2011 Bikeway Network – Part Two: Separated lanes on Richmond and Bloor – Dave Meslin

Dave Meslin is dandyhorse magazine’s founding publisher. Here he looks at the major issues in the City of Toronto’s 2011 Bikeway Network Update:

Part Two: Separated lanes on Richmond and Bloor

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post showing how Richmond Street would look if we converted one lane of traffic into a physically separated bike lane. I was inspired by the new bike lanes that were being installed in New York City, and I created this image – merging Manhattan’s 8th Ave bike lane, with our own Richmond Street:

While this may seem like a fantasy, we are one step closer to bringing into reality with this this week’s staff report. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong has been vocally supporting a downtown ‘network’ of separated lanes for months. Of all the lanes proposed in the network, I’m most excited by two proposals: Richmond Street (from Bathurst to Sherbourne), and on Bloor (from Sherbourne to Broadview, across the Viaduct).

The Bloor lanes will create a safe and inviting route connecting the downtown to the east side of the Don River valley. These lanes are scheduled to be installed this year. We should be cheerleading this proposal and ensuring that it gets built. This will be Toronto’s first physically separated bike lane, and will serve as a showcase for what’s possible in other parts of town.

The Richmond Street lanes will not happen quite so quickly, but they are far from dead (as some have suggested). The report recommends that Staff “assess the feasibility of separated bike lanes on Adelaide or and/or Richmond” as part of a “larger overall transportation operations study of this area.” A preliminary “terms of reference” for this report is due in September. This study will also, hopefully, help sort out the tension surrounding the north/south bike lane options for John St or Peter St (I won’t get into that here. Can of worms…).

This is a video I shot on my iPhone last week in Brooklyn. It gives you an idea of how a physically separated bike lane on Richmond could look and feel:

The Richmond lanes are something cyclists should be watching closely, and supporting with all their might. We’ll need to build public support – from drivers, to the BIAs, to taxi companies, health agencies, insurance companies, journalists, editorial writers, and of course – City Councillors.

These two proposals (Bloor East and Richmond) are the highlights of the report, for me. The lanes are bold, and could greatly increase the number of people who feel comfortable biking on our streets. Here’s one of the first comments I got on my Facebook wall, when I posted the Brooklyn video:

That’s precisely why I love separated lanes. They are a ‘gateway’ to cycling. Non-cyclists are more likely to try bike riding, if there is a safe place to ride. We’ll see more suits, more kids, and more families on bikes. This could be the biggest step forward for cycling that we’ve ever seen downtown.

Originally posted on June 22, 2011 to mez dispenser

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2011 Bikeway Network – Part One: Birchmont and Pharmacy – Dave Meslin

Dave Meslin is dandyhorse magazine's founding publisher. Here he looks at the major issues in the City of Toronto's 2011 Bikeway Network Update:

Tomorrow at City Hall, the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) will be discussing, debating and voting on a package of proposals for Toronto’s bike network. Some of the report is really positive, and some of it is a huge step backwards for Toronto. I’m writing a few quick blog posts today about some of the highlights of the report.

You can also read responses from the Toronto Cyclists Union, Torontoist, Toronto Star and iBikeTO.

Part One: Birchmount and Pharmacy

In 2008, City Council approved the installation of bike lanes on Birchmount and Pharmacy, in south-west Scarborough. Both of these lanes had also been approved in the 2001 Toronto Bike Plan (see PDF for District 4).

The bike lanes are working well, and automobile traffic is also flowing nicely. In the new report, city staff state clearly that “staff have reviewed the operation of these lanes and have concluded that they do not have a significant adverse effect on teh traffic operations and parking situation” on either street.

Here’s a great video, shot by cyclist Darren Stehr, showing a rush-hour ride on Pharmacy. He starts the ride at Danforth, at 5:10pm, and rides all the way up to just south of Lawrence and then back down again to Nancy Street. You can see that the street is working – for all users.

(The original video was 28 minutes long, but he reduced it to 8 minutes by speeding up the tape, for your convenience)

 

During the 2010 city election, Michelle Berardinetti campaigned very strongly against the bike lanes, and won the election with over 50% of the vote.

As a democracy activist, I’m torn here between my faith in democracy and my love for bike lanes and road safety. On one hand, I believe that residents should have a major role in designing their own neighbourhoods. On the other hand, we know that bikelanes encourage more cycling and can also save lives (and broken arms, legs, etc).

Councillor Berardinetti likes to point out two factors, related to this situation:

1) There are alternative routes for cyclists. For example, there are proposals to create a new off-street bike route through Warden Woods that could connect to the Gatineau Hydro Corridor (to the north west), and the Taylor Creek Park path (to the west). Another nearby route is the proposed Dawes Road bikelane.

