Adelaide bike lane between Bay and York is a nightmare: City to repatch this week


The asphalt patch job only covered some of the dangerous streetcar tracks and potholes in the 'bike lane' on Adelaide Street. The City says they are repatching again this week.

Adelaide bike lane between Bay and York is a cruel joke

City says the area will be repatched and get more asphalt infill around the streetcar tracks "early this week."

By Tammy Thorne

Photos by Chelsea La Vecchia and Tammy Thorne

When the weather gets nice again, that's when all our fair-weather friends come out to ride. New cyclists and visitors to our fine city usually check the bike map so they can plan their routes using bike lanes.

The new Richmond-Adelaide cycle track pilot project has seen a major increase in cyclists since it launched last fall and is getting good use.


But the portion of Adelaide between York and Bay of this otherwise successful pilot project is a true trap for cyclists - especially inexperienced ones.

The buffered lane suddenly ends and these markings called "sharrows" (chevron style arrows with a bike symbol indicated that bikes and cars should share the lane) direct cyclists into traffic.

To make matters worse, there are ghost tracks - decommissioned streetcar tracks - right in this stretch... making it the 'danger zone' (to quote Archer).

Cyclists, especially new cyclists and tourists, need to beware of streetcar tracks in Toronto. Always cross at a 90 degree angle and take extra caution when it's raining.


This is the danger zone for cyclists on Adelaide street. Right in the middle of the new pilot project bike lane on Adelaide too. (Major frowny face.) Ghost tracks, courier zone and a half-assed patch job = trouble for bikers. 27511352465_ad9e9b93e8_k

dandyhorse has been diligently following up with the city over the last three weeks to ask when this situation will be rectified. We are also concerned that this poor quality pavement and dangerous strip might affect the overall rating for this otherwise perfect pilot project for protected bike lanes downtown.

On Friday June 3, after we did a Bike Spotting at York and Adelaide, we asked the City's cycling manager if more could be done.

Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati said: "We've taken a look and agree this area needs more asphalt fill.  We've made a request and anticipate it will be done early next week."

We asked the local councillor, Pam McConnell, if she will be supporting the permanent installation of this bike lane.

"Yes, the Councillor absolutely supports the permanent installation of the cycle track. She believes the pilot project evaluation and its recommendations will point to providing a better protected condition for cyclists between York Street and Yonge Street," said Tom Davidson, senior advisor, planning and projects
, for Pam McConnell, 
deputy Mayor and City councillor, ward 28 (Toronto Centre-Rosedale).

Just one street over on Richmond, we see a handy dandy solution in the form of jersey (cement) barriers on the north side of the street where construction is obstructing the sidewalk and the bike lane. Inside this protected path, cyclists and pedestrians slowly and carefully share space. (Although most pedestrians use the sidewalk on the south side.)

With the never ending condo developments and copious courier zones all over the downtown core, we will never get a true bike network unless we are willing as a city to show courage -- and make adjustments to make a safe, complete and protected network of lanes that connect to each other.

The tower construction that is currently blocking the lanes should be complete by April 2017 - but the courier zone might be an ongoing issue. Here's what Hayward Gulati said:

"...The exception to the no stopping and separated design of the cycle tracks is a short segment between York Street and Yonge Street where two existing high demand "courier delivery zones" will be maintained to service the unique high volume truck delivery needs of First Canadian Place, Scotia Plaza with truck elevators serving the underground Path. This one section of street is already reduced to two lanes because of ongoing tower construction occupying the north side. Enhanced pavement markings (sharrows) will be provided to guide cyclists around these "courier delivery zones". If the cycle tracks are approved for permanent installation, alternative design solutions could be possible in this section in the future."

Originally, the streetcar tracks on Adelaide were filled with asphalt in August 2015 as part of the installation of the cycle tracks extension and when it was reported that there were gaps or some asphalt had been dislodged, they were filled in again in October and November 2015, according to Hayward Gulati.

"Unfortunately this is not a permanent solution as the asphalt does become dislodged over time, especially over the winter months.  The cycle tracks on Adelaide are a pilot project under evaluation, so we cannot pursue the removal or pave-over of unused tracks until we have council direction on the permanent condition," she said.

Putting the city's ghost tracks to rest has been a long and storied tale - really, just like much of Toronto's hard won bike infrastructure and safety.

Streetcar tracks are a necessary piece of infrastructure in this city, so long as they are in use. Once decommissioned, though, they can prove deadly for cyclists if they aren't filled in.

In 2012, Joseph Mavic died after his bike tire jammed in a decommissioned track on Wychwood Avenue, and he fell and struck his head. It took almost two years for the city to take concrete action. At the time one councillor even suggested it would be cheaper just to ban bicycles from that particular street than pulling up the tracks - which hadn't been in use since 1978.

By 2014, the city outlined a plan for patching up the more than three kilometres of abandoned or "ghost" tracks. Today, most of them have been filled in.

"We no longer have any tracks that have been decommission(ed) and haven't had some type of filler applied," said Nazzareno Capano, manager of operational planning and policy for Toronto's transportation services.

In its 2014 report on how to deal with decommissioned streetcar tracks, the city noted that after a test project on Wychwood, asphalt and thermoplastic paint were the best options for filling in the spaces around the tracks. Taking the tracks out entirely was deemed too expensive. Covering them up would cost just $40,000.

Back at Adelaide, Nazzareno said he believes the city has filled in the unused south-side tracks with asphalt. It's just one step in a complete overhaul of the street.

"It was thought that the southside track created the greatest problems for cyclist and the fact that Adelaide will most likely be reconstructed within the next five years.  All the tracks will be removed at that time as well."

As for the remaining 300-plus kilometers of track still in use? Cyclists will have to continue to keep a close eye on them, crossing at a 90-degree angle and using extra caution when the roads are wet.

"With respect to in-service track solutions, unfortunately they haven't been able to come up with a viable solution," Nazzareno said.

For the nerdier readers among us, here's a chart from that original 2014 report that shows the different types of fillers that were tested.

Adelaide, in the meantime, remains a bit of a nightmare for cyclists between York and Bay. The rest of the lane is great.

Here's what some of the cyclists we spoke had to say here.


Screen shot 2016-06-02 at 1.34.50 PM


PostScript: Stephen Clarkson, a political scientist at the University of Toronto who died this year, came into my former office at U of T one day about 10 years ago with a plastic baggy full of nuts and bolts and his arm in a sling and said, "I heard you're some kind of bike activist - can you get these decommissioned streetcar tracks removed?" He had recently wiped out on Adelaide. Professor Clarkson, I'm sorry I have tried but it looks like it will take until 2020 to have them removed, but in the meantime, we WILL have them filled in properly!

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Bike Spotting on Adelaide at York (NEW!)

Bike Spotting on Adelaide – Do you support the bike lane extension?

Bike Spotting Bike to Work Day 2016


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