Posts Tagged ‘biking’
Spacing shares a report arguing that biking is really taking off in Toronto, especially in some downtown neighbourhoods. (Some are close to mine, even.)
Although we don’t know exactly who has started to bike in the last few years, we do know just how much things have changed. And they have changed a great deal: Our first hint came when the Toronto Cycling survey released in 2011 by the city’s Transportation Department showed that 29 percent of Torontonians were utilitarian cyclists. Next, Toronto Centre for Active Transportation and Share the Road released their 2013 survey results, showing that 5.7 percent of Torontonians cycle regularly. Most recently, in September of 2013, Cycle Toronto, working with the Toronto Cycling Think and Do Tank, measured the number of cars and cyclists using College St. at Spadina during afternoon rush hour. What we found was extraordinary: approximately equal numbers of cars and bikes used College at this time on the two study days – though the bikes used only a fraction of the road space, of course. That’s a 74 percent cycling increase on this street in just three years.
Finally, an analysis of the National Household Survey data from 2011 shows astonishing figures for cycling mode share in some census tracts – nearly 20 percent in Seaton Village near Christie Pits and in Dufferin Grove, with other areas of the west end following closely. These figures are for work and school trips only, so the total share of cycling trips might be even higher.
So now we know for certain – Torontonians are getting on their bikes in unprecedented numbers. These increases seem even more significant considering the poor curbside conditions, general lack of separated lanes, meager painted bike routes, and shortage of bike parking, especially back in 2011 and 2012 when most of these data were collected. Way to go, Torontonians – we know that the more of us who cycle, the safer it gets, and so we expect collision rates to be declining and emissions and commercial vacancies to be going down, while fitness, disposable income and business revenues increase.
Sean Marshall’s Spacing Toronto post describing, with abundant photos, a weekend biking trip in southwestern Ontario beyond Hamilton, makes me interested and envious. I need to get back to doing this sort of thing.
In mid-July, I completed another overnight cycling trip. On a bright and warm Friday, I biked from Hamilton to Port Dover via Caledonia. On an overcast and rather soggy Saturday, I rode back to Hamilton, via a longer route through Simcoe and Brantford. Along the way, I cycled on some of Ontario’s best rail trails, and one of the first bicycle-friendly paved shoulders on a provincial highway. From Hamilton to Port Dover via Caledonia (a 76-kilometre ride) just under half the ride was on off-road trails, while the longer return trip via Brantford was almost entirely competed following rail trails.
Unlike Quebec, which has a comprehensive province-wide cycling program, including the 5000-kilometre Route Verte network, Ontario’s bike routes are organized and maintained entirely by local municipalities and conservation authorities. Networks are only found in a few select regions. In Hamilton/Kitchener/Port Dover, Caledon/Erin, and in the Peterborough/Kawartha region, there are lengthy, connected rail trails which are all suitable for cycling. Niagara Region has a 140-kilometre-long Circle Route beside the Welland Canal and the Niagara River. But elsewhere in Ontario, designated cycling routes are almost non-existent; the few off-road trails that exist do not connect with others. Few highways and county roads have paved shoulders for cyclists’ use. Quebec has understood the opportunities that bicycle tourism provides.
It is time for Ontario to do the same.
As has become my custom on these longer rides, I used GO Transit’s bike racks on its buses to transport my bicycle and myself to and from Toronto. My trip began at Hamilton’s splendid Art Deco GO station, opened by the Toronto-Hamilton-Buffalo Railway in 1933. Nearby, the Escarpment Rail Trail — part of a former Canadian National line to Caledonia and Port Dover — begins its gentle climb of the Niagara Escarpment, ending at a point near Albion Falls, one of dozens of waterfalls found in the Steel City. A footbridge spans the Lincoln Alexander Parkway (whose construction cut through the old CN railbed) and one must take Stone Church Road (thankfully, with bike lanes) to resume cycling south via the rail trail.
NOW Toronto‘s Andrew Reeves wrote favourably about the Toronto manifestation of the “ghost bike”, a memorial to a cyclist killed in an accident at that location. I photographed one here, on St. Clair at Wychwood. There are controversies surrounding the ghost bikes as obstructions to movement and as potentially unsightly, with many people relating to the issue in ways that reflect their alignments on the issue of bikes in Toronto.
Ghost bikes are seen by family members as sad tributes to lost loved ones, and by cycling advocates as reminders to bike safe. The fate of the bikes has become an issue for the Public Works Committee since City Hall started receiving inquiries from cyclists and families opposed to their removal last year.
[. . .]
Ghost bikes were introduced in Toronto in the mid-2000s after a 2003 bike crash in St. Louis, Missouri, inspired a witness to install a white-painted bike as a sombre reminder of the safety challenges for cyclists. Toronto’s versions are crafted by Geoffrey Bercarich, a volunteer with Bike Pirates.
“They make people understand that this intersection is dangerous,” he says.
Bercarich would like to see them protected and honoured as permanent landmarks, because “they’re a powerful tool for advocacy,” he says. “That’s why I keep building them.”
Mike Layton also thinks they should remain. The Ward 19 councillor brought forward a motion last October asking staff to study changing existing bylaws to recognize ghost bikes as “art and memorials” rather than rusting eyesores.
“Some families want them taken down because they don’t want to be reminded of a tragic incident,” but others want a reminder that “it’s dangerous out there.” Layton’s hoping to find a solution that addresses everyone’s needs.
Torontoist’s David Hains writes about a poll claiming that a majority of Torontonians would approve of licensing cyclists. This is unworkable, as Hains points out. I suspect it might be a reaction to the regular violation of the rules of the road by cyclists–biking on sidewalks, biking in the wrong direction, et cetera–as it is to general conflicts on the road.
A Leger poll commissioned by insurance provider Kanetix has found that 66.7 per cent of Torontonians approve of the idea of licensing cyclists. The poll results are consistent with a 2012 Forum poll, which pegged the approval rating at 65 per cent.
The idea of licensing cyclists as we do car drivers has been around for over 80 years—in fact, Toronto cyclists were licensed from 1935 to 1957. According to an amendment signed by Mayor Nathan Phillips, the program ended up being discontinued in part because licensing caused “an unconscious contravention of the law at a very tender age” in that the law was so consistently ignored by young people. The same amendment noted that the licensing also created “poor public relations between police officers and children.”
Council has revisited and rejected the idea of licensing cyclists at least five times since 1984. Staff reports produced throughout the years cite concerns about its prohibitively high cost, the practical difficulties of licensing young cyclists, and the possibility that licensing would act as a deterrent for casual cyclists—and point out that cyclists are already subject to the rules of the road.