All images credit Lloyd Alter unless noted
Both of the leading candidates for Mayor of Toronto want to cut back on spending and rip up bike lanes on main streets. The leader, Rob Ford, says "I can't support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it's their own fault at the end of the day." So who knows how long Toronto's first bike boxes will last before someone complains that ten feet of road has been taken away from cars. But some carry on; that's cycling activist Yvonne Bambrick handing out postcards to drivers, explaining how the bike boxes work.
The Toronto bike boxes are not too deep and I suspect hard to see;
Jonathan Maus, Bike Portland
In Portland, Oregon, they are deeper, painted green and the WAIT HERE graphic pretty much tells the driver what is going on. However that looks like a pretty wide, almost suburban street; in Toronto, the bike boxes are at a very busy intersection in the middle of the University where there are usually hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists at all times.
I asked Yvonne Bambrick if the bike boxes were working. She said:
YB: I have been standing here for about twenty minutes now and every car, with the exception of one, that was from out of town, everybody has been stopping. I think the news and television coverage has had the desired effect.
LA: And what about the cyclists, are they using it?
YB: Most cyclists are not comfortable making a left turn from a left hand lane like you are supposed to. This helps them get into the habit. It will take a while, but that is why we are here today handing out flyers, to let people know.
LA: In the ridiculous Star article on the bike boxes, they wrote:
The few cyclists who waited inside the box generally were wearing a helmet and one pantleg rolled up. Meanwhile, within a 30-minute period at least six cyclists were observed rolling right through the red light at the same intersection on Monday afternoon.
How do you respond to this constant complaining about cyclists?
YB: I always say that it isn't just bikes that break the rules, cars habitually speed and don't fully stop at stop signs. People break rules all the time. Unfortunately because many drivers are uncomfortable and unhappy to cede any roadway space to cyclists, they are finding ways to pick on those users. It's just human nature; they're afraid and out of fear they are namecalling.
Even under the supposedly bike-friendly David Miller Mayoralty of the last seven years, Toronto was confused and half-hearted about its support of cycling. A few blocks west of the bike boxes, The always wonderful Urban Repair Squad (motto: "They say city is broke. We fix. No charge.") complains that it's "Time to fill in the gap in this bike lane and stop putting business interests ahead of public safety." They are marking this bizarre missing bit in one of Toronto's busiest bike routes with their own stencilled bike.
I work my way north on Toronto's first Contra-flow bike lane (running against traffic on a one way street) and for the first time ever, find it clear of parked cars all the way.
Toronto makes this pretence of having a bike infrastructure, a network of paths, with signs telling me one route is ending and switching me to another,
Only to have it end, one block later, at a one-way southbound street, forcing me and every other cyclist to ride the wrong way on a one way street, with all of the southbound drivers complaining that cyclists ignore the rules of the road. The cyclists really have no choice but to break the law, because the city dumped us there with no place to go.
This is why the work of people like Yvonne Bambrick and the Toronto Cyclists Union is so important; It looks like we have lost what the suburban politicians call the "war on the car" and that no matter who is elected, they are not going to spend 12 cents on paint for bike lanes and bike infrastructure improvements. Instead we will have gridlock, pollution, road rage and more car/cyclist "interactions." We will need the Union and the Urban Repair Squad more than ever.