Comparison Of College And Pender Streets
The Harbord Village Residents Association has a plan to revitalize College St. between Bathurst and Spadina. They want wider sidewalks and lots of trees. ARC loves the initiative with one serious exception: the proposal for substandard bike facilities. College Street, with the exception of one interrupted block, currently has a dedicated bike lane. HVRA wants to replace this dedicated bike lane with what is referred to as the "rush-hour shift" or a "floating" bike lane. For most of the day, motor vehicles would be permitted to park in the lane and bicycles would ride to the left of the parked cars. During rush hours, no parking would be allowed and cyclists would ride to the right of moving motor vehicle traffic. What this does, in essence, is revert College St. to just one more Toronto street with no bike facilities.
The HVRA has claimed that "floating" bicycle lanes work well elsewhere, such as Pender Street in Vancouver. A couple of ARC members travelled to Vancouver and checked out Pender Street first-hand.
Pender is the only street with bicycle facilities from the east into the downtown business district. It then continues on to Stanley Park so high use should be expected. However bicycle use is nowhere near what it is on College St. During two morning rush-hours in June 2003, we did traffic counts on Pender and College Streets.
First, a word about our method of counting traffic. We did the counts within a few days of each other. Pender St. traffic was counted on Thursday, June 19, 2003, and College St. was studied 4 days later on Monday, June 23. We used the same time period in each city: the morning rush hour between 8 and 9 AM. Also, the weather conditions were very similar. Both days were sunny and warm, and no rain was forecast. Yet the traffic counts on the two streets are quite different as can be seen below.
What this graph shows is that College St. has far higher traffic levels than Pender St. There are twice as many motor vehicles on College Street than there are on Pender, and there are FOUR times as many cyclists! This tells us that we need to be pretty careful about comparing the two streets, because College St. is much busier.
The section of Pender most like the proposal in Toronto ("floating" bike lanes) is from Burrard west to Georgia. As far as Toronto streets, the one it resembles most in this section, as far as function, is Bay St. south of Queen. It terms of lane width it's more like Bathurst. It doesn't feel like a bike facility. Cyclists continually need to change their location in the lane to move around stopped vehicles. It's hard to ride in a consistent manner. It is definitely NOT an improvement from a dedicated bike lane.
|Pender St. near Burrard in mid-afternoon with parked vehicles along the curb. It looks just like a regular street with no bike facilities. Click image to enlarge.|
|The two sets of bicycle symbols on Pender Street are confusing, especially when there are no motor vehicles.|
|As can be seen from this array of signs on Pender, it's difficult to convey to motorists what they should be doing, and when.|
Pender Street has compromise written all over it. They have tried to squeeze cyclists in as best they could, but as an afterthought. It's unlikely that Pender would have been designed in the same way from the outset. Why then would we want to build such a compromised facility in Toronto from scratch?
Download a copy of the letter we wrote to Councillor Olivia Chow. Attached to the letter are the views of Vancouver cyclists regarding Pender St. Please make sure your Councillor knows how you feel about removing a dedicated bike lane and replacing it with a "floating" bike lane. Click here to get contact information for your councillor.