We believe that cycling on sidewalks puts both people walking and biking at risk, and urge cyclists to avoid riding on sidewalks. However, in some situations, the road may be so unsafe that the cyclist's safest option is to ride on the sidewalk.
We are opposed to the licensing and registration of cyclists on the grounds that it creates a disincentive to cycle, and creates unnecessary administrative burdens and costs to taxpayers while not providing any discernible benefit.
Shared space is a broad term for a street design concept whereby all street users, including motor-vehicles, share a space without physical or delineated separation. Here's where we think it could work.
We support and encourage the use of helmets by cyclists of all ages, but also recognize an adult’s right to make their own choice. We are opposed to making helmet use mandatory for adults.
Infrastructure Creation, Maintenance, and Enforcement
Cycle Toronto advocates for adequate funding and political support for cycling infrastructure. It should be well designed, well marked, and safe, with the goal of making a complete road system. We want the City of Toronto to encourage new cyclists, not just accommodate existing traffic.
Cycle Toronto wants the City of Toronto to repair the pavement in the bike lanes, keeping it free of potholes, and repainting the lines when needed. In the winter, the lanes should be kept clear of snow and ice, and in the summer, clear of glass and garbage. The park trails should be opened and maintained all year round.
This position statement is under consideration:
Cycle Toronto wants the City of Toronto to enforce existing laws concerning infrastructure, such as ticketing and towing cars that park in the bike lanes. Those vehicles provided with special exemption from the City of Toronto to park in bike lanes, such as public utility vehicles, should use pylons to re-create a safe bicycle lane around them.
Protected Bike Lanes
Riding on busy, crowded streets, mixed in with fast moving cars can be a stressful experience for anyone riding a bicycle. Ridership rises when biking is easy, safe and comfortable. Protected bike lanes and protected intersections help make that a reality. We believe protected bike lanes should be the default option for any new bike lanes added to streets with posted speed limits of 40 km/hr or above.
Ridership rises when biking is easy, safe and comfortable. Astudy from Portland, Oregonfound that 60% of people are interested but concerned about the safety of cycling for transportation. Protected lanes can help that 60% cycle more often, helping us create a transportation system that is easier, safer, more sustainable and more fun.
Protected bike lanes (also called cycle tracks or physically separated bike lanes), designed properly and connected to other high quality cycling infrastructure, are key to de-stressing cycling and creating aMinimum Grid. All protected bike lanes are physically separated from car traffic by a barrier, butthere are many different ways to create that separation. Protected lanes can be minimal and inexpensive, with bollards or on-street parking creating the barrier, or they can be more elaborate, using medians, planters and raised pathways. The most appropriate type of protection (or whether the lane should be separate at all) depends on a number of factors, like the speed and volume of traffic, the number of taxis and couriers using the street, the number of intersections, and the space available. Because taxis can legally load and discharge passengers in a painted bike lane, and since couriers often illegally park in them (which encourages other drivers to do the same), it makes sense to opt for protection on streets intensively used by taxis and couriers.
There is a huge amount of support for protected bike lanes in Toronto. A recentAngus Reid Forum pollfound that 84% of people believe cyclists need better protection from motor vehicles. and a2009 city of Toronto survey[PDF] found that 77% of those surveyed felt that protecting bike lanes from car traffic would improve cycling a great deal. Another 18% felt that protection would improve cycling “somewhat.”
Many of Toronto's streets are excellent candidates for protected bike lanes. A network of protected bike lanes across Toronto -- incorporatingprotected intersectionsto the greatest extent possible -- will make it accessible for cyclists ranging from experienced riders to those just starting out. If intersections aren’t safe, a bike lane isn’t truly protected.A recent studysuggests that protected bike lanes are not only the safest type of cycling infrastructure, but also the most preferred. Least safe and least preferred are major arterial roadways without bike lanes. Protected lanes will help de-stress Toronto streets for everyone, increasing safety for all road users, while reducing conflicts between road users. Even better, safer bike lanes encourage more people to ride, which further improves the “safety through numbers” effect. Protected bike lanes are rising in popularity: they are being built and used inTorontoand across North America, in cities likeMontréal,Vancouver,New YorkandPortland.
