March 25, 2019

Time to Extend the Bloor Bike Lanes!

This month has seen a renewed push for extending the Bloor Street bike lanes from Shaw Street to High Park. Cycle Toronto issued a press release confirming the bike lanes get almost one million riders annually, while the David Suzuki Foundation launched a form letter campaign calling on supporters of the extension to e-mail Mayor John Tory. Next month, there will be a public meeting to rally support with a focus on the history of Bloor, the business case, the view from council, and what supports can do to make the extension a reality and reverse the current turtle pace of Toronto’s bike plan implementation.
Montréal left Bloor, Danforth, and Yonge in the dust with this bike lane turtle derby!
However, some people are wondering how can bike lanes be accommodated on Bloor. With a little help from Google Maps to measure street widths and Streetmix to do the basic layout, I will walk you through on how the bike lanes could fit.

Shaw Street to Lansdowne Avenue
Existing state of Bloor between Shaw and Lansdowne
Bloor Street from Bathurst to Shaw Streets is 12.8 metres wide within a 20 metre right of way, which is about the same as from Shaw Street to Lansdowne Avenue. The narrow nature of the street meant people riding bikes there need to take the lane to avoid getting the “door prize”. This narrow nature also means two motor vehicle lanes need to be removed to accommodate bike lanes – which are used for parking outside of rush hour as is – and parking can only be kept on one side. Here is a diagram of how the bike lanes can fit on this stretch of Bloor.
Most likely solution from Shaw to Lansdowne
A minimum road width of 15.0 metres is needed to accommodate bike lanes and keep existing parking. Given the existing 20 metre right of way, this would leave people who walk or bike the bare minimum, which is unacceptable in Bloorcourt and Bloordale with high pedestrian volumes.
Minimum bike lane and sidewalk space just to keep parking? No thanks!
This underscores the need to reduce motorist travel (and parking) capacity in order to design our streets for people.

Lansdowne Avenue to Dundas Street West
Bloor starts to get wider west of Lansdowne
Bloor starts to open up west of Lansdowne with a 14.0 metre road width or 3.5 metres per motor vehicle lane. However, the available road width narrows to 3.1 metres per motor vehicle lane under the two railroad bridges which – along with the large number of potholes – can make biking there scary.
The lane narrowing under the bridges makes for a scary cycling experience
Again, removing two motor vehicle lanes is needed to accommodate people riding bikes. Given there isn’t parking under the bridges, there is no excuse not to put in properly protected bike lanes.
Lots of room for protected bike lanes under the railroad bridges
If parking were not to be allowed, the surface portions from Lansdowne to Dundas West can be improved with a tree lined median along the whole stretch or wider sidewalks to help our pedestrian friends. In case parking is needed, parking can be added on one side while still allowing for protection on both sides.
Parking can be added on one side from Lansdowne to Dundas if needed
One thing this stretch desperately needs is wayfinding signage to help guide people riding bikes to the West Toronto Railpath and ensure a connected network.

Dundas Street West to High Park Avenue
The parking and curbside travel lanes aren't distinct in real life
West of Dundas West has a street width of 16.4 metres and a minimum 24 metre right of way – same as from Spadina Avenue to Avenue Road – though the City’s website shows 27 metres. While it is possible for motorists to travel two vehicles abreast each direction, the curbside travel lane and parking lane are not distinct and the presence of wider vehicles, improper parking, or snow and ice effectively eliminate that second travel lane.
No need to compromise parking for protected bike lanes west of Dundas
This width allows for easy accommodation of protected bike lanes while keeping on-street parking on both sides; meaning businesses can’t use parking as an excuse not to support the bike lanes on this stretch.
Two traffic lanes per direction may fit but it isn't practical
For those who are concerned about travel flow, it is technically possible to allow for two travel lanes in each direction without changing the road width, but it isn’t practical for two reasons. The first is the presence of parked cars outside of rush hour reduces motor vehicle capacity to one lane in each direction as what currently happens from Shaw to Lansdowne. The second is the bare minimum bike lane width of 1.5 metres makes it difficult for people riding faster to pass, as well as for those riding cargo bikes.

Key Concerns

The issue of lost parking and delivery capacity east of Lansdowne will surely come up. Even then, the TCAT study confirmed sales went up along the Bloor bike lanes during their first year despite the removal of parking on one side. Deliveries can be accommodated by doing them off-peak, using side streets, and using laneways behind the stores. A much better use of laneways than that “laneways as bikeways” idea pitched a couple of years ago.

Some people expressed an interest in removing bike lanes on Dupont Street in order to accommodate those on Bloor given allegedly low cycling volumes. Originally, Dupont was lumped in with Bloor as part of the corridor study, but it has fallen off the radar completely with the study being effectively stalled. While Dupont is short at 1.0 kilometres and doesn’t link to anything dedicated cycling facilities east of the Railpath – the short stretch of Lansdowne to Lappin Avenue doesn’t count – cycling advocates are very unlikely to support removing bike lanes as we have seen with Jarvis Street in 2012. This argument doesn’t remove the fact there isn’t any dedicated east-west cycling facilities from Lansdowne to Ossington Avenues, while people – whether they walk, bike, or drive – will always prefer direct routes with the high bike counts on Bloor despite existing bike lanes on Harbord Street.
2016 Bells on Bloor victory ride - hope we can celebrate again in 2020
As we have seen, it IS possible to extend the Bloor bike lanes west to High Park. What is needed is a strong showing of community support, though one silver lining of all this is even Councillor Stephen Holyday – one of Toronto’s biggest bike lane critics – admits this extension will likely happen.

Westward HO!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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