routes.”
Easan Vallipuram, project manager for this project and senior engineer, streetcar way and special projects at the City of Toronto said, “The sharrow markings had already been installed over the weekend [of July 16-17], and additional signs will be installed by Wednesday, July 20.”
How will this closure affect the review of the pilot, which was just installed in October 2015? Hayward Gulati said, “We are proposing that the study period for the pilot project be extended to fall of 2017. We will report back with an update report to PWIC this fall indicating that this is our recommendation.” It is standard for cycling pilot projects to require one complete cycling season to gather enough metrics for a proper assessment. It is telling that the City of Toronto has not been able to achieve that with it’s very first cycle track project.
As it is now, cyclists are starting to avoid it, as it is now unsafe. But many cyclists don't know it's like that until they get there - and since there is no alternate route - many are still riding Richmond.
Want to get a real look at what it’s like right now?
Contributor City Cyclist took a tour down the officially obstructed lane last week.
After this ride, City Cyclist told me: “Richmond is mental...one good downtown westbound bike route that Toronto builds for us, everyone uses it, then they close it! Lots of cyclists are continuing to use it- there was a group of 6 or 7 of us today who took over the lane together, but if you were alone, it wouldn't feel good. There is a 6 foot pit on the side if you make a mistake or get bullied over by a nasty motorist!”
And, as he says in the video: If it were a traffic lane that was being completely shut down, there would be a detour provided.
Why shouldn’t the 1,300-plus cyclists that use this lane get the same courtesy?
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