2) She claims that her office receives many phonecalls complaining about the bike lanes.

Here’s my response to both factors:

1) Alternative routes: If there are alternative routes being built, let’s wait until AFTER those routes are completed, before removing the lanes. Why create a gap, in which cyclists in the ward have no safe route? It seems irresponsible to remove the existing lanes before alternatives have been built. I would also add that the alternative routes might not be convenient for those cyclists who live on, or depend on, Birchmount and Pharmacy.

2) Public opinion in the ward: As I said, I like democracy. So if the vast majority of residents in the area want the bike lanes out, then take them out. But I think it’s a mistake to interpret the election results purely as a referendum on the bikelanes. There were many other issues in the election. I also think it’s a mistake to base the decision solely on complaints that are coming in by phone. In politics, there is a sad truth about constituent behaviour: they are more likely to call when they DON’T like something, than when they DO. No one is going to randomly call the Councillor and say “I just want you to know that the road is working fine for me and, speaking as a driver, you can leave those bike lanes in”. Those calls don’t happen. So if we’re going to remove bikelanes in the name of democracy, let’s do it right. That means a proper consultation process, where residents have time to learn the facts, talk to each other, propose alterations, hear from the actual cyclists who use the street, etc.

We know that bike traffic isn’t high on these streets. No doubt. But even if 40 people are using it, doesn’t that make it worth it? That’s not for me to say. This is a choice for the residents of the ward, and it would be irresponsible to remove these lanes without properly consulting those residents. I think many of them would support the lanes, in the name of safety and fairness, if given the chance.

So I propose these amendments to the staff report:

1) That any bike lane be removed only after proper community consultation.

2) In the case of removal, the re-painting should only occur after alternative routes are completed.

Staff should also be asked to prioritise the Warden Woods bike path, and explore options for connecting the Warden Woods path to the Taylor Park Creek path, with a connection through the city-owned Dentonia golf course.

I’ll add one thing here too. The total cost of removing these lanes is $210,000 dollars. ($120,000 for Pharmacy and $90,000 for Birchmount). Seems like a waste of money, to paint lines and then remove them three years later. Imagine how that money could be better spent. I would spend it on three full-time staff, who’s job is to promote cycling in suburban neighbourhoods!

I’ll write more later today about other parts of the plan….

Originally posted on June 22, 2011 at mez dispenser

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Distillery District to Go Bike at MEC Bikefest Saturday June 25, 2011

On Saturday, June 25, 2011, Mountain Equipment Co-op will host the second MEC Bikefest Toronto, taking over the historic Distillery District to celebrate all things bike.

This family-friendly event encourages people to come celebrate and discover the many joys of cycling.

The Bicycle Commons is coordinating with BikeSauce and MEC to offer a massive free bicycle repair station with 20 "triage tents" set up where event attendees can bring their bicycles for tune-ups and minor repairs.

Park your bike with The Toronto Cyclists Union at their Bike Valet station and explore the entire Distillery District. Clinics will help you learn skills like riding in the city and teach you how to make repairs to your own bike. There's a little something for everyone from commuting to road riding and mountain biking.

This year the event introduces youth seminars where children can learn the basics of bike maintenance and repair. To register for any of the clinics visit the MEC store at 400 King Street West on or before June 22. Event registration will be open on the day of the event though space is limited.

In addition to clinics and seminars there will be three free Group Rides open to all event attendees. Explore the nearby Don Valley on ride to Evergreen Brick Works where fresh pastry awaits your arrival, take a city ride along the waterfront or participate in a scavenger hunt hosted by Unlock the City.

MEC will have a large selection from their bicycle line on display and attendees will have the chance to test ride bikes. Many other local venders will also be on hand with bicycles, bags and accessories as well as many other bike-related goodness.

Stop by and say hello to the dandyhorse team as we'll have a special subscription discount for all attendees and will be selling t-shirts ($25) and all back issues ($5 each). Our latest issue explores the many ways Bikes are Good for Business so stop by and pick up a copy.

For full event details and clinic and group ride times visit: MEC Bikefest Toronto

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Heels on Wheels Goes Tandem: Leanne Eisen

Leanne Eisen Heels on Wheels by Molly Crealock

By Tammy Thorne
Photos by Molly Crealock

Why did you decide to get married on Day of Delight?

Day of Delight is Clay & Paper Theatre's annual celebration of love, courtship and desire. This festival is all about leaving cynicism behind, and celebrating love. What better place could you think of to hold a wedding? I'm not a big fan of traditional weddings. I've been to a million of them, and they're all the same. Boring. Most ceremonies are constrained by outdated traditions and say very little about the people who are involved in them. Day of Delight has theatre, music, installation and participatory projects including Cardbordia (an entire land made of cardboard) and a musical bicycle parade! How cool is that? We want to say "Hey, this thing we've got here is pretty great. Let's celebrate!".

