The Lonely, Lonely Bike Lane…

Over this past Thanksgiving weekend, many of us spent time putting away our summer furniture, closing up our patios, and as we sunk a bit deeper into the Fall season, we began to recognize that Winter is just around the corner.

It’s the opposite of that thing called “Spring Cleaning,” which also comes about as one season turns into another.

But do you know who doesn’t seem to understand the turning of the seasons?  The City of Toronto.

Why else can you explain their 365-day commitment to bicycle-lanes in the downtown core, even though we suffer some of the harshest winters on the planet?

Yeah, alright, lay it on me.

This is one of those posts that I know people will object to, although to be perfectly honest, I’m not expecting more than maybe 15-20% in disagreement.

I’ve made my feelings known: I’m not a fan of dedicated bicycle lanes.

But it’s not because I’m a snob, or a “rightie,” or any of the things that people who don’t like bike lanes are often labelled.

It’s because, to be perfectly honest, I’m logical.

Did you watch that video?

Did you see ANY bikes in that bike lane?

That’s a short, random sample.  It’s only three minutes, but we didn’t see any bikes.

So I’m of the opinion that to take a lane of traffic away, and hand it over to bikes, is only logical if the usage necessitates it.

What’s the ratio of cars to bikes?  Put a number to it, if you can.

Maybe……300-to-1?

Is that reasonable?

Maybe it’s 200-to-1, or maybe it’s 400-to-1.  Either way, it’s not enough to necessitate a dedicated lane for bikes.

Now throw that whole “winter” thing into the equation, and I understand the logic even less.  For a quarter-year or more, about 95% of cyclists won’t ride, or can’t ride, and yet the dedicated bike lanes remain.

Toronto suffers from traffic congestion, and has for many years.  At the current moment, it’s only getting worse.

So how does taking a 4-lane road, and a major east-west artery in Richmond Street, and shrinking it down to three lanes make any sense?

I’ll be honest here: I don’t have the answer to the question, “How do we solve Toronto’s gridlock.”

But I know that taking away a lane of traffic does not help.

And I would imagine that bike lane will be a lonely, lonely place come wintertime…

53 Comments

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  1. Dave says:

    I’m a 59 year old tax payer and I bike and drive in downtown Toronto. By far the easiest way to get somewhere is by bike. Because I bike it doesn’t preclude that I’m not going to work or shopping or running errands. It doesn`t mean that I don`t have serious needs for safe roads. Today I was almost hit twice by taxis on Yonge St, one turning in front of me to grab a fare. Yonge St is terrible for biking as the lanes are narrow, and the curbs are full of grates, ruts and holes, I only feel really safe when I’m in a dedicated lane, and not one that shares with taxis and buses as on Bay. When the city installed bike lanes on Jarvis I felt much safer there but since they’ve been removed I avoid Jarvis. The thing with Jarvis is that it’s only at capacity for a couple of hours in the morning and a northward flow at evening rush hour. The rest of the day as is the case with Yonge, Bay University, Richmond and Adelaide these roads are only full at rush hour. Especially in the evenings when most commuters are gone the roads downtown are very quiet. Drivers seem to think that they own the roads, should be able to park conveniently anywhere, and not be slowed down one bit even in rush hour. That will never never happen with or without bike lanes. Studies show that as soon as an expressway is built in a car focused city it fills up. The city has built a great lane on Sherbourne St, except no cyclist in the centre core would bother to go way over there to use it. The principle streets like Jarvis, Church, Yonge, Bay (Where there are very sketchy lanes) University and east west on Bloor, Wellesley (where there is a very successful lane that does not impede traffic) College, Dundas, Queen, King and Front should be considered for bike lanes. Copenhagen and Amsterdam with much denser old cores than Toronto has successfully implemented bike lanes on principle streets. When I do drive downtown, I have no problems sharing the road with a tax paying cyclist because I know of the danger and difficulty it really is cycling in our city.

  2. Elle Cee says:

    Aside from this post being utter nonsense, I think it’s very clear that you do not live downtown nor have you ever used a bicycle to commute downtown. More to the point recording a video while driving is ILLEGAL! You not only endangered yourself, but the other drivers around you. I will be directing the Toronto Police to this site. You are an idiot!

