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General cycling issues (Is Toronto bike friendly?)

The question, then, is why engineers and road designers in this country continue to do the same thing again and again. That example I posted is among the best in Ontario; most of the rest (and there are a lot of them) are worse. If some people on a forum are aware of the Dutch examples, surely the people who write our engineering standards must be too.

They do it over and over again because other than lip service for cyclists and pedestrians, they don't really care.

I think our engineers deserve more respect than the simplistic notion that they "don't really care". But the field of traffic engineering is surprisingly insular - jurisdictions have their way of doing things, which they truly believe to be the best way and often have little interest in very different designs from elsewhere.

The fundamental issue is liability. Engineers which propose a design which is not "standard" have the duty of justifying it. If they just follow the book, then they can just say they were following "best practice". So our standard designs keep getting perpetuated even if we know there are safer designs out there.

Until recently, we didn't even have a book. But in 2013, the Ontario Traffic Manual Book 18 "Bicycle Facilities" (large pdf here) came out, written by MMM Group Consulting in collaboration with the Province and several municipalities. It basically just made up standards based on the bicycle infrastructure that had already been built in Ontario. Apparently there was consultation with Vélo Québec (the Peterborough example screams Québec to me), but I don't see any evidence of consultation with jurisdictions which have a very high safety and cycling rate such as the Netherlands. They did review the Dutch standards ("CROW"), but not much it made it in to our manual for whatever reason.

You can fairly easily spot where our designs originated before the Ontario Traffic Manual included them. The on-street cycle tracks and lanes were painted retrofits to existing roadways, while designs like the one above were just widened versions of our proven crosswalk design. There was never a comprehensive approach to determine the optimal standard designs taking into account all the characteristics of bicycles. Instead most of the on-street designs treat bicycles as narrow cars, while most of the off-street designs treat them as pedestrians with wheels.

In contrast, the Netherlands has been designing specifically for bicycles for over 40 years, and has been constantly trying new designs to see what works and what doesn't. Which means that their designs are constantly evolving, unlike ours which haven't really changed since the 1950s.

To bring proven Dutch designs here, I think the key is to get at least one example of each type built in Ontario, to prove to our engineers that what works in the Netherlands will work here too. But even then it's just a short-term fix: we'd just be playing catch up with the countries that are constantly studying and improving traffic design. I don't know how we get to the point where we are also figuring it out for ourselves.
 
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C'mon folks, use some common sense. Use the bell when protocol and reason calls for it. Or scream if you really need to get attention...not that I want to encourage Toronto ding-a-lings to start doing that too on a chronic basis...

I rarely use the bell when I commute on roads. If I see a driver backing up, I'd rather stop than face a losing battle. I also drive and know these bells are useless to people insulated in steel, possibly with radios/music on.

I use the bell often on multiuse trails to warn people I'm coming and hope that others remain predictable.
 
I rarely use the bell when I commute on roads. If I see a driver backing up, I'd rather stop than face a losing battle. I also drive and know these bells are useless to people insulated in steel, possibly with radios/music on.

I use the bell often on multiuse trails to warn people I'm coming and hope that others remain predictable.
Exactly! I felt a bit bad after posting that, I was upset, I get upset not by drivers (they're a lost and known hazard) but by 'holier-than-thou' cyclists who haven't a shred of experience or awareness of the greater art of protocol and safety when cycling on the road. I stand behind my claim of 'Toronto cyclists being the worst I've ever encountered'

Bells are fine and *pleasant* when 'addressing' pedestrians and other slower cyclists as a courteous request. But when you're under duress to stay alert on dangerous roads, bells are *jangling* when used incessantly, and contribute to the tension, not reduce it. I'm always 'on' when I cycle, you have to be, or you're as good as dead, and ting-a-lings steal my concentration, because they haven't a clue of what conscious safety is. Everything revolves around them..(so they think).

Thank you for that Pip.
 
