On January 31st, Toronto City Council voted unanimously in favour of making the bike lanes on Richmond, Adelaide, Simcoe, and Peter Streets permanent. Since their initial introduction as part of a pilot project in 2014, the Richmond-Adelaide corridor has become the busiest cycling route in the city, with the number of cyclists increasing 1,105% over first two years after installation. Safety has also increased, with cyclist-related collisions decreasing by 73%.
As a part of the approval, council is electing to move the Adelaide Street bike lanes from the south side of the street to the north side. This is to address the gaps in the Adelaide cycling track in the Financial District. Both First Canadian Place and Scotia Plaza, two of the largest office towers in the city, have loading docks accessed from the south side of Adelaide Street. This causes an interruption in the separated bike path between York and Yonge Streets. Over 300 commercial vehicles access these loading docks every day to service the 100 retail stores, 70 food and drink establishments and 5 million square feet of office space located in these two massive complexes. This requires that cyclists merge with traffic for a few blocks before returning to the separated lanes after passing east of Scotia Plaza. The new configuration would allow for a continuously separated path from Bathurst all the way to Parliament.
Shifting the bike lanes from the south to the north side of the street does, however, present its own set of challenges. As the first left side bike lane in Toronto, cyclists will have to learn its particular approach to turns. Previously, a cyclist who wanted to travel south from Adelaide could simply make a right-hand turn from the bike lane to the closest right-hand lane on the north-south street, similar to how a car would make a right hand turn at a regular intersection. With the cycling track moved to the furthest left-hand lane on Adelaide, the cyclist must cross several lanes of traffic to make a right-hand turn and proceed southbound.
The suggested solution to this problem is a right-turn bike box, as per the image above from Chicago. The bike boxes are a separate section of the bike lane where a cyclist can pull up, stop and wait at the north-west part of the intersection before proceeding in the southbound bike lane when the traffic lights change.
A formal plan will be put forward in the coming months outlining which intersections will be re-designed with right-turn bike boxes, and will also present a construction timeline for the re-configuration of the bike lanes.
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