Sharrows aren't bicycle infrastructure: where we support the use of sharrows and where we don't
We support the installation of sharrows as pavement markings in limited circumstances, only when used alongside other measures to improve the safety of people biking. The most common acceptable location for sharrows is on bike boulevards, where there is traffic calming (speed reduction) and motor vehicle traffic diversion (volume reduction). Sharrows are also acceptable as wayfinding tools on short stretches of on-street residential routes that connect dedicated cycling facilities.
We do not support the installation of sharrows on streets where traffic is moving quickly (over 30 km/h) or where traffic volumes are high, such as on arterial roads.
More specifically, we oppose the use of sharrows in the following instances:
Side-by-side sharrows (currently in use on some parts of Spadina Avenue, Hallam Avenue, and Lansdowne Avenue) -- especially given recent Highway Traffic Act amendments that require motorists to leave one metre when passing cyclists (where practicable).
Sharrows to indicate safe bicycle positioning where on-street parking is permitted -- because variation in motor vehicle size, the presence of ice and snow, and driver skill at parking are all factors that may affect safe riding position (particularly to avoid “doorings”).
“Rush hour sharrows” -- because they are confusing to cyclists and drivers and send the wrong messages in terms of cyclist positioning and driver behaviour.
Our position is that sharrowed routes should be indicated on the City Cycling Map as no different from other signed routes as there is nothing to distinguish these routes in terms of cyclist comfort or safety from other streets where cyclists are expected to share infrastructure with motor vehicle traffic.
Cycling on Sidewalks
We believe that cycling on sidewalks puts both people walking and biking at risk, and urge cyclists to avoid riding on sidewalks.
The law: in Toronto, children under the age of 14 may cycle on sidewalks. No person age 14 and older may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk. The City of Toronto's bylaw states that "The fine for an adult who rides a bicycle on a sidewalk shall be $60".
We encourage parents to teach their children safe, respectful and responsible cycling practices.
In some situations, the road may be so unsafe that the cyclist's safest option is to ride on the sidewalk. In such a case, we recommend that cyclists:
cede right of way to pedestrians
warn approaching pedestrians
pass pedestrians and others with the greatest of care and respect
dismount and walk their bike when conditions warrant it
return to the road at the earliest safe opportunity to do so
We are opposed to the licensing and registration of cyclists on the grounds that it creates a disincentive to cycle, and creates unnecessary administrative burdens and costs to taxpayers while not providing any discernible benefit. Neither the City of Toronto nor the provincial Ministry of Transportation have supported such a scheme.
Cyclists, designated as vehicles under the Highway Traffic Act, are already subject to the same rules and fines for infractions as are motor vehicles. Existing legislation, by-laws, and police powers, if used rigorously and to their full extent, are sufficient to keep active transportation safe.
Bicycle licensing doesn’t work, and it never has. Here’s why:
1) The cost of creating, administering, and policing a licensing program for bicycles is far greater than any potential revenue the program could generate.
It would take an incredible amount of resources to legislate and enforce regulations not only for regular cyclists but for recreational riders, those who ride from outside the city, tourists, children on bikes or Bike Share users. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars, valuable city workers and police officers’ time.
2) There is no proof that a bike licensing system, anywhere, has actually increased cyclist compliance with the law.
Toronto had one for nearly 20 years and scrapped it because it didn’t work. As bicycles are considered vehicles under the Highway Traffic Act, cyclists are already subject to fines for breaking laws, rendering a licensing system completely unnecessary.
3) Cyclists already pay their way.
All Toronto residents pay property taxes which build and maintain our roads. Bicycles move people using minimal road space with zero emissions and the least amount of wear and tear on the road surface. And yet, even with rising numbers in cycling, there has not been a corresponding increase in dedicated space or infrastructure for these taxpayers.
4) Many people in Toronto ride bikes because they do not have other transportation options.
People ride a bike for financial reasons, as a mobility device, or as a means to see their families and friends. Our most vulnerable citizens, including children, older adults, and low income families should not be burdened with a bureaucratic fee or process.
5) A licensing system will discourage new riders, which is something Toronto cannot afford.