It basically just made up standards based on the bicycle infrastructure that had already been built in Ontario.
I had no idea Ontario municipalities were so baseless in their regs and forms. Now that you articulate it, it explains a lot. I was just digging on cycle path and track rules, only to find *aspects* of the rules of the road apply vis-a-vis the HTA, but the specifics are enacted at the municipal by-law level. This especially pertains to the horrendous ignorance of motorists and cyclists alike on vehicles making right-turns from a street with a bicycle lane at the curb. HTA requires motorists to (from memory)(gist) "attain the nearest lane to the curb before turning right". In other words, it's illegal to cross any adjacent lane without attaining it first. You see this missive rampantly violated on multi-lane highways. It pertains to bike lanes too, albeit some municipalities fail to break the solid white line (it's usual two car lengths long) to legally permit entering the lane under the HTA. Once the lane is attained (claimed, occupied) *then* the motorist can turn right from the curb lane. The key term is "lane" in the HTA, and a bicycle lane is "lane" in the full meaning as defined by the Act. It is also encumbent on the motorist to be as close to the curb as safely possible to allow following cyclists to pass safely on the left (albeit being within the same lane doing so is not defined) and thus not having to squeeze by on the right, a very dangerous practice.

I suspect the US has a national standard for on-road cycling infrastructure, as I've seen form in various US states that shares a lot of commonality.

I'll Google on that and edit it in later.

Edit to Add: Glad I did a quick Google, my observation on the US was correct:
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration

Subject: Bicycle and Pedestrian Facility Design Flexibility
From:
Gloria M. Shepherd
Associate Administrator for Planning,
Environment and Realty

Walter C. (Butch) Waidelich, Jr.
Associate Administrator for Infrastructure

Jeffrey A. Lindley
Associate Administrator for Operations

Tony T. Furst
Associate Administrator for Safety

To:
Division Administrators
Directors of Field Services

Date: August 20, 2013

Reply to: HEPH-10

This memorandum expresses the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) support for taking a flexible approach to bicycle and pedestrian facility design. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) bicycle and pedestrian design guides are the primary national resources for planning, designing, and operating bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Designing Urban Walkable Thoroughfares guide builds upon the flexibilities provided in the AASHTO guides, which can help communities plan and design safe and convenient facilities for pedestrian and bicyclists. FHWA supports the use of these resources to further develop nonmotorized transportation networks, particularly in urban areas.
[...]
http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/design_flexibility.cfm

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
220 Comments
U.S. DOT to Publish Its Own Manual on Protected Bike Lanes
by Tanya Snyder


FHWA’s Dan Goodman pointed to before-and-after images from New York’s First Avenue redesign to show how protected bike lanes can improve safety. Photos: David Shankbone/Wikimedia and NYC DOT

Before the end of this year, the Federal Highway Administration will release its own guidance on designing protected bike lanes.

The agency’s positions on bicycling infrastructure has matured in recent years. Until recently, U.S. DOT’s policy was simple adherence to outdated and stodgy manuals like AASHTO’s Green Book and FHWA’s own Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) — neither of which included protected bike lanes.

In 2010, the department developed a policy stating that “every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems” and that they should “go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.” That was the first hint that the agency was looking beyond the Green Book and the MUTCD, which were (let’s face it) the very minimum of standards.

The department’s new strategic plan, released last year, emphasized pedestrian and bicycle safety and highlighted the need to create connected walking and biking networks that work for all ages and abilities, which is also a focus of the secretary’s new bike/ped safety initiative.

Then last year the agency explicitly endorsed “design flexibility,” unshackling engineers from the AASHTO and MUTCD “bibles” and encouraging them to take a look at the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ urban bikeway guide and the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ manual on walkability.
[...continues at length...]
http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/09/23/u-s-dot-to-publish-its-own-manual-on-protected-bike-lanes/

The US is light years ahead on this v Canada. One wonders why we have to learn from Holland, Denmark etc, excellent as they are, when we could learn so much just adapting what the US has already catalogued? As with building and electrical codes, we share many standards based on materials and methods common to both of our nations.

I bite my lip from saying more at this time...I'm astounded as to how insular we are at times...
 
