November 08, 2017

Addressing Pickering's Transportation Plan Challenges

For the first time in twenty years, the City of Pickering is updating their Integrated Transportation Master Plan. If there is one thing which badly needs to be addressed in the plan update, it’s their lack of cycling infrastructure. Per this image from Google Maps, Pickering is a cyclist’s black hole except for parts of the Waterfront Trail and a few disconnected bike lanes in the rest of the city; some of which don’t even qualify as bike lanes. Henceforth, I provided this submission to highlight some of the challenges I experienced and suggest some improvements.
Google Maps bicycling layer of Pickering and the rest of Durham Region
Questionable Facilities

There are two streets I use frequently as a cyclist – West Shore Boulevard and Granite Court – which do not have bike lanes despite what is indicated on Google Maps and Pickering’s website. What those two streets have are edge lines that are no more than one metre wide, whereas bike lanes must be a minimum of 1.5 metres wide (or 1.8 metres in Toronto). This is insulting to the safety of cyclists with the large number of heavy trucks using Granite Court. On a street like Granite, a multi-use trail should be the minimum to help cyclists access jobs there safely, with the possibly of an eastern extension along Oklahoma to connect with the nearby school.
Edge lines on Granite Court are unsafe for cyclists being overtaken by heavy trucks
A look at Google’s Street View shows other bike lanes such as on Stroud’s Lane which allow motor vehicles to park. While these urban shoulders are also present on some streets in Whitby and Oshawa, they cannot be classified as bike lanes unless parking is banned, and the appropriate bike lane signs and markings are used. After reviewing the slides from Saturday’s ITMP open house, I noticed West Shore and Granite are accurately listed as edge lines on the cycling map, while leaving the bike lane designation for streets such as Glenanna Road and parts of Kingston Road. Perhaps the City of Pickering could update their cycling website to include the below cycling map and revise the cycling facility listing to correspond with the map?
Pickering cycling map shown at their ITMP open house
Good First Steps

Given Pickering’s status as a cycling laggard, an aggressive ramp up in bike lane and multi-use trail construction is badly needed. The current installation of a trail on Bayly Street from West Shore Community Centre to Begley Street is a good first step, which would help cyclists on the Waterfront Trail avoid riding on Bayly where motorist speeds of 80 km/h would be fatal for cyclists in the event they are struck. While condominium development between St. Martins and Liverpool Roads could complicate matters, it is recommended to extend the multi-use path to Liverpool to help cyclists access Pickering GO station and ultimately to Church Street in Ajax per Durham Region’s bike plan.
Multi-use path under construction on Bayly Street
The installation of bike lanes on Kingston Road as part of the bus rapid transit improvements is also welcome, though I would like to suggest two additional improvements. The first is to provide proper separation (e.g. bollards, barrier curbs, planter pots) between the bus and the bike lanes; something recommended as an international best practice on roads signed for 50 km/h or higher. The second improvement would be to extend the bike lanes beyond Steeple Hill – the western terminus of the planned bus rapid transit improvements – all the way to the Toronto border.
Bloor Street bike lanes protected with bollards and parked vehicles

Other Needed Improvements

There are two other recommended east-west bike lanes which are already in the regional plan; those being Finch Avenue – the limit of most of Pickering’s urban footprint – and Taunton Road which has a high potential for an inter-city bike route. Especially with Oshawa, Whitby, and Ajax already having multi-use paths on Taunton, as well as parts of Steeles Avenue in Toronto. Time to fill in that gap!
Durham Regional Cycling Plan Map
Regarding north-south bike routes, multi-use paths are already installed on parts of Brock and Altona Roads. Those two streets are part of the regional cycling plan as are Liverpool and Whites Roads. However, I would suggest an additional bike lane on Liverpool Road from Bayly Street to the Waterfront Trail to help provide cyclists with a safe link from the Pickering GO station to the Waterfront Trail as part of the Trails to GO intiative. The same idea is recommended for Whites Road (Bayly to Waterfront), which would provide an added benefit of connecting with the industrial area. It is also recommended to get Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation involved to secure safe crossings over Highway 401.

One last recommendation I would make for residential streets is to reduce the speed limits to 30 km/h and implement traffic calming measures Toronto has done as well as Ajax. Studies have shown pedestrians and cyclists have an over 90% chance of survival if they are hit at 30 km/h compared to 40% at 50 km/h or 10% at 60 km/h.

Final Thoughts

For those of who bike in Pickering, I recommend you visit the Integrated Transportation Master Plan’s website to review and submit your comments to demanding that cycling be a key part of the plan. There will be additional opportunities for public feedback before the plan is finalized in 2019. Finally, I recommend reaching out to the Durham Region Cycling Coalition to learn more about improving cycling in the region.

Stay engaged!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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