Will you be wearing heels as you ride off on your tandem bike?

I made a solemn vow many years ago to never wear heels again. I have broken that vow on occasion in the name of fashion and have always lived to regret it.

What about your groom-to-be Ben?

Ben can usually be found wearing Keen Austin cycle commuter shoes. Clipless shoes in disguise. Ingenious!

How did you and Ben meet?

We met in high school in Fergus, Ontario, but were both too shy to talk to one another. We somehow met up again through in our early twenties and ended up on a midnight canoe ride together. We capsized and had to swim for an island toward the middle of the lake. Having lost the canoe, we sat up talking all night while we waited to be rescued the next morning. That was our first date. We clicked, fell madly in love, and have been together ever since.

What role does the bicycle play in your lives?

A bicycle is an expression of the synthesis between the self and the community. It's also the best and most useful vehicle ever developed.

How long have you been part of the Clay & Paper Theatre group?

I began as a volunteer three years ago as member of Clay and Paper's "Revolutionary Choir," singing "Bicycle Revolution!" I slowly wormed myself into their collective and have been working there for just over a year.

How Long have you been involved with Take the Tooker?

Ben and I saw the ad for the first Take The Tooker group ride in 2005. We decided to get involved when speaking with Darren Stehr on that ride, and have been working with them ever since. If you think about it, It makes sense to have a East/West bikeway through Toronto. Most car/bike collisions happen on East/West streets, and off of bicycle routes, so it's clear that it's something we need. Why not put it somewhere we want to go, where there aren't streetcar tracks? You think it'll impede car traffic? No problem: the subway is right there. It's a no brainer, really.

How could Toronto's streets be safer for cyclists?

Toronto's streets could be safer for cyclists if there was more concern and respect among all users of public space.

What do you think of this Ann Strong quote? “The bicycle is as good company as most husbands. When it gets old a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking he entire community.” (It was on the first telegram I received from Martin de la Rue who will perform at the Day of Delight!)

Bicycles don't get old like husbands. A quality bicycle should be an heirloom that lasts multiple generations. For example, I still ride my grandmother's omafiets.

Leanne Eisen is a bike loving, photo taking, ukulele playing, omafiets pedalling, visual artist.  leanneeisen.com

Clay & Paper Theatre presents: The 9th annual Day of Delight
A celebration of love, courtship and desire!

Clay & Paper Theatre requests the honour of your presence in Dufferin Grove Park on Sunday, June nineteenth for our most romantic Day of Delight to date! Our ninth annual celebration of love, courtship and desire will culminate in a real wedding that will be celebrated by all our fanciful festival revelers. Bring someone you love to beautiful Dufferin Grove Park for an afternoon of theatre, music, dance, installation and participatory works, including: Cardbordia, our beloved cardboard village, aerial dance, Punch and Judy's puppet kissing booth, stilt dancing, storytelling, anonymous love letters to strangers, a stag n’ doe can-can, country love songs, and a musical bicycle parade – complete with giant puppets – that will deliver you to our very special Day of Delight wedding!

Participating artists include: Lisa Marie DiLiberto, CYCLOPS: Cycling Oriented Bicycle Squad, Sage Tyrtle, The Upside Down Ladies, Circus Alchemy, The Ismailova Theatre of Dance, Clare Samuel, Collective Exchange, Shannon Roszell, The Saucy Tarts, Martin Helmut Reis, Blackcurrant Productions, Kristina Esposito, Richard Underhill, Honey and Blair, and more!

Sunday, June 19th, 2011, 2 - 5 pm
Dufferin Grove Park, 875 Dufferin Street
Pay-What-You-Can / $10 Suggested
clayandpapertheatre.org

Facebook: The 9th Annual Day of Delight

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Bells on Bloor Saturday, June 18, 2011

Connect with thousands of bicycle-minded friends this Saturday, June 18, 2011 for the Bells on Bloor procession.

Starting at High Park (at the Bloor Street entrance), a pedal-powered wave of people on bikes will make its way to Queen's Park to a chorus of bicycle bells. Celebrate bicycles, community and healthy, sustainable transportation while showing your support for safe bike lanes on Bloor... a police escort helps to ensure safety for all. Learn more about Bells on Bloor here.

Bloor/Danforth is an important street to the lives of many Torontonians and welcomes countless visitors every day. In our Spring 2011 issue of dandyhorse magazine we examine how Bicycles are Good for Business on Bloor.

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