July 10, 2019

Crossing Toronto’s Rubicon (a.k.a. The Humber)

Last month, Toronto’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee approved the bike plan update which would give city staff several actions related to the Bloor-Danforth corridor:
  1. Initiate planning, design, and consultation to extend the Bloor Street bike lanes west from Shaw Street to High Park Avenue with implementation as early as Summer 2020.
  2. Report back in Spring 2020 on a detailed design for pilot bike lanes on Danforth Avenue from Broadview Avenue to Dawes Road.
  3. Study the feasibility of protected bike lanes on Bloor from Church Street to Avenue Road as part of the bike lane construction from Sherbourne to Church Streets (now expected in 2022).
Toronto's latest bike share expansion includes Bloor all the way to Jane
Even if City Council endorsed these instructions at next week’s meeting and followed through to establish a continuous 14 kilometre east-west cycling facility from High Park Avenue to Dawes Road, there is a need to start looking further west than High Park. Not only are there existing bike lanes on Runnymede Road, but Bike Share Toronto recently installed new stations at Runnymede and Jane TTC stations. A 2018 consultant report on the Bloor West Village Avenue Study covering Keele Street to the Humber River recommended protected bike lanes on this stretch of Bloor, but no date has been set for final approval by City Council. Once this avenue study comes up, City Council needs to ensure firm timelines are given to install the bike lanes, even though implementation is unlikely to happen before 2022.
Recommended street layout from the Bloor West Village Avenue Study (via City of Toronto)
Completing the Bloor West Village section would bring the Bloor bike lanes to the Humber River, which would present a modern day crossing the Rubicon scenario given all three councillors on the Etobicoke side opposed the Bloor bike lanes in some capacity. The bridge at the Humber River presents another bottleneck with the 14.6 metre wide bridge deck being too narrow to accommodate bike lanes and four traffic lanes. A September 2008 report from UMA Engineering which looked at this bridge found it would have cost $25 million to widen the bridge deck to the 16.8 metre width required. An additional option to widen the deck to 15.0 metres was suggested at a lower cost, which would have been too narrow to safely accommodate people on bikes. In the end, the bridge rehabilitation started in 2010 with no changes to the bridge deck configuration, thus leaving out the possibility of widening the bridge anytime soon.
Despite this missed opportunity, there is a solution which can accommodate Etobicoke’s traffic demand and people riding bikes. With traffic volumes being higher eastbound in the morning and westbound in the afternoon, it is worth considering reducing the number of traffic lanes from four to three including a reversable centre lane; similar to on Jarvis Street. Such a configuration would accommodate a 1.8 metre bike lane and a 0.6 metre buffer on each side per the above Streetmix graphic. Space is no longer an issue once on the Etobicoke side, but road safety advocates will have their work cut out in convincing Etobicoke to get on board. One final consideration for the Humber bridge would be to ensure sufficient wayfinding is provided to guide people riding bikes to the Humber River Trail.

As work continues to ensure the Shaw to High Park section of Bloor gets built by next year, we can’t afford to delay in laying the groundwork for further westward extensions given Toronto’s glacial pace in getting results. Taking action now would ensure Toronto doesn’t miss any reconstruction opportunities, though they should still be encouraged to make improvements even if reconstruction isn’t due anytime soon.

Westward HO!
Rob Z (e-mail)

1 comment:

  1. I commuted to Islington Place (the office building at Bloor and Islington) first from downtown then from Bloor West Village for years. Most cyclists like me avoided Bloor at all costs, like taking side streets through the Kingsway to the Old Mill Bridge and up through Baby Point (steep!) to the Annette St bike lanes, or even taking the Martin Goodman Trail to downtown. There is a lot of pent up demand to get to this location safely by bike!