  3. Mike says:

    So your sitting alone in your car complaining about a bike land and traffic while talking about efficiency, you must have saw the irony?

    I get it, you might have been on your way to meet take a client out or something, but how about that car you sat behind? I’m guessing you guys weren’t the only two cars with only one person in them, all adding to the traffic.

    Buy yourself a nice bicycle and meet your clients at your condo appointments (not always possible if you’re going to multiple sites or appointments outside the core) and think of the great tool you’ll have in your pocket when you tell your prospective client that you got there, on a bike in less than 15 minutes.

    You can’t sit in your car all by yourself and say that bike lanes are the reason for traffic.

  4. Marc says:

    I counted 17 other cyclists between Parliament and University on Friday morning shortly after 9. The numbers will keep increasing as more people clue into them.

  5. Appraiser says:

    Maybe we need a total re-tool.

    Perhaps it’s time for Toronto to start thinking about going European.

    Dedicated bike / pedestrian lanes. Free bike usage everywhere.

    London England has a car-fee to drive around in the core, another tool that could be added.

    I know, I know , war against the car – blah-blah!

    I believe that there are many people who would seriously considering biking / walking / roller blading to work but don’t, because it’s too damn dangerous.

    1. Boris says:

      Going European is typically a recipe for disaster. In this case too.

      Now the idea of having a license for coming downtown, or a fee schedule for entering the DT zone is a good idea. But the license should also have to be purchased by cyclists. They tie up asphalt real estate too.

      1. Noel says:

        LIcense should be not required by bicyclist but only by cars. You want to encourage biking not discourage it!

        1. Boris says:

          No, we want to have people that use real estate (roads) to pay for that use in a congested core.

          Should tax cyclists more for being unsufferable twats.

          1. Gerrit says:

            I agree with both of you (and I am a cyclist)!! Except for the part where you generalized and called all cyclists ‘unsufferable twats’. There are some bad eggs out there, for sure. Both cyclists and drivers.

            Noel, the city should definitely encourage cycling. More bikes equals less cars. So that should make the drivers hapy.

            Boris, I think to be fair cyclists should also have to pay for, as you put it, for tying up asphalt real estate. I don’t agree that cyclists should pay more. If it is about real estate as you said it should be based on the footprint of the vehicle. Perhaps cars pay a buck, and bikes a nickel?

            You have to consider that some cyclists cant afford to own a car. As such taxing them higher then cars would leave them with few options.

            http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3402/3342003343_40b32098cd_o.png

  6. Cool Koshur says:

    @David
    I understand where you coming from. Focus should shift to public transit. Our politicians have let us down. We seriously need lots of subway lines like a mesh in City of Toronto.Create many multi-tier parking lot on the perimeters of the city and have people travel by subway to these parking terminals and then drive to their homes. This will relieve the pressure on downtown core which is already suffering from lack of affordable parking spaces. GO service runs on limited schedule and very expensive. UP Express is a white elephant. One way trip should be $5 and I am sure lot of people will start using it when price comes down.

    On separate note may be it is time, you start adding like or dislike buttons to your blogs.
    You will know how much flak each blog is getting

    1. WEB says:

      I live 10 KM from my office. I take an express bus to get into work. No, I am not one of those SERIOUSLY EVIL REALLY BAD BAD people that drive a car into work. My commute has been slowed down by two different bike lanes, one installed a few years ago and one installed recently. Before these bike lanes, were put in, my front door-to-front door commute on the super fast Toronto EXPRESS bus was 35 minutes. After the bike lanes were put in (i.e. currently) the same commute is now 1 hour! Does ANYONE here think this is ridiculous? 1 hour to travel 10KM? I’m not making this up! And the talk is that there will eventually be more bike lanes put in on my bus route. Yes, more. And for those folks that agree with these bike lanes, if you don’t think a 1 hour commute is that bad for a 10 KM commute, at what point would you say it is bad? How about 90 minutes? 2 hours? 3 hours? 4 hours? OK, let’s just start the bidding at 8 hours?