Our transit is at capacity, our roads are clogged with construction and traffic, child obesity is at an all-time high, and increased air pollution contributes to the very real dangers of climate change. Now is not the time to remove bikes from the road.
Review our scan of comparative municipalities and their experience with bicycle licensing and registration here.
Do you know what does work?
1) Rapid rollout and investment in cycling infrastructure that will keep people biking, walking and driving separate and safe.
2) Education programs for all road users so that everyone is on the same page, and everyone learns to share the road effectively and safely.
3) A bold commitment to a Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities with reduced speed limits, well-designed roads, and strong legal protections for our most vulnerable road users.
Bottom line: A bicycle licensing system is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
It’s time to face the facts. Torontonians have had enough of this back and forth. We need Transportation Services get to work on rolling out the cycling network plan and making the city safe for all of us as soon as possible, not hinder them with unnecessary licensing systems.
Cycle Toronto supports all kinds of active mobility and e-mobility devices that allow people to move about safely. While some modes such as walking and jogging are more practical on sidewalks, we support the following devices using bike lanes, cycle tracks, and trails, based on their size, weight, and a maximum travel speed of 32 km/h:
skateboards and e-skateboards
mobility devices such as wheelchairs
rollerblades and roller skates
pedal assist e-bikes including cargo bikes
other low-speed wheeled devices under 32 km/h
E-bikes / 2-wheeled Electric Scooters
We support electric pedal-assisted bicycles (as distinct from electric scooters aka: scooter-style e-bikes) as an alternative to larger, less environmentally friendly motor vehicles, especially for people with impaired mobility.
We do not believe electric scooters should be permitted to use infrastructure intended for active transportation, as their speed, size and weight make them hazardous to others within those confines.
We encourage the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario to prohibit the use of electric scooters on infrastructure intended for active transportation, such as recreational trails and paths and bike lanes.
We do not support moped-style e-bikes using bike lanes, cycle tracks, and trails because of their excessive weight, design and high travel speed. Cycle Toronto supports M-class licensing for all ‘scooter-style’ e-bikes in Toronto.
Shared space in Haren, the Netherlands. The different pavement textures help indicate that the area is a shared space zone.1
Shared space has emerged as a potential solution to reprioritize streets in favour of people and place over the movement of motor vehicles. But shared spaces need to be thoughtfully designed and managed to benefit people.
What Is Shared Space?
“Shared space” is a street design concept in which there are no marked traffic lanes or sidewalks, but a blended space shared between all road users. There are no signs or painted lines demarcating who belongs where and no traffic signals determining when each mode has the right of way.
In these spaces, the onus of deciding who has the right of way in the street is placed on each individual. It is based on the theory that people pay more attention to their surroundings when they are not relying on signals or demarcations to guide their behaviour. The effect of the redesigned street, ideally, is to create a space in which drivers are “guests, not masters,”2of the road. The concept is grounded in and seeks to promote a sense of place, vibrancy, and community in public space.
Designing Shared Space
Streets designed as shared spaces typically have no traffic lights and a minimal number of signs, road paint, and curbs delineating space for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.3Street furniture such as “bollards, benches, planters, and bicycle parking, can help define a shared space” and often subtly differentiate a car-free space from a space in which all road users are integrated, including drivers.4To be successful, shared spaces must be designed to account for the needs of all road users, including users who have visual and aural impairments. The creation of different pavement textures is one way of providing wayfinding for people who navigate using a cane, for example.5
Typically, local residential streets are well suited to successful shared space as both traffic volumes and vehicle speeds are, or can be made, exceptionally low. However, shared space can be successful on other streets if similar conditions are created, including:
Low speed limits and low traffic volumes.6
High pedestrian and active transportation volumes.7
Clear demarcation of entry points to the area.6
Clear communication to motorists of expectations for the area through education, signage, and design of the space (“mental speed bumps”).6
Low heavy duty vehicle volumes, and ideally heavy duty vehicles pass through at night.
Limited vehicle parking and loading.6
Challenges with Shared Space
When the proper conditions are not met, shared space can have a negative impact on walking and cycling and reinforce the dominance of vehicles. By relying on individual attentiveness, poorly designed shared space can be scary, unpleasant, and intimidating.This is especially true for seniors, children, and people with disabilities, who may not be able to negotiate shared space using the eye contact and signals necessary for the space to work.
