January 20, 2020

Turkey and Spain - Part 2 (Cappadocia)

After five days in Istanbul, we arrived in Cappadocia for four days. While we didn't take a hot air balloon ride – one of the area’s top attractions – Cappadocia is great for hiking and has other things to do. There is Göreme’s open air museum, Avanos’ pottery workshops, Uchisar’s castle and onyx shops, underground cities, and lots of cave hotels to choose from.
View from Uchisar Castle

January 06, 2020

Turkey and Spain - Part 1 (Istanbul)

Happy New Year!

From December 7 to 31, Helen and I travelled around Turkey and Spain. Turkey has diverse landscapes such as Istanbul’s hustle and bustle, Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys, Pamukkale’s hot springs, and ancient ruins along the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts. The Andalusian province of Spain is home to Western Europe’s last remnants of Islam, great hiking trails in Granada, bike friendly Seville, and delicious tapas.
Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia)
This travel series will be split into five parts:
  • Istanbul
  • Cappadocia
  • Mediterranean and Aegean Coasts
  • Granada
  • Seville

December 03, 2019

Send Peel-Gladstone Back To The Drawing Board

On Monday, December 2, the City of Toronto hosted a second drop in meeting regarding Peel and Gladstone Avenues. While I couldn’t go to this one, I was able to prepare some thoughts on the revised plan.
Original Peel-Gladstone Proposal (via City of Toronto)
The original plan called for one way northbound motor vehicle traffic on Gladstone Avenue from Minowan Way to Peel Avenue and one way westbound on Peel Avenue with contraflow bike lanes provided on both streets. Some of the concerns raised include opposition to having three consecutive one way westbound routes for drivers, traffic from Minowan Way being directed onto Peel, and neighbourhood traffic congestion. Given these concerns, the City opted to keep two way traffic on both streets while continuing to allow the contraflow bike lane on Gladstone from Argyle Street to Peel. One option called for sharrows and the other bike lanes in both directions.

Unfortunately, neither of these revised options will be appropriate for the cycling community for the following reasons:

Option A – Sharrows do not count as infrastructure. End of story.
Option B – The presence of on-street parking means placing bike lanes in the door zone on one side. Not only would this design put people riding bikes at risk of getting the “door prize”, the design would impair proper snow clearing efforts. This idea needs to be thrown out of Toronto’s design book ASAP.
If we are to reject both design options, how can we make it better while addressing the concerns raised? Let’s go back to the original contraflow proposal and make the following changes:
  1. Switch the direction of Alma Avenue to one way eastbound so we don’t have three consecutive one way westbound streets.
  2. Switch directions on Gladstone to one way southbound with northbound contraflow bike lanes to be consistent with Gladstone further north.
  3. Allow two way traffic on Peel from Minowan Way to Gladstone but keep it one way westbound west of Minowan Way. This – along with switching directions on Gladstone – would allow people driving on Minowan Way to get back to Queen via Gladstone and provide a low traffic environment for people riding bikes.
  4. Add a traffic signal at Dufferin and Peel which can be synched with the Queen and Dufferin signal and help improve access to the West Toronto Railpath extension.
Comments are due on Friday, December 13, so be sure to let the City know neither sharrows nor door zone bike lanes are acceptable. 

Rob Z (e-mail)

November 26, 2019

Fixing the College and Dundas Intersection

On November 26, 2019, Councillor Ana Bailao’s office and City of Toronto staff hosted a public meeting to show local residents plans for improving the safety of the College and Dundas intersection for people who walk or bike. About 20 to 30 people attended what I would call a very engaging discussion with no shortage of ideas brought up. This development is important for my Parkdale neighbourhood, given many people living there use Lansdowne Avenue and Dundas Street West to get to the West Toronto Railpath which is an uncomfortable experience.
The meeting focused on three interim improvements to be done next year in conjunction with planned road and TTC streetcar track work.
  1. Close off St. Helens Avenue from College Street to College Street North with various streetscaping improvements. (e.g. street murals, stones, planters, bike share, seating)
  2. Add a traffic signal and bicycle lay-by at Dundas and College to allow for a more direct eastbound connection from Dundas to College Streets.
  3. Reconstruct College Street North, St. Helens Avenue, and Lumbervale Avenue with three traffic arrangements proposed.
The three traffic options proposed are as follows; all of which maintain two-way traffic on Lumbervale.
  1. Maintain two way traffic on College North and St. Helens.
  2. One way southbound on St. Helens and eastbound on College North.
  3. One way westbound on College North and northbound on St. Helens.
Among the three traffic arrangements, the third option is recommended from a safety and traffic flow standpoint and saw more support at the meeting compared to the other options. This can be further improved by banning left turns from College eastbound onto College North.
Prior to the presentation, one of the residents brought up a very good idea to make the left lane of Dundas eastbound left turn only onto College while the right turn lane would be used to continue onto Dundas. This option would allow Dundas from College to Lansdowne to be reduced from four lanes to two and allow the Dundas bike lanes to be extended to Lansdowne with protection. That – along with a bike box at Lansdowne and Dundas - would greatly improve access to the West Toronto Railpath for Parkdale residents.

