Make cyclists, not war On September 20th and 21st a team of four Dutch experts on bike policy held a two-day workshop in Toronto, called ThinkBike, to give a boost to Torontoâ€™s bikeability. There were two teams (Blue and Orange) of 9 people, with 2 Dutch experts in each of them and 7 from the Toronto city staff, TCAT and bicycle advocates. Each team worked on a different design assignment and also worked on a long term strategy for Toronto bikeability. The objectives were:
- Produce a ready to apply bike improvement design for the area chosen;
- Display the Dutch philosophy on bike policy and make it applicable to the Toronto bike policy;
- Give ingredients for a Toronto long term strategy and marketing campaign.
In those two days - productive beyond imagination! - we were able to show what we achieved in a well-filled club â€œEl Mocamboâ€. The team ThinkBike BLUE, produced a bike friendly network for Downtown west, limited by Spadina in the West, Bay in the East, Queens in the North and the Waterfront in the South. Not only did we provide for safe bike routes, but we also went for redefining the public space on several streets, making â€œGreen Streetsâ€ in the already quiet streets as well as on Wellington St. For the chosen â€œSafe cycle routesâ€ complete street designs were produced, with pictures of Dutch reference situations to show how the quality of the street image would improve. The streets chosen for these safe cycle routes were Peter St. in the West, Sincoe in the East and Wellington as an important East-West-corridor for bikes. Recommendations were made to redesign them Dutch style, which means:
- Colored pavement on all the bike trails (preferably red);
- Continuation of the coloured bike trails on intersections;
- Choose for separate cycle facilities;
- Make bike boxes on all intersections in order to prevent cyclists being cut by right-turning cars;
- Make bike trails at the right side of parked cars in order to prevent â€˜dooringâ€™ and to have cyclists protected by parked cars from traffic;
- Make the safe bike routes very recognizable by good signing (also by painting the name of the route on the pavement);
- Make physical separations between bike trail and traffic in the absence of parked cars;
- Make new solutions like a two way bike path on the quiet side of the road.
Of course bicycles are allowed on all streets, but we wanted a special safe and protected route for people who are not cycling yet but like to start cycling. These people will feel a little uncomfortable in the heavy Torontonian traffic and these safe bike routes will provide the essential feeling of safety in order to make them cycle. Because the two cornerstones of the Dutch philosophy towards cycling are: â€œJoyâ€ (people enjoy to cycle) and â€œPerceived Safetyâ€ (people wonâ€™t cycle unless they feel safe).
In order not to endanger car capacity some other roads were chosen to be roads where car traffic can flow fast and easily, without sharing room with many cyclists. These streets include Queens, Richmond, Adelaide, Spadina and University. The other team, ThinkBike ORANGE, made a carefully worked out design for Sherbourne Road, providing solutions that may be applied in the parts of Sherbourne Road that will be reconstructed in the oncoming years. Also these were illustrated with pictures of Dutch reference situations. For the long term strategy two major strengths, two weaknesses, two opportunities and two threats were identified: Strengths: All age and gender groups are cycling in Toronto and there is a good cycle culture Weaknesses: Lack of funding and outdated design standards Opportunities: The coming of BIXI and the asset that you can find all the amenities on your way home â€“ by bike Threats: Suburban vs. downtown perception of cycling and lack of appreciation of planning expertiseExcellent work & write-up, Hans, dankjewel! Once again; if you attended ThinkBike Toronto and want to share your thoughts about it, don't hesitate, this would be the right place to do so! :) Finally, stay tuned for the results & impressions from ThinkBike Chicago that was held today!
For the marketing plan, something that Toronto really could build upon is, that it is not a single age and gender group that cycles, but a good variety of average people, so that everybody can identify with people who already bike. That could be the starting point for a â€œThis is Toronto, and this is where I bikeâ€-campaign. For the long term strategy, it was found to be paramount that cycling in the long term only will come to a level where society really can benefit of all the advantages of more cycling (minimum of 10% trip share, now about 2%) is when children learn to cycle. So a bike-to-school and a bike education programme is needed. Also cycling to shops and a GTA bike-transit policy integration should be a part of a new Toronto Bike Plan. Whatâ€™s more: cycling facilities should have a much higher quality, should be much more enjoyable, so also beginning cyclists feel safe. Including the essentials of the Dutch bicycle tools and philosophy already mentioned, would be beneficial. Well, and then, we got a lot of attentionâ€¦ I was on the Matt Galloway show Monday morning on CBC (and also on the French spoken channels later on), who also followed us around on the bikes on our survey of the city. What seemed strange to me is that in Toronto the â€œWar on carsâ€ has taken on a life of its own, by claiming that there would be more bicycle facilities at the expense of some car lanes. This is definitely not true, because most of these car lanes are superfluous anyway. How can I claim that? Well, just take a look at Spadina going to Gardiner Expressway. In the evening only so many cars can go on the last bit of Spadina to Gardiner Expressway. And Gardiner usually being filled up at that time of day, even less than one car lane feeds onto Gardiner. So even if you build one hundred lanes going that way, the number of cars feeding into Gardiner stays the same. Most of these lanes are just temporary moving parking spaces for traffic going down Spadina. Dedicating one lane to Safe Bike routes would not affect car accessibility or affect total travel time for cars. This way you provide people more possibilities for faster travelling by using the bike or the bike-transit integration. OK, car drivers may get frustrated when cyclists pass them while they are waiting in rush hour traffic, but that may give them an incentive to get out of their car and use their bike. No extra car lanes will improve the flow of traffic as can be seen in any modern city in the world. Yes itâ€™s true, bikes are just the fastest, healthiest, most sustainable and most convenient mode of transport in any city. Yes, in Toronto too. Hans Voerknecht Team Blue leader