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I bite my lip from saying more at this time...I'm astounded as to how insular we are at times...
I've thought about this and you know what? The insularity is on this forum too. In the last couple days I've seen people dismiss European transit malls, American subway systems and transit fare integration based on the belief that those examples don't apply to us because, in essence, we're not them. There seems to be a distrust of other parts of the world (or even other parts of our own country) and we stubbornly believe that what we do is best. It seems to influence a lot of the more peculiar aspects of our culture: the shabby state of Toronto's streetscapes, inadequate bike and rail infrastructure, draconian liquor laws, unreasonably low highway speed limits, and the TTC's refusal to step into the 21st century. Engineers think like this too.
 
Thank you for that, F. I can be very outspoken at times, only to regret it later, since it usually happens in moments of exasperation, so it helps when someone agrees, and just clicking 'like' is not enough to support one's point sometimes. This does take us a bit off-topic, but I'm getting a little tired of pundit panels in the media acclaiming how "The reactionary views behind Brexit can't and won't happen here". Martin Regg Cohn also addresses that:
Canada shouldn’t be smug looking at anti-immigrant sentiment of Brexit: Cohn
Whether you blame modern globalism or ancient tribalism, what counts is that you take account of the intolerance.

Canadians can count their blessings, post-Brexit. We have largely avoided the anti-immigration rhetoric now ruling Britannia and roiling America.

There but for the grace of democracy go we.

How have Canadians avoided the intolerance of these two countries, with whom we share so much political, economic and cultural history? In truth, we are just luckier geographically.

We are no better than them. Any Canadian who believes otherwise is tempting fate.

True, our seemingly unrivalled success in resettling newcomers remains a model to the world. But the world beyond our borders is more unsettled than ever, destined to test Canadian policy and politics anew.
[...]
https://www.thestar.com/news/queens...at-anti-migrant-sentiment-of-brexit-cohn.html

In Canada's case, we're even insular at the municipal, let alone provincial level. Professional degrees aren't recognized nationally, and evidently, best practice of cycling infrastructure and safety isn't either.

Fodder for a forum of its own? I'm sure we've all done this, cycling along, shid happens, and you think: "That just ain't right" but you can't really nail what it is, and then you read some of what's posted here, and watch the linked videos, and realize: "That's how it should be done, no wonder my sixth sense was tingling".

Absolute kudos for UrbanToronto hosting these forums, I've learned a lot, others have too, and as much as there's disagreement on some points, as there's bound to be, there's overwhelming consensus on others. If nothing else, these forums are therapy!
 
That's a beautiful path (although those dark clouds would make me want to move quickly!). Out of curiosity, if I were to try to string and out-and-back or loop ride up to the trail from downtown, what's the best way to get there? Any good cycling infrastructure to reach it?

I did a ride and review of the Finch Hydro Corridor Bike Path west segment (Norfinch to Yonge) yesterday. Since I've last been on it all of the bicycle signals have had the recently-legalized bicycle-shaped lenses added. But they didn't remove any of the "Bicycle Signal" signs. This is bizarre, considering at most intersections the bicycle signal is the only signal - there's no possibility for confusion in the first place. And at others the bicycle signal displays the same thing as the vehicle or bus signal, so if people do look at the wrong signal it doesn't make any difference.

This was 17:15 to 17:47 on a weekday afternoon. The path is pretty sparse in the west end but approaching North York Centre and Finch Station (around 10 minutes in the video) it gets much more busy.


The ride was 10.8 km in 32 minutes, which is a 19 km/h average. In general I was cruising at 30 km/h on the straight bits, and slowing at corners and intersections.
 
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Thanks for posting that reaper. Aside from the detour around the reservoir it looks like a comfortable ride. Except that last bit through the Finch TTC parking lot - a bit dangerous! They really owe you something better through there.
 
Just up at the UK Guardian, oh man....
Could intercity cycle highways revolutionise the daily commute?
Germany is building the world’s biggest ‘bicycle autobahn’ to connect 10 cities and remove 50,000 cars from the road every day. With the popularity of e-bikes growing too, is Europe about to see a new era of long-distance cycle commuting?

