December 01, 2016

Beyond Ajax ... Cycling in Whitby and Oshawa

As far as Durham Region goes, Ajax is the Region's cycling leader and Pickering is the laggard. (more on this here) However, the Region has six other municipalities; those being Whitby, Oshawa, Clarington, Uxbridge, Brock, and Scugog. Thanks to a Strava map provided by Joe Arruda, I checked two more municipalities off my to-do list with a 29-kilometre ride from Whitby to Oshawa GO stations on Sunday, November 13.
Sheltered bicycle racks at Whitby GO station
At Whitby GO station, I saw four sheltered bicycle racks by the northern entrance and a fifth by the bus platform[1], which paled in comparison to Ajax GO station. However, edge lines (a.k.a. urban shoulders per MTO Book 18 Section 4.1.2) are provided on Henry Street next to the GO station to provide some safety.

Here are some of the oddities I found in Whitby and Oshawa:
On Oshawa's Mary Street, a designated bike lane is only available southbound.
Northbound is an urban shoulder where parking is allowed.
Legalized Parking in Bike Lanes? – Not exactly. Per Bruce MacDonald – both he and Joe are with the Durham Region Cycling Coalition (a.k.a. the Region’s Cycle Toronto counterpart) – many cycling routes in Whitby and Oshawa have urban shoulders painted in so they look like bike lanes, but do not restrict parking. Cycling routes need to be designated as reserved bicycle lanes with signs and bicycle symbols to prohibit vehicles from driving, stopping, or parking as per Page 18 of Durham Region’s consolidated by-law document.
50 km/h speed limits in school zones are unsafe for students
While 40 km/h is better, it shouldn't be only when flashing
Unsafe School Zones - The speed limit next to Whitby’s Henry Street High School is 50 km/h; a speed leading to a 60% chance of death when a pedestrian is struck. While 30 km/h speed limits are strongly recommended in school zones, they should at the minimum use “Maximum 40 km/h When Flashing” signs like those by Julie Payette Public School on Garden Street.
Oshawa Cycling Map (including proposed routes in red and blue)
Incomplete Networks – While Ajax has a Minimum Grid in the making and Pickering’s cycling infrastructure is all but nonexistent, Whitby and Oshawa have some significant connectivity issues. However, Oshawa issued their latest active transportation plan last year and Whitby is developing a new cycling plan with MMM Group.
  1. Bike lanes (or urban shoulders) disappear one block from main intersections.
    Bike lanes and urban shoulders regularly disappear in Whitby and Oshawa
  2. Ajax has multi-use paths on Rossland and Taunton Roads all across, but Whitby and Oshawa only have parts of Taunton and nothing on Rossland. Whitby's town council approved extending the Taunton multi-use paths across the entire town at its October 31 meeting.
  3. While Garden Street in Whitby is a promising north-south route, there remain gaps to fill such as one from Mary Street to Julie Payette Public School.
    Not a welcoming sign for cyclists entering Oshawa via Conlin Road
  4. The paved shoulders on Conlin Road in Whitby disappear right at the border; making the “Welcome to Oshawa” sign not that welcoming to cyclists! Bike lanes were called for on Conlin for over 30 years per Joe, but are provided only near the UOIT Northern Campus.
    This bumpout on Anderson Road needs to be removed!
  5. Anderson Road is the only safe crossing over Highway 407 Extension, which itself has a weakness with a bumpout at St. Thomas Street. Bruce informed me the bumpout issue was present in a few other areas.
    Whitby's Cycling Map
  6. Whitby’s cycling map indicated a missing link across Highway 401 from Whitby to the Waterfront. However, a continuous route is planned from the Greenbelt Route to the Waterfront via Ashburn Road, Cochrane Street and Henry Street. Oshawa has a path leading from the Waterfront to Adelaide Street.
Recreational Focus – As evident by the urban shoulders and paved shoulders in the countryside, cycling in Whitby and Oshawa felt more oriented towards racers than cycle commuters.
This is how not to accommodate cyclists in roundabouts per MTO's Book 18!
Confusing Roundabouts – I came across a weird roundabout at Conlin and Thornton Road which incorporates a stub of a bike lane; giving the impression cyclists are to use the sidewalk. This goes against Section 5.3 of Book 18, which recommends “take the lane” sharrows around the roundabout or a ramp up to a multi-use path.
New multi-use path bridge on Taunton Road in Oshawa
Some Good Infrastructure – Oshawa has two infrastructure examples which are well done. These include a new multi-use path bridge on Taunton Road near the Airport – if only they can extend Taunton across the city – and buffered bike lanes on Mary Street. While not a true cycle track – these are proposed for Athol Street from Mary Street to City Hall next year – the buffer is correctly placed between the bike lane and parked cars to mitigate dooring risk.
Buffered bike lanes on Mary Street in Downtown Oshawa
Oshawa GO Access – Whitby’s GO station may be reasonably safe with edge lines, but there is nothing for cyclists heading to Oshawa GO station with Bloor Street having a posted 60 km/h speed limit. At the time, the station was under construction and I couldn’t find any bicycle parking, though they do exist.
Oshawa GO entrance on Bloor Street - Not very accessible for cyclists
One last concern I have in Whitby and Oshawa is the lack of bicycle parking at its civic buildings, businesses, and schools. Contrast that with Ajax High School, which had their bike racks full in November per a photo Bruce provided. One school in Oshawa – O’Neill Collegiate Institute – had these weird semi-circles which don’t provide much security.
Ajax High School's bicycle racks are full in November (via Bruce MacDonald)
If this is bike parking at Oshawa's O'Neill Collegiate Institue, it doesn't look secure.
As this ride revealed, Whitby and Oshawa have a lot of work to do to catch up with Ajax and make Durham Region more bike friendly. Thanks again to Bruce MacDonald and Joe Arruda of DRCC for helping provide additional information to accompany my first hand experiences riding in the area.
29-kilometre route map from Whitby to Oshawa GO stations
Step it up!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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[1] I was later informed there are more by the southern entrance.

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