      Repeat: a 1 hour commute time using the bloody fast EXPRESS bus for a travel distance of 10KM. There is someone in my office that commutes in every day from Caledon. Anyone want to guess his travel time? It’s 1 hour! This is just how INSANE this city is – INSANE to the point where a 10KM commute can take as long as a commute from Caledon! AND…they ain’t done yet. More bike lanes are coming in!

      And by the way, one of the bike lanes, has almost zero usage. Several bus drivers have commented over the years that they rarely see anyone using it. This has been communicated to the city several times. No impact whatsoever.

      You ain’t seen nothing with respect to gridlock yet. Many more bike lanes are being planned. And new super-long streetcars that no one will be able to pass are coming. And the population continues to go up. In 5-10 years, the city will be a living hell. Some would say it is already a living hell. I know several people that simply do not go out as often just because of traffic. I’ve had situations where I was driving my car to visit someone and never made it. I never made it because an hour and a half later, I wasn’t even half way through my 20KM drive. I actually simply gave up half way through and had dinner at a restaurant. But as I said, she’s gonna get worse. Far far worse in a hurry! Hmmmm…..makes you wonder if super sky-high real estate values are sustainable in a city where you can’t even move from point A to point B in a semi-efficient manner.

      1. Geoff says:

        WEB: what you just wrote is how most people in this city feel. But as I just said, the squeaky wheels on here are goingto be cyclists. You’re right though, commute times are insane, and when city councillors talk about tearing down the Gardiner, or bike lanes take away lanes of traffic, I fear it shows we will never crawl it of the hole we have dug.

      2. JB says:

        You should consider biking to work. You would cut your 1 hour commute down to 30 minutes.

        There are other variables at play in your increased commute time than just the bike lanes. I would guess that just about everyone’s commute times have increased over the last few years, irrespective of whether or not bike lanes have been installed on their routes.

        1. WEB says:

          I’m not going to commute by bike. It’s not for me. Biking is a huge change in daily behavior for many reasons. I’m simply baffled and astonished why many people in this city can’t figure this out. A very large percentage of people that currently don’t bike to work WILL NEVER BIKE TO WORK, REGARDLESS HOW BAD TRAFFIC IS! Do you think a 55 year old man or woman for example will start biking to work after taking a car or public transit for 35 years is going to start biking in? If you think so, you don’t deserve to have the job you currently bike to work to! For me, I’d move to a different part of the city before biking in. And 90%+ people would do the same.

          And 90% or more of the increased travel time is due to the 2 bike lanes!

          1. WEB says:

            Geez…look at my sentences. Maybe I don’t deserve my job!!

      3. AndrewB says:

        I don’t believe for one second your coworker from Caledon went door to door in 1 hour. I used to live in Brampton, which is near Caledon but closer, and in rush hour it was easily at least 90 minutes each way.

  7. crazyegg says:

    Hi All,

    BIKE LANES: Its about accessibility in a civilized & progressive country.

    Why not remove handicap parking in malls while we are at it.

    My favourite quote from the uninformed masses: “Geez, I don’t think we need to install handicap parking spots in malls because I never ever see handicap people shopping here.” ;-))

    Regards,
    ed…

  8. Geoff says:

    David, I think you’re correct in your assessment of 15-20% of people disagreeing with the premise of your post.

    But maybe you’re forgetting that people are five times more likely to post something negative than positive. A person who agrees will just finish reading and move on. A person who disagrees will crack their knuckles and prepare to type.

    The vitriol on here today is misleading.

    I think a lot more people agree with you that what shows in the comments. And I count myself among those who agree.

  9. Laurie says:

    I’m curious what your alternative is for cyclists? I live in a GTA suburb (one you love to hate) where it’s actually illegal for cyclists to be on the sidewalk, and yet every day, I’m almost run over by a cyclist while walking my dog. (Last I checked, it’s a sideWALK not a sideBIKE). Little kids I understand, but if you’re in full cyclist gear or on a motorized scooter, get the eff off the sidewalk.
    Sadly, here, the penalty is a $2 fine for being on the sidewalk, so until the city or the region starts enforcing this bylaw, I’m going to have to risk my life while letting my dog do his thing. I would rather both in and outside the city have a space for cyclists to travel safely so that I can too.

  10. IanC says:

    We should have had these bike lanes YEARS ago. I use bike lanes every day and every week of the year.

