Where should Toronto build separated bike lanes?

July 30, 2012

In an editorial published on Sunday, the Globe and Mail declared separated bike lanes the way forward for Toronto’s long-suffering cycling community, pointing to Montreal’s dedicated lanes as an avenue this city should be readily exploring. The 514 has a network of relatively quiet secondary streets with bike-only lanes that encourage and protect people who chose to ride to work or play. Toronto, on the other hand, does not.

Painted bike lanes are okay, so the argument goes, but they don’t shield cyclists from fast moving traffic as well as those with a raised curb or other means of separation, and that’s often enough to discourage new riders from climbing in the saddle. In some cases, a bike in the garage is a car on the road, and that means more traffic, more pollution and longer commute times for other road users.

The question is where do we put them. Not everyone is a fan of the current plan, especially given that the city actually experienced a net reduction in bikes lanes in 2011.

In another editorial earlier this month, Spacing magazine’s Dylan Reid suggested that separated lanes are better suited to fast-moving routes like Richmond and Adelaide due to of the increased risk of a high-speed collision. Reid says lanes like those coming to Sherbourne Street, shown above, would be better served elsewhere because of the relatively slow pace of traffic. This makes sense.

So how might the city move forward? Despite the Globe’s suggestion, it could be quite difficult to create a proper network of interconnected dedicated bike lanes on minor streets in Toronto on account of their generally short length. Should we proceed with dedicated lanes on busier routes, then it’s all the more important to create a bonafide network that allows cyclists to feel protect as they navigate the city. In the absence of that, perhaps an increase in painted bike lanes would be more friendly to cyclists overall?

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