In 2010, when the motorway between the German cities of Duisburg and Dortmund was closed as part of a cultural project, three million people walked, skated or cycled along the road. For one day only it had been transformed into a gigantic city boulevard.

Spatial planner Martin Tönnes took the opportunity to cycle from Essen to Dortmund. “There were so many people that, for the first time in my life, I experienced a bicycle traffic jam!” he recalls. “But that was when we started thinking about building a highway for bikes through the Ruhr Area. When we saw this mass of people cycling down the motorway, we understood there was a real demand.’’

Five years later, in December 2015, the first Radschnellweg (bicycle highway) in Germany was opened, between the western cities of Mülheim an der Ruhr and Essen. It is just the first stretch of what is going to be the biggest bicycle highway in the world: 62-miles long, connecting 10 cities and four universities.

When complete, the network will remove a staggering 50,000 cars from the road each day – with an associated daily reduction of 16,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions – according to the Regional Assocation Ruhr, where Tönnes is head of planning.

This new bicycle highway is very different from the narrow, painted strips which cyclists have to make do with in German cities, often risking collisions with motorised traffic. It is fully segregated from cars, a comfortable 13-ft wide, and equipped with flyovers and tunnels to avoid intersections (a footpath runs parallel to it). It is also fully lit, and will be cleared of snow in winter.




[...continues at length...]
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/jun/30/intercity-cycle-highways-revolutionise-daily-commute
 
Thanks for posting that reaper. Aside from the detour around the reservoir it looks like a comfortable ride. Except that last bit through the Finch TTC parking lot - a bit dangerous! They really owe you something better through there.

I usually take Hendon/Bishop between Hendon Park and Willowdale Ave. Streets are (barely) more predictable than going through parking lots. The funnest section of the Finch Hydro Corridor trail is going eastbound from Bayview to the East Don Trail - love those switchbacks!
 
Finally did the trail today! Thanks for the inspiration. I biked up the Humber from Old Mill. It seems the trail is closed under the 401 which leads to a rather annoying detour, including a busy stretch on Wilson. From there we decided to pop over to the Finch Hydro corridor. We just biked on the side walk rather than on Finch for the short stretch, as drivers were not happy to have bikes in the lanes.

The hydro corridor itself was great. We lost the trail once or twice...completely lost it when it got to Yonge. Took it down the Don Valley. Despite being "closed", the Don Valley trail was packed. It seems users are not happy to have the trail shut down in the summer and have removed most of the fencing on the trail. Overall, a lovely 80 km day.
 
The railway crossings on the Lakeshore East path are indeed a serious hazard, which is something I've noticed every time I pass through. They cross at a very shallow angle, which is a recipe for exactly the situation you described.
View attachment 79875

Fortunately, this does not mean that cycling is inherently dangerous. It merely means that that particular segment of that particular bike path is dangerous and should be redesigned. Best practice is to deviate the bike path such that the crossing occurs at a 90 degree angle. Then there is no risk of getting a tire caught. And even easier, remove all the railway crossings that aren't used anymore.

Until recently there was a similar dangerous situation on the Iron Horse Trail in Kitchener, where the path crossed the Kitchener spur line in Victoria Park. In 2013, they realigned the bike path and there have not been any issues since.

Iron Horse Trail at Victoria Park in 2009:
View attachment 79873

Iron Horse Trail at Victoria Park in 2016:
View attachment 79874

Didn't we all learn to cross tracks at an angle closest to the perpendicular as children for exactly this reason? I think that falling down (biking, in life, over money, over friends, in general) makes for some of the most effective learning. Of course falling as a child involves less momentum and softer bones.
 
It seems the trail is closed under the 401 which leads to a rather annoying detour, including a busy stretch on Wilson.
I've made it a mission to find the best way through there. Looks like it will be closed all Summer. I made the mistake of detouring west, on Islington, I highly suspect Weston is the lesser of the two evils, what put me off coming south was having to go back to Albion to cross the Humber. There may be a better way.