  11. Kyle says:

    Can’t anyone else see the madness in all this? Everyday, hundreds of thousands of people, leave their homes, between 7 am to 9 am from a huge 150 km radius area, to battle and fight their way into a tiny 3 km radius area to work in an office for eight hours and then they leave between 5 pm and 7pm to battle and fight their way home again…It’s like the migration to the Okavango Delta, where animals risk their lives travelling great distances, except we do it everyday!

    Instead of trying to figure out how to lessen the madness for one group vs another group, we need to all just stop and ask ourselves do we really need to be in the office everyday during those hours in order to get our jobs done? It’s not like the technology doesn’t already exist. If we could even figure out how to work from home one day a week, traffic would be reduced by 20% – that’s more traffic reduction than a brand new freeway, if we could work from home two days a week traffic would be reduced by 40% – that’s more traffic reduction than a brand new subway line.

    And why do we all have to be in the same 3 km radius? I get it if you’re taking clients or meeting with external people, but how many of us do that everyday? I think most desk jockeys, could probably find a way to do whatever they do from a satellite office outside of downtown, their living room a Starbucks at the corner or (FFS) a beach in the Caribbean. And the real estate savings for businesses would be huge.

    1. Boris says:

      Yes, I need to be in the financial core.

    2. AndrewB says:

      It boggles my mind that people commute from the 905 by car into the car every day, which is the equivalent of self torture, when they could take the GO, get downtown faster, more comfortably and more economically.

  12. A Grant says:

    One more thing David…

    As you probably figured out, I am a cyclist (and I use my bike to commute year-round) – but I am also passionately interested in urban development Despite not being a resident of Toronto, the thing that really drew me to your blog was that it presents economic argument in favour of liveable neighbourhoods and streets. Weekly, you present houses and condos, with those commanding top dollar being those in walkable neighbourhoods, with tree-lined streets, close to shops, restaurants and transit, and with no through traffic. Those with the least value? More often than not, it’s those residences that are close to or overlook the Gardiner.

    What you neglect to mention is the contribution a bike lane can make to these liveable neighbourhoods. Not only do they provide a means for residents to move about their community, but they also slow down traffic. As a result, studies have shown that the addition of a bike lane can significantly increase nearby property values – to the point where realtors are using them as a selling feature.

    Folks often complain that Toronto lacks “something” to make it a true world-class city comparable to the likes of Paris, London, NYC and Montreal. Right now, these cities are investing heavily in bike infrastructure. Does Toronto want to get left behind?

  13. A Grant says:

    Hi David,
    The problem is that your basic premise – that the city shouldn’t do anything to slow the speed of cars is often not compatible with making the city more liveable for its residents. I know I’m going to get flack for this, but I wholeheartedly reject the former, as moving traffic faster has proven disastrous for safety and liveability.
    If, however, your goal is to move people more EFFICIENTLY, than the car centric status quo must be rejected in favour of buses, subways, and, yes – bicycles. By 2031, the population of the GTA is expected to increase by over 2.6M (+35%), with the population in the city itself expected to increase by 537,000 (+22%). And unless you want to plow under neighbourhoods wholesale, the city is never going to have sufficient road infrastructure to accommodate a corresponding increase in cars. This means that we must encourage alternative means of getting to work – and in order to achieve this, the complete and absolute domination of the car is going to have to be sacrificed.

    1. @ A Grant

      Buddy – don’t worry about taking flak. 🙂

      Just look at the beating I’ve taken today.

      Look, I think people who read my blogs on a regular basis are aware that sometimes I’ll throw something out there to solicit a response, and a debate, albeit with my blunt (and often controversial) opinions in tact. Your comment, as well as the one “Toronto needs more everything” are the type that I’m hoping to receive. People saying things like, “Oh, well you just know what time to film when there’s no cars” doesn’t really add value.

      I do believe, in my heart of hearts, in supply and demand. And I do believe that there are not enough bikes, relative to cars, to necessitate a bike lane.

      HOWEVER, I do believe that you, and some others, are correct when you talk about “the big picture.”