Shared Space in Toronto
When shared spaces are done poorly, people who travel by foot, bike, or other mobility devices are endangered and discouraged.Shared space in Toronto will not work unless it actively prioritizes pedestrians and other active transportation users. This means strictly limiting cars and larger vehicles.
In Toronto, motorized vehicles dominate our roads. But the safety of all road users needs to be reprioritized as we move away from traditional car-dominated street design and toward a complete streets approach, one that both responds to and creates a welcoming environment for active transportation.
Designed well, shared spaces can be a tool to deliver safe, inviting spaces that allow our city to prioritize community and placemaking and enhance the wonderful neighbourhoods Toronto has to offer.
In spring 2020, the City of Toronto rolled out its ActiveTO program to temporarily provide space to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Quiet Streets were implemented across the city and are the first look at how Toronto could rapidly deploy shared space quickly. For a permanent shared space, future improvements could include more strict measures to limit vehicular access and make the prioritization of pedestrians and other active transportation users clearer.
Auttapone (Aut) Karndacharuk, Douglas J. Wilson, and Roger C. M. Dunn, “Safety Performance Study of Shared Pedestrian and Vehicle Space in New Zealand,”Transportation Research Record 2464, no. 1 (2014): 2.
Realigning Default City of Toronto Arterial Streetscape
This document was prepared as a response to the City’s 5-year Official Plan Review, which in 2019 was reviewing the Urban Design section - specifically the Public Realm subsections. It is also in response to the City’s Streetscape Design Guidelines, which are silent on the subject of cycling. The Streetscape Design Guidelines have not yet been updated to recognize the City Council’s adoption of the City’s Complete Street Guidelines on December 9, 2015.
This document proposes that Toronto’s City Planning Division adopt policies for safer and more inclusive street configurations on major arterial roadways and “avenues”. Retrofitting existing on-street travel lanes and on-street parking to fit cycling facilities may be desirable in many instances. However, City Planning must also recognize that circumstances will arise where development should introduce cycle tracks or multi-use paths while maintaining travel and parking lanes. Building a cycling facility, even for a single City block, allows local residents to access shops on arterial roads from connecting side streets.
We believe that City Planning Transportation Planning and Civic Design staff will together be able to craft policies to update designs appropriate for the public realm. The street types in the Complete Streets Guidelines may be a tool to help planners differentiate between preferred designs. In some locations, large raised tree planters may be the most appropriate configuration. However, planters should not be the default and only option available to City planners responding to development pressures on arterial roads. We recommend recognizing an option which protects for bicycle tracks, separated from the sidewalk by trees in soil cells.
The realization of cycling facilities is not the exclusive responsibility of the Transportation Services Division. Within its mandate to respond to development, Toronto’s City Planning Division has a significant opportunity to contribute to making the city safer for all people.
Existing Toronto streetscape with in-ground planter.
Proposed City of Toronto Streetscape diagram - wide configuration
Cycle tracks (also called bicycle paths) are considered to be the safest form of bicycle infrastructure. This design introduces protected, sidewalk level bicycle paths on major arterials where otherwise people would be riding bicycles in the curb lane, among automobile traffic or dodging around parked cars.
The design retains street trees and plants, but moves them into a well-configured buffer role keeping people away from vehicles.
People on bicycles are separated from people walking in a clearly delineated space; this reduces potential conflict and encourages people to ride in a separated space who may otherwise ride their bike on the sidewalk. This conflict can either be reduced by the row of trees or by putting the cycle track at a lower level than the sidewalk.
Existing City Streetscape
The default City of Toronto streetscape for major arterials, largely codified in theStreetscape Design Manualand installed when new developments are approved, consists of three major elements:
A large, raised in-ground concrete planter, usually over 2m in width,
A pedestrian clearway with a width of 2.1m or more, usually located in the middle of the sidewalk, and
A street furniture zone with additional facilities such as patios, etc.
Existing City of Toronto Streetscape diagram.
