substandard cycling facilities PLUS wide empty street PLUS weak-willed politicians EQUALS recipe for disaster

A kid was killed riding his bicycle in Toronto last week.

The newspapers reported it happened when the boy, age 11, crossed an intersection along a busy four-lane road at the far west end of the city, and was hit by a “Turtle Island” garbage truck under contract to the city.

The fact is, the child was riding on the sidewalk and the driver of the garbage truck, turning onto the residential street, struck him when the cyclist crossed in front of his right-turning truck.

It’s possible nothing could have been done to prevent this crash and its awful consequence.

However one wonders, when one looks at Toronto’s Bicycle Master Plan, what the powers that be were thinking of in some of their decisions. One sees along Horner Avenue for example an orange dashed line, which identifies it as a “connector” route. This means, according to the Plan, a “suggested link between off-road paths and other bikeways…. These links may entail travel on busy, major roads through commercial or industrial areas.”

About three years ago on Horner Ave, some three blocks east of the site of last week’s collision, another child was killed by the fast-moving traffic.

Clearly this street is a problem. It needs more than an orange dashed line on a map. It needs a proper bike lane. If it means taking out a lane of car traffic in each direction, perhaps people can live with that.


This brings up another question.

What good is a Bicycle Master Plan, approved unanimously by city council just a few years ago, if it is gutted and compromised at every turn by even its staunchest allies?

The latest such example is the case of Royal York Road, where a short stretch of bikelane (1.6 km) was needed to join two previously built pieces north and south, to provide a safe margin for bicycles all the way from Bloor Street to Lake Ontario.

When push came to shove however, the local councillor, a former architect named Peter Milquetoast, caved in to pressure from the ratepayers group and prevented the construction of the proper bikelanes. You can read about the fiasco here, at Martin Koob’s fine Biketoronto website. Only at the last minute, in a full city council vote, was a “glorious compromise” reached. The result was a decision to paint stripes at the road edge to provide 3.3 meter car lanes each way, plus 1.25 meter “bicycle lanes.”

The quotations are necessary: a bicycle lane by definition is 1.5 meters to 2.o meters in width. The 1.5 meter width allows cyclists to pass each other safely, to keep a safe distance from potentially deadly flying car doors, and to negotiate other road hazards without fearing encroachment from passing cars.

On the other hand, a 3.3 meter car lane allows for cars to drive at rates of speed that exceed the 50 km per hour mandated on most city of Toronto roads. It encourages through truck traffic and will do nothing to “calm” a street. It strikes the ALLDERBLOB as strange that the ratepayers of the sleepy burg along Royal York would accept a wide traffic lane at the expense of safer passage for cyclists, but that is what they did.

What is more, they did it with the full compliance and cooperation of some of the most “pro-bicycle” members of council. Olivia Chow and Paula Fletcher, Adam Giambrone and Glen DeBaermaker, all worked to ensure passage of the “compromised” bicycle lanes. The mayor, who this morning proclamed this “Bike Week” in Toronto, cast his lot among them.

Some have asked what it means to “compromise” when the other side gives nothing. On Royal York, a bikelane will be painted that is 17% narrower than the minimum standard, while the car lane, at 3.3 meters in width, is straight out of the California Highway Design Manual.

Compromise? What compromise?

It’s come to the attention of the ALLDERBLOB that many people are dismayed at the city’s insufficient concern for the safety of cyclists in Toronto. In fact, there is an online petition and anyone concerned about the plethora of car advertising should also be concerned enough to go sign the petition. It calls for the city to take seriously the plight of cyclists in Toronto. As of this post, it’s been up some 12 hours, and already gleaned over 120 signatures.

2 Responses to “substandard cycling facilities PLUS wide empty street PLUS weak-willed politicians EQUALS recipe for disaster”


    June 20: almost three weeks have passed and the petition has achieved over 1,000 signatures in its on-line form. Folks from ARC have also distributed paper copies of the petition, at bike stores, bikeweek events and the like, and I hear reports of another 400-600 signatures from those.

    It sounds like a lot, but there are a million cyclist stories in the naked city, and a thousand is just a drop in that bucket.

    Tell your friends. We need a powerful voice to tell the politicians they have to provide better.


    U of T Professor Killed In Bike Collision

    I don’t take the TTC, I avoid cabs, and I just don’t have the patience to do any real walking. I bike everywhere. So whenever I hear about a biker being killed in Toronto, I take it to heart. On April 20th, Hubert van Tol, professor of ph...

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