      When I get frustrated, I want to say, “It’s too late. We’re screwed. We haven’t built a subway in 50 years, and we need ten times the amount of transit that we have no, or we’re screwed.” But that’s not helpful.

      You and others are right: we need to solve the problem, long-term. I just don’t think that putting bike lanes on Richmond, in October, before winter, is helpful, at the current moment.

      As for my opinion on the matter, this video and this blog would have been really boring had I offered no opinion at all, and done a “Hey, guys what do you think about…” like any other Realtor would do, for fear of insulting somebody. Is “Noel” going to call me tomorrow and tell me he wants to buy a condo through me? Probably not. But I’m okay with that. And should my opinions on bike lanes correlate with my ability to sell real estate for top dollar? Some might just hate me regardless. And is “Rocky” sitting on millions of dollars, just looking for a Realtor? It’s not about that.

      I love this city, and I think a large majority of us would say that it’s somewhat “troubled.”

      That’s why I write about Toronto so much, and why I like these debates.

      1. A Grant says:

        I get what you are saying in terms of your view that there are simply not enough bikes to justify bike lanes.

        The problem is that, until recently, we’ve stacked the deck completely in favour of the automobile. So it’s unfair to then turnaround and, now that we’ve effectively prevented safe cycling, declare that no one bikes.

        Build it, and they will come.

        And, please keep these types of articles coming. It’s nice to discuss the value of bike lanes (or other infrastructure) in a civilized way (compared to, say, the comments section in the Sun).

  14. Rocky says:

    “Bike lanes save lives.”

    That’s the justification for installing something that doesn’t get used enough?

    Well then we should ban cars. And sugar. And salt. And most TV shows.

  15. Noel says:

    I bike almost 365 days/yr except when there is snow on the road or bike lane. Lots of the time when I bike (rush hour morning/evening) the lanes are packed with bikers. Sometimes during the day too.

    Bike lanes save lives and for every bike there is one less car. It’s cheap, no parking to pay, you get exercise, put no pollution in the air and it’s faster than by car for me.

    I hope the city puts totally separated bike lanes on every main street in the city.

    You are WAY off on this post. Only with more bike lanes will more people be encouraged to bike.

    1. E says:

      David is “way off base” according to an avid cyclist.

  16. Daniel says:

    I don’t think it’s far fetched to have the city remove the bike lanes for winter. Thats a happy medium in the battle between cyclists and motorists. But if the city doesn’t look at that option, then I have to agree, it shows a lack of leadership and general competence.

    1. Noel says:

      Sorry but many of us bike during the winter (not to mention removing the bike lanes during the winter would be a horrendous expense).

      1. E says:

        Oh sorry Noel, I didnt know that you and eight other people bike during the winter. So while there are 10,000 cars for every bike, so long as it suits you personally, we should probably keep the lanes open.

        1. Noel says:

          Sorry E, Tons more bikes on the road in the winter than that. Maybe if you road during the winter you’d notice them instead of inside your little heated bubble. Anyway, doesn’t matter, the bike lanes are here to stay through the winter.

      2. Boris says:

        Who bikes in the winter? You should be locked up. Just the worst kind of people do that!

  17. Kyle says:

    I think moving the lines on the road a few feet to the left (and calling it a bike lane) or a few feet to the right (and letting it be a shared lane) is a hopeless cause. It’s like a bald man deciding whether the last two hairs on his head should part left or right. The point is it doesn’t matter, downtown roads are basically at full capacity. And cars pointing fingers at bikers and transit users, or bikers and transit users pointing fingers at cars does nothing to make it better. If we (citizens, governments and businesses) had any vision, we would provide real alternatives to road-type transport. And as much as i support and want a DRL, i don’t think that is the ultimate answer. The real answer is to reduce or eliminate the need to commute at all for as many people as we can. 95% of the reason downtown workers commute into an office to work is self-inflicted – belief that their tools only work in the office, belief that they need to meet, etc. Instead of the City farting around with the lines, i’d rather they get gigabyte internet to our homes. The tools are totally available to work remotely, collaborate from anywhere or for businesses to decentralize locations. It is just outdated mind sets and habits that keep most office workers tethered to their desks.

  18. xoxoxoxo says:

    LOVE that you have the balls to put this video out there. You’re going to take flak but at least somebody is saying what most people are thinking!!!!!!