...including a busy stretch on Wilson. From there we decided to pop over to the Finch Hydro corridor. We just biked on the side walk rather than on Finch for the short stretch, as drivers were not happy to have bikes in the lanes.
Oh man...It's an odd thing, like to hear from others on this, but my tolerance to dealing with suburban motorists whizzing past with inches to spare just ain't my idea of a good time. Make no mistake, I can do over 150km in a day given the right rail trails, and crave for more as the light fades...but I no longer take the gamble of streets like Wilson, yet I can handle downtown major corridors (albeit much rather not).

We've got to figure out some *safe* way to connect those corridors up, and that might even mean taking the TTC in spots. Sidewalks are out for that distance. I'm really tweaked on the idea of doing the Finch Corridor...maybe there's some back streets we can find to minimize the suicide lanes?

Didn't we all learn to cross tracks at an angle closest to the perpendicular as children for exactly this reason? I think that falling down (biking, in life, over money, over friends, in general) makes for some of the most effective learning. Of course falling as a child involves less momentum and softer bones.
Yeah...you and I know this intimately, as do most of the other posters, but we see them all the time, people with silly lycra outfits thinking they ride with Lance, and people on step-through frames that lack stability...it's a matter of time until it takes someone down with a *life-altering injury* on trails that are advertised as being 'multi-use trails safe for all'.

I saw a really nasty one, albeit streetcar tracks, at corner of Ronces and Dundas a few weeks back. She had skull damage...&(&%...her jaw, helmet didn't do a thing...

I'm a *very well seasoned cyclist* riding wider road tires nowadays, and slightly wider (25c) (Mavic A319) rims, and I do a lot of rough gravel roads...but there's crossings in Toronto where I get off the bike and walk over, the track work is just too risky to chance. You might have it all figured out like a billiard shot, until some fffing idiot clips you and throws you off balance. And suddenly you're in the rut. It just ain't worth it. Some lattice track work should be walked over, not ridden, at least with road tires.

I leave it at that, that girl's broken face has left an indelible picture...the City has a responsibility on the paths to maintain them in safe order. Period.

Edit to Add: It would be deemed far too expensive for the TTC (in fact, the trackwork used to be owned by the City, it might still be) to put the rubber cushioning in their tracks...but here's what might be affordable and practicable: Just as the streetcar clearance lines are marked with yellow dashes on the asphalt at turns, cyclist's 'paths' across the tracks at intersections could also be marked, complete with arrows to indicate 'turn wheel this way' at critical points. And the rubber material, say a foot long, could be inserted at those marked spots. I know, shouldn't have to do this...shouldn't have to have sliding platform doors at stations to stop people going off the edge either, but they do.

So they can spend a $1000 or so at each complex rail x-over to make it safer for (the many) inane cyclists who are innocent victims to just wanting to cycle. That's cheaper than an hour of surgery...and people don't get damaged for life.
 
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Oh man...It's an odd thing, like to hear from others on this, but my tolerance to dealing with suburban motorists whizzing past with inches to spare just ain't my idea of a good time. Make no mistake, I can do over 150km in a day given the right rail trails, and crave for more as the light fades...but I no longer take the gamble of streets like Wilson, yet I can handle downtown major corridors (albeit much rather not).

We've got to figure out some *safe* way to connect those corridors up, and that might even mean taking the TTC in spots. Sidewalks are out for that distance. I'm really tweaked on the idea of doing the Finch Corridor...maybe there's some back streets we can find to minimize the suicide lanes?
Well, I was biking with a partner, so we just biked side-by-side on Wilson to make sure to take up the full lane. With 3 lanes and light traffic on a weekend, I didn't feel bad taking up the full lane to bike defensively. The TTC buses were actually the worst offenders in encroaching on our space.

I don't understand what they're doing that has this trail closed for so incredibly long. It sounds like it will be gravel come fall and not repaved until December 2017!
http://www.humber.ca/staff/announcement/humber-river-trail-closures[/QUOTE]
 

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