November 21, 2020

Yesterday’s Deadly Crash on Royal York

Yesterday at 5:00 PM, the driver of a ML Ready Mix Concrete cement truck struck and killed a person riding a bike at Royal York and Judson in Etobicoke. Before this unfortunate event, I had only biked on Royal York a couple of times and recalled the bike lanes were pretty narrow. To get a better feel for the conditions on that street and how to improve it, we rode Royal York from Lake Shore to Evans on our way to do some errands.

From Lake Shore to Eastbourne (one block north), a southbound left turn lane is present which does not leave enough room for a bike lane. Instead, sharrows are used. In order to make extending the bike lane to Lake Shore possible, either the left turn lane should be removed or the road should be widened.


Once at Eastbourne where the bike lanes begin, there is no parking allowed. However, there is green paint used at the bus stops and intersection markings. Given the road is roughly 11 metres wide from Eastbourne to just south of Mimico Avenue, that should leave just enough room to provide a buffer and protection. One thing that could cause a challenge in adding protection is the frequent driveways along this residential arterial.


Royal York widens at Mimico Avenue which measures at around 14 metres until Cavell; the last street before the railway bridge. Even with the occasional use of left turn lanes along this stretch and no parking allowed, there is enough space to upgrade the bike lanes to protected ones here.


The earlier 11 metre width returns at Cavell. However, a median with steel beams is used underneath the bridge which reduces the road width to five metres in each direction. The only way protection could be provided along this stretch is to add closely spaced bollards right along the bike lane line; something I have seen used elsewhere. Waiting for bridge reconstruction is not an option since that could be years if not decades away.


The crash site at Judson appears immediately past the railway bridge. One thing to note here is the wider road width at 14 metres on the north side of Judson. Even with parking on one side, there is no excuse not to upgrade the bike lane to a proper cycle track. If a proper barrier was there, the chances of the cyclist getting killed via a right hook would have been considerably reduced.

As if the fatality wasn’t bad enough, the land ML Ready Mix Concrete is on (near the crash site) was bought by the City of Toronto last November and they were given one year to move out. With the deadline fast approaching and the company not moved out yet, the Etobicoke Lakeshore NDP riding association launched a petition calling on Mayor John Tory and Councillor Mark Grimes to evict the company and convert the land to a public park. Shout out to David with the Etobicoke South Cycling Committee for this information.


Between Newcastle and Evans – where we turned off – I noticed parking on both sides with the bike lanes placed in the door zone. While this may have been OK when the bike lanes were installed more than a decade ago, paint is not enough to keep people riding bikes safe per today’s best practices. Parking on one side will need to be removed to ensure protection can be added on both sides of Royal York.


Just before leaving Royal York, I took a picture looking towards the Gardiner Expressway. There is a useless median between Evans and Manitoba which needs to be removed in order to add a southbound bike lane between those two streets. Over the Gardiner, Royal York has two traffic lanes in each direction plus a buffered bike lane which can easily accommodate jersey barriers. What are we waiting for?

Royal York at The Queensway (via Google Maps)

The 14 metre width resumes on the other side of the Gardiner Expressway and continues to The Queensway. Left and right turn lanes are provided while the bike lanes are placed between the right turn and thru lanes. Such crossover lanes need to be phased out while the right turn lane ought to be removed to allow for protected bike lanes from Lake Shore to The Queensway (except under the railway bridge).

While we didn’t explore Royal York beyond The Queensway, I did some measurements on Google Maps and noticed it ranges from nine to ten metres wide between The Queensway and Eglinton except at major intersections such as Bloor, Dundas (which resembles a highway interchange), and Eglinton. Some of the bike lane widths were considerably narrower than the 1.5 metres required by the City, while the presence of grass medians provides an opportunity to widen the roads for improved safety. The bike lanes end one block south of Lawrence / Dixon, though it would only make sense to extend them all the way to Weston and the Humber River Trail.

Since Toronto was put under a COVID-19 lockdown as of Monday, November 23, there will not be a memorial ride as is normally the case to pay our respects for fallen cyclists. Meanwhile, I encourage you to sign the petition to evict ML Ready Mix Concrete and – if you live in Etobicoke – contact Councillor Mark Grimes urging him to improve the safety of people who bike on Royal York. 

UPDATE 2020/11/27 - Jun N wrote about the ghost bike installation for the cyclist who was identified as retired teacher John Offutt.

5 comments:

  1. Very thorough, excellent review with practical recommendations. Well done!

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  2. also room for improvement on Royal York north of Bloor. eg. north-bound bike lane suddenly disappears, and becomes sharrows (from Edenbridge to Glendarling)

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    1. Immediately north of Bloor will be a challenge. One of the local ratepayer associations there is opposed to road safety improvements in The Kingsway, including when they recently succeeded in blocking a planned sidewalk from being built.

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  3. Thank you for your advocacy work Robert. Very informative and helpful.

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  4. Hi Rob: I live in Mimico. People should be aware how serious the road safety situation is here. The last death -- virtually unreported - was an 80 year old man riding a motorized scooter who was struck head on in the bike lane on Stanley Avenue at 7:00 am July 28th 2020. He died a week later of severe head injuries. I was with him.

    Now I am way past any of the strategies the City of Toronto has attempted this past decade. The City has got it wrong in our Neighbourhoods and got it late. Much like the recent death both were predictable and preventable. A major overhaul in thinking is required. I don't know what the best practices for VisionZero cities are but they're failing in Toronto -- we have made our Vision too bureaucratic, too opaque, too unaccountable, too centralized, too reliant on technologies --in both the broader and narrower sense -- too cautious, too heavy handed and lacking in smart engaged leadership. It is a dead hand on the wheel to use an apt metaphor.

    Non of this is rocket science. I went to the intersection yesterday though I know it well. Nothing to see folks. This intersection was/is a recipe for information overload and inattention no matter how attentive or alert the cyclist or driver would have been. Neighbours/residents knew exactly what needed fixing on the granular level -- if only asked.

    I'll do some broad sweeps: a complex industrial/residential area with heavy commercial traffic at the best of time, an early evening rush hour, a daylight saving time-change over, complex newly installed signs, traffic lights and crosswalks, an un-separated bike lane, a very poorly maintained and degraded road surface. and a massive increase in Royal York cyclists over the past three years.

    Like all of you on this site I can rattle off a list of immediate low cost road and safety changes to my Neighbourhood that can drop risk factors overnight. It's all about observing. It's about changing the current consultation paradigm. I'm past it - I'm sure some of you are too.

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