    1. Noel says:

      Wow, there were actually 3 min 50 secs that there were no bikes? All it shows is he knows to video when there were no bikes going down the road LMAO. Doesn’t take an Einstein to figure that one out!

      Cars should be happy there are bike lanes, Fewer cars on the road.

      1. Boris says:

        That’s like saying that you should support genocide as there will be more food for the rest of us to eat.

        Sorry Noel, there is zero logic to that.

        1. AndrewB says:

          That’s an incredibly extremist viewpoint. They hardly relate at all. Those cyclists could in theory switch to cars if they felt like it. That would just add more cars to the problem.

  19. Boris says:

    Nahh, I drive this stretch every day in rush hour. Several hundred to 1 is the ratio most of the time.

    And in Dec-Feb its several thousand to one.

  20. m says:

    While you’re at it, lets close the sidewalks whenever it rains, since no one likes to walk in the rain. Then we can really get the cars zipping through the city. 😉

    1. Boris says:

      On that note, why in the world are the lights at Bay and Bloor programmed to still have a diagonal walk at midnight? There isn’t one store open at that hour, and its basically a ghost town. But nope, cars sit there mindlessly while the diagonal scramble thing happens.

      Completely absurd.

    2. QQ says:

      I see the humour in this comment but it reeks of the “war on the car” mentality that is so prevalent in Toronto, even though we lack the infrastructure necessary to cut back on cars.

      The only way to cut back on car usage would be if our public transit system was 4-5 times as large as it is now. Since that will NEVER happen, like it or not, we have to try and solve the gridlock problem.

  21. Toronto needs more everything says:

    Toronto is funny, drivers and bikers are both so militant and see the world in black and white. I both bike and drive downtown…

    Overall, we should all agree transit is an issue in Toronto. But the solution is not more roads downtown, we know this doesn’t work because Richmond was jammed up before the bike lanes. Toronto needs additional options to get around – in addition to better TTC, bike lanes should be part of the solution.

    Your video is just a moment in time. Its easy to make whatever point you want with circumstantial evidence. Take a look at some figures collected over a period of time: the bike lanes average 4,200 trips per weekday. (http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=a2422ef2e21ad410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD&vgnextchannel=ae48a00f92dd5410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD)

    As you can see in the study, bike lanes take some time for people to start using them. There is an increase over the 4 months of the study. East of university where you filmed is new – once cars aren’t parked in them and people get used to them, the usage will pick up.

    You make a good point about the winter biking. I don’t bike in the winter, and I agree its something that should be thought about. I’m not sure what you would do though. Converting the lanes back to car lanes in the winter would just get confusing.

  22. Jeff says:

    St the bottom of our tower on Bay Street there are thanks of bikes – so people are using them at some point.

    Times of use is important, if you looked at bay and King St say Saturday at 9pm you’d think you wouldn’t even need a road.

  23. Marina says:

    I like bike lanes as a general concept. But not in winter.

    The city should be studying usage and adjusting accordingly. Much like the Airport Express, lack of users should be an indicator that the service provided needs to change. Using taxpayer money to fund vanity projects is ridiculous.

    1. Boris says:

      Completely agree. In addition, the sampling bias in the City of Toronto study effectively renders it worse than useless. And of course they knew this would be the case going into it, that it would effectively support their case for a “green, feel good” vanity, war on the car project.

    2. RPG says:

      You hit the nail on the head here: “vanity project.”

      That’s all a bike lane really is.

      David, your naive hope that “logic” is involved in municipal planning in Toronto is in itself, illogical.

      The city is constantly being pulled in two opposite directions, and this it’s impossible to ever put anything into place that makes perfect sense.

  24. I like Logic says:

    I am assuming you filmed this over thanksgiving weekend.

    Using a day in one of the emptiest weekends in the city to try to prove your point makes your logic unsound. I walked around the city all weekend and it was very empty.

    1. @ I Like Logic

      No, this was filmed last Tuesday.

    2. Ed says:

      You think those construction guys are working on Thanksgiving? Or those delivery companies are dropping off documents on a holiday?

      Did you even watch the video? I love when people make comments without thinking.

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