Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Rethinking Toronto Bike Routes :: Insights from Berkeley's Bicycle Boulevards

This post was inspired by the Torontoist's article on downtown bike plans. Back in August, I created a map superimposing the Toronto cycling map and a map of bike accident incidents onto a Google map of downtown. I thought it was interesting to look at the patterns, as they related to the type of street and where the bike lanes are.

Out in Berkeley, California, they have an idea that would have Toronto cyclists salivating:: bicycle boulevards. In the video below, there's a discussion of the semiotics of cycling space on the roadways {signs, their meanings, and the rules and behaviours surrounding them}. The markers on the street are of a similar scale to the stop sign markers. These markers on the roadway define the parameters of its use, in a more emphatic way than just a posted sign saying "bike lane." It places the car and the bike on a more level position on the road, as there's an expectation of cyclists.  One of the objectives with bicycle boulevards is to make cycling a safer experience for cyclists and encourage people to bike more. It also communicates to pedestrians crossing the roadways that bikes, which are much quieter than cars, may be present.

The street signs in Berkeley are also colour coded purple to designate a bicycle boulevard. On some intersections, there are protected areas {bollards} for cyclists with traffic signal sensors {see green circles on Berkeley map}. So, are the bicycle boulevards on major streets?  No.

I've taken the Berkeley cycling route map and highlighted a few of the major streets in grey. The bicycle boulevards {in yellow}. The orientation of the map is up is facing east and down is facing west. There are three bicycle boulevards that go east-west, Virginia, Channing, and Russell. Virginia is close to a major thoroughfare, University, as is Russell {Ashby}. Bicycle boulevards on Bowditch/Hillegass, Milvia, California and 9th. {off the map} cross Berkeley from north to south, with proximity to Telegraph, Shattuck and MLKJr., Sacramento, and San Pablo, respectively. Click on map for larger image in new window.

Berkeley Biking & Walking Map
Bicycle boulevards in yellow, thoroughfares in grey. 
Source. Edits by Kenneth Kambara in Gimp 2.6.4.

Back to the Torontoist article. The article mentions a RFP to collect data through conducting an environmental assessment of a bikeway along the Bloor-Danforth corridor. While I think this idea means well, I think there should be some exploration of the creation of "bicycle boulevards" on non-arterial streets that allow cyclists, at the minimum, to get from Taylor Creek to High Park. Click on above map for larger image in new window.

Toronto Cycling Map
Bike lanes in red, shared roadways in blue, multi-use pathways in green, thorougfares in grey.
Source.  Edits by Kenneth Kambara in Gimp 2.6.4.

 So, Cosburn is already a bike lane, as is much of Harbord and Wellesley. Perhaps these can be turned into bicycle boulevards and connected. The LinnyQat says that Mortimer and Lumsden are also good east-west cycling routes from her days in East York.

The idea of "sharing" roadways with drivers/commuters seems to be a sticky wicket, so bicycle boulevards on smaller streets would take care of those dustups, but may introduce other NIMBY-driven complaints.

So, rather than spend on data collection along Bloor-Danforth, I'd rather see a plan that's open to alternative configurations of the bikeway network in the city. One idea is to have crowdsourced data gathering, along with with comments and digital photos, by cyclists and other stakeholders on alternative routes that could inform the creation of bicycle boulevards.

Twitterversion:: @Torontoist reports on TO's dwntwn bike plans. Blog post offering insights fr. Berkeley's bicycle blvds @biketo @cyclists @Prof_K 

Song:: Belle & Sebastian-"Fox in the Snow"

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