The proposed streetscape replaces the raised in-ground planter with a bicycle track (which is separated from the curb by an edge zone with lamposts and signs), moves the trees away from the curb into a row next to the bicycle track, and leaves the pedestrian clearway closest to the buildings. In this design the pedestrian clearway is a minimum of 2.1m wide, with a bicycle path of 1.5 to 2m or more.
The diagram below shows a narrow configuration of such a streetscape. If additional right-of-way space can be found, then additional space can be allocated to the pedestrian clearway, the bicycle path, and optionally the street tree zone, or even to other street amenities like patios. In such cases the priority should be to the pedestrian and bicycle space, especially where the volume of people on bicycles or on the sidewalk warrants additional space.
Proposed City of Toronto Streetscape diagram - narrow configuration
Proposed City of Toronto Streetscape diagram - wide configuration
The configuration on the left is a minimal configuration, with narrow widths for the cycle track and sidewalk. Streets on which more space is available, such as many suburban arterials, could have a different configuration - including wider bicycle paths, wider sidewalks, and a wider generous planting zone or bioswale. A wider configuration is shown on the right.
Soil Cell Background
Soil cells are an underground tree root cell capable of sustaining the growth of large, healthy street trees. The advantage of soil cells is that:
An excessively wide, above-ground raised planter is not necessary
The ground opening can be quite narrow resulting in space efficiencies; and flush with the sidewalk, eliminating tripping hazards for pedestrians
Underground space for healthy root growth is capacious, especially relative to the size of the ground opening
The usable street right-of-way can be considerably wider
Cycle Toronto supports Rolling Stops as a safe and effective way for people on bikes to approach intersections controlled by stop signs.
The Rolling Stop Law would allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, instead of requiring cyclists to come to a complete stop. Rolling Stops, or the Idaho Stop, has been legal in places such as Idaho since 1982.1
The maneuver requires a cyclist approaching a stop sign to:
stop if required for safety; and,
yield the right of way to any approaching vehicle or pedestrian, before proceeding through an intersection controlled by a stop sign.
Cycle Toronto supports the Rolling Stops for intersections controlled by stop signs as opposed to intersections controlled by traffic lights.
Cycle Toronto supports Rolling Stops for the following reasons:
Bicycles are momentum based vehicles. Most of the work is in starting and stopping. The Rolling Stop Law would legalize existing behavior and make that behaviour the designated legal norm;
A Rolling Stop law improves predictability and consistency, thereby reducing risk. After Rolling Stops were legalized in Idaho, bicycle-motor vehicle collision rates declined by nearly 15%
A Rolling Stop Law maintains traffic flow by smoothly moving cyclists through intersections; and
A Rolling Stop Law legalizes a traffic movement that is already commonly utilized by many road users. This can reduce police presence and interaction on the street and can make cycling safer for residents of communities that have historically been over-policed.
Provincial Election: Cycling and Road Safety Priorities
While Cycle Toronto’s primary focus is on City Hall, we’ve engaged with several Ontario MPP candidates already about what priorities would make meaningful change for Toronto at the Provincial Government level. Be sure to ask your candidates questions about whether they will commit to moving these initiatives forward at Queen’s Park:
Passing Bill 54: Vulnerable Road Users Law, which is has passed second reading and is currently awaiting a Justice Committee meeting
Mandatory cycling education in schools- at the Grade 5 and Grade 9 level
Mandatory truck side guardson all commercial trucks
Developing aProvincial Vision Zero Plan
Allowing cities to determine which streetsAutomated Speed Enforcement (ASE)cameras can be situated. ASE is currently restricted to school zones, even though data suggests that high-speed arterials are where ASE has the most positive impact in reducing serious injuries and deaths
All day, two-way GO Transit serviceon weekdays and weekends; removing rush-hour restrictions for bikes; adding bike cars on trains; bike share integration at stations.
Extending electric vehicle rebates to all zero emission vehicles, to include e-bikes and e-cargo bikes.
Providing secure storageat transit stations and in other public spaces
All provincial highway overpasses and underpasses in urban areas should include safe designsfor vulnerable road users, such as protected bike lanes
Legalize the Rolling (Idaho) Stop- evidence shows that safety improves when stop signs are treated like yield signs for cyclists, and would reduce unnecessary traffic stops