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Get Outta My Bike Lane!

As a cyclist in Toronto, the very fact that a bike lane exists on any given street is cause for celebration. But since the majority of our precious lanes are not separated, these lanes also often serve as parking spots for delivery trucks, city service vehicles and anyone else who needs to make a pit stop. This isn’t just a mere annoyance, it’s dangerous. Blocking a bike lane causes cyclists to merge, sometimes unexpectedly, with traffic.

In Toronto, it’s illegal to block a bike lane, even just for a moment, under Chapter 886, Article V which states that “no person shall stop a vehicle other than a bicycle in a bicycle lane.” As of January 2012, the fine for stopping, standing or parking in bicycle lanes was increased from $60 to $150.

But as with all rules, there are exceptions. Emergency vehicles (rightly so!) can park wherever they please as well as those city service vehicles that keep us functioning such as those working on telecommunications, energy, water supply or wastewater related issues. So if you’ve got to block a lane, what’s the best way to do it?

Toronto Hydro safely makes room for cyclists when blocking the lane – Good job!

One Torontonian snapped this great photo (above) of Toronto Hydro showing us how it’s done along College Street. The workers set up pylons to temporarily rebuild the lane so cyclists had the time and space to safely merge with traffic. A big thank you to Toronto Hydro!

Proposed new lanes on Sherbourne St.

As for those separated bike lanes…Toronto is just starting to catch on with plans for separated lanes on Sherbourne Street from Queens Quay to Bloor Street. However, since Toronto is currently governed by a kangaroo court, you will be baffled to learn that the addition of these new spiffy lanes means that current existing lanes on Jarvis st. will be removed (removal of lanes is estimated to cost the city $300,000).

Without a line to indicate a separate lane, bike sharrows don’t mean much.

Uh oh! Just because they look pretty doesn’t mean they work!

While cyclists mourn the loss of Jarvis lanes and wait with bated breath for those new lanes to appear, I’d be satisfied if the city would opt to add a painted ‘separating’ line to the existing ambiguous bike symbols on some of our streets. Without the line indicating that there is indeed, a separate space for cyclists, these symbols, known as sharrows merely encourage or “recommend that cyclists and drivers respect each other’s right to the road, they don’t prohibit either party from infringing on the other’s space” (BlogTO, 2010). Bike sharrows often fall directly in line with spots for street parking and as seen in the photo below, don’t really mean much in terms of giving cyclists space or safety on the road.

What’s the bike lane situation in your city? Do you think sharrows work?


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2 thoughts on “Get Outta My Bike Lane!

  1. We have a bike lane of sorts on the main street in our town. It has a bike painted in it, and it is separated from the street…but parking is allowed in it, and it abruptly ends when it reaches the center of town, which is, of course, the busiest part of town. It can get super frustrating, particularly when cars get angry with you for having to go around parked cars, and pedestrians get frustrated with you for biking on the sidewalk to avoid the parked cars…and it isn’t like there is not enough bike traffic to merit a real bike lane.
    In addition, the only bridge across the river to campus is extremely narrow, with signs posted saying that bicyclists are not allowed on the sidewalks under any circumstances. That gives us a foot-wide path to drive in. Talk about dangerous.
    Luckily we do have a bike path coming from the busier town into campus…but getting to the bike path is no cake walk, either. Not to mention that once you’re on the bike path, you have to deal with people walking their dogs in the middle of the “road.”

  2. Yeah it doesn’t really make sense to have a bike lane and car parking in the same spot! And that bridge sounds really dangerous! Riding on the sidewalk in Toronto is illegal as well (if your tires are of a certain size) so we don’t really have that option (although many people still do it).

    For anyone who gets frustrated at bikes on the road I ask them if they’d rather if the 19,780 cyclists in Toronto each drove a car instead.

    Mixed bike and pedestrian paths present the same type of problems as bike and car roads. It would be nice to have separated space. They have that in Denmark which I wrote about in this article – oh to dream! 😉

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