Another resident suggested tightening the turning radius at Lansdowne and Dundas to improve pedestrian safety; something which is called for elsewhere in the project area. There was a suggestion to improve the closure of St. Helens by moving the stones next to where the curb would go; something Shawn Dillon (former cycling unit manager) said wasn't feasible for interim projects. A longer term solution is to convert the closed off street into a parkette along with the existing triangle which would be subject to another study. One last idea which got lots of cheers was to ban motor vehicle access on College from Dundas to College North; something unlikely to happen anytime soon without significant studies.
The presentation briefly discussed several ongoing projects including the West Toronto Railpath extension and a multi-use path along the Barrie corridor; the latter of which is currently in limbo. Another long term solution being proposed is to build a bi-directional cycle track along the north side of Dundas and College to Brock Street to connect with the existing West Toronto Railpath. As with the parkette, the bi-directional cycle track would be subject to further study.

The College and Dundas intersection staff report is expected to be completed in January with the Infrastructure and Environment Committee and City Council voting on it in February. If you wish to provide comments, the deadline to do so is on Tuesday, December 10.

Ride safe!
Rob Z (e-mail)

October 23, 2019

Checking Out Scarlett and Six Points

The Etobicoke York district has two main cycling projects for 2019; those being the protected bike lanes on Scarlett Road and the Six Points intersection in Etobicoke Centre. Scarlett was part of an action plan proposed by the Ward 11 Pedestrian Safety and Cycling Community (now Ward 5 York South Weston), while Six Points – where Bloor, Dundas, and Kipling meet – is attracting higher density development. I biked by these two areas on Sunday to understand the importance of these two projects.
Scarlett cycle tracks at the Humber River Trail

October 10, 2019

Biking Barrie to Orillia

Since moving to the Greater Toronto Area in 2008, the only GO train line that was easily accessible outside of rush hour was the Lakeshore line from Oshawa to Aldershot (just outside of Hamilton). However, GO Transit has expanded service on its Barrie, Kitchener, and Stouffville lines in recent years as part of their Regional Express Rail program. This includes year round weekend service to Barrie in December 2016 and to Niagara Falls since August 2019. Having gotten curious to check out the Oro Medonte Rail Trail, Helen and I brought our bikes on the GO train to Barrie last weekend to try it out.
Barrie's old Allandale train station
Right now, GO Transit’s Barrie weekend service is focused more on those visiting Toronto than the other way around. The earliest GO train leaves Union Station at 11:40 and arrives at Barrie’s Allandale Waterfront station at 13:20, while the last train leaves Barrie at 20:40 and returns to Union at 22:20. If there could be an earlier train leaving Union at 8:00 or 9:00, that would make a day trip to Barrie more ideal. Having said that, the Barrie line has some vintage style stations along the way at Maple and Aurora, while the old style Allandale station can be seen from the new one.
The multi-use path is on the other side of this public washroom
Fortunately, a simple crossing of Lakeshore Drive brings you to Barrie’s lakefront trail. Barrie’s downtown is within walking distance from Heritage Park by crossing the rainbow crosswalk and heading to the Cenotaph. Outside of the waterfront, Google Maps shows few disconnected bike routes and Barrie – a city of 140,000 people – doesn’t have an active transportation map; something smaller communities such as Ajax and Moncton offer. An updated transportation master plan was released in April 2019 as a blueprint to build their bikeway network.
Admiring the fall colours just east of Barrie
Once past Heritage Park, most of the trail to James Street in Orillia – including the entire Oro Medonte Trail – is good quality gravel surface. While this may inconvenience asphalt loving road racers, it was more than adequate for our hybrid and commuter bikes.
The wayfinding signage was good while the trail from Colborne Street to 1 Line was a bit narrow. A short ride on 1 Line with minimal traffic brought us to the Oro Medonte Trail parking area.
Some narrow trail sections between Heritage Park and the Oro-Medonte Rail Trail
The 28-kilometre Oro Medonte Rail Trail runs along an abandoned CN rail line and serves as a cross country ski and snowmobile route during the winter. Visiting this trail during the fall was a real treat with the changing leaves and a trumpeter swan sighting by a pond. A bike repair stand is available at Line 2, while information panels can be found along the trail. Washrooms and porta-potties are also available every few kilometres.
Trumpeter swans along the Oro-Medonte Rail Trail
The trail becomes paved again at James Street with some oddly placed ring and post parking and stops at West Street. For those uncomfortable crossing mid-block, signalized intersections can be found within a 1 – 2 minute walk. An off-road path was found on Queen Street, which dumped us into a construction zone at Front Street and wayfinding to Orillia’s waterfront wasn’t clear. Getting there required going a short distance north to Elgin Street. While it would have been nice to spend some more time in Orillia, the shorter daylight hours meant having to turn back almost immediately to avoid riding the unlit trail in the dark and get on the train home.
Made it to Orillia's Waterfront but had to turn back shortly after
A redo of this trail is definitely in order for several reasons; especially if an earlier GO train run could be added. Not only would it be nice to spend more time in Orillia (or even just Barrie), the Oro Medonte Rail Trail is part of the 160-kilometre Simcoe County Loop Trail which could lead to another multi-day bike trip accessible from Toronto car-free. Lots of work is needed for Barrie and Simcoe County to catch up to Niagara Region for cycle tourism, but giving Ontarians more cycle tourism options is never a bad thing. 😊
Keep on touring!
Rob Z (e-mail)

September 11, 2019

Tearing Down the Democratic Process

Over the past twenty years, Dave Meslin has become one of Toronto’s leading city builders. You may recognize some of his projects such as Spacing, Dandyhorse, Cycle Toronto, RaBIT, Downtown De-Fence Project, and the Toronto Public Space Committee. His new book – Teardown – draws from those experiences and those from other political roles to help educate people on the obstacles of our political system and how to overcome them.