October 12, 2018

Completing the East End Grid

Last month, the City of Toronto installed new bike lanes in Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park. When I had a chance to briefly check them out recently, I found them to be a promising start. However, there are several key gaps which need to be filled in order to truly give a boost to cycling in those neighbourhoods and Toronto’s east end as a whole.
Recently installed bike lanes on Thorncliffe Park Drive
The bike lanes ended up being installed on Gateway, Grenoble, and Deauville in Flemingdon Park, as well as on Thorncliffe Park Drive. By looking at these bike lanes on a map, there isn’t any safe on-street connections between the two neighbourhoods. The West Don Trail could be used for those who are more risk averse, but the hills down and up the valley make it impractical. There is also the Leaside Park Trail which connects the western entrance of Thorncliffe Park Drive to Millwood Road, but there isn’t a signalized crossing at Millwood which only has painted bike lanes next to six traffic lanes! The bike plan calls for bike lanes on Overlea Boulevard from the eastern Thorncliffe Park Drive entrance to Gateway, but they should be extended all the way to Millwood with protection added in. After all, there is more than enough space with the medians and all.
Lots of space on Overlea for a bike lane after factoring in the centre islands
Accessing Flemingdon Park from the West Don Trail requires using the Ontario Science Centre entrance, which is longer and less convenient than if a connection along Don Mills Road were to be available. Sadly, the Don Mills trail access uses stairs and trail quality which isn’t that good with only a wheel track left as you approach Overlea. While not yet installed, this connection is called for in the bike plan. However, any multi-use path on Don Mills should be extended north to Eglinton which will have bike lanes as part of the Crosstown LRT. The Ferrand option from the plan would not work due to the lack of a signalized crossing.
Overlea ends at Gateway - another recent bike lane installation
While we are still focused on the east end, let’s take a look south of Millwood to find out how their bike lanes could be better connected. The ongoing campaign for protected bike lanes on Danforth will play a critical role and the planned 8-80 Streets Danforth complete streets demo has been postponed to Spring 2019. Even with bike lanes on the Danny, there isn’t any north-south bike lanes north of Danforth (East York) aside from Woodbine. This is where Donlands comes in. It connects with the existing bike lanes across the Millwood bridge and is called for in the bike plan. Pape is a bus priority route while Greenwood – where bike lanes exist south of Danforth – is too close to Donlands.
Is there really a need for six traffic lanes on the Millwood bridge?
Another north-south connection further west is needed to complete this east end grid. Two options are available here. The first is to transform Logan Avenue into a bicycle boulevard with contraflow lanes; making it the east end’s Shaw Street. However, Logan doesn’t address a gap left by the Pottery Road trail, which ends at Broadview Avenue. Connecting Pottery would require bike lanes on Broadview from Danforth to Cosburn, while extensions further south would be more difficult given the streetcar tracks.
A map of the east end cycling routes with key gaps identified in red
One concern which needs to be highlighted here is the over-reliance on painted bike lanes with the Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park projects, as well as elsewhere in Toronto. As we have seen with last week’s collision at Dundas and Logan where a cyclist was struck by a driver, paint is not enough to keep people safe. The Dundas bike lanes urgently need to be upgraded with protection and extended across the Don River to River Street, while the Millwood bridge could also use an upgrade to their bike lanes. Finally, bike lanes need to be installed as a network as opposed to the current piecemeal approach.

#BuildTheGrid!
Rob Z (e-mail)

October 01, 2018

Trail Gaps Along the Don

While Toronto’s bikeway network has lots of gaps to fill, east-west connectivity is arguably much better than north-south. Especially north of St. Clair where continuous routes are limited to the Don River and Humber River trails, as well as the bike lanes on Royal York which go to Dixon Road. Back in August, I biked the Don River trail system to Sheppard Avenue to identify trail gaps and better understand how the trail system fits with the Lake to Lake Route.
Wayfinding signage used on the Lower Don Trail

July 26, 2018

Your 2018 Bloor Street Check-up

Bloor bike lanes at St. George where Dalia Chako was killed
Earlier this month, I posted about the Bloor bike lanes from Sherbourne to Church being delayed yet again. With the municipal election only three months away and the need to build support for extending the Bloor bike lanes east and west, I rode along Bloor from Renforth Road (1.7 kilometres east of the Mississauga border) to Parliament Street to document the conditions along the way; similar to what I did on Yonge. Consider this your 2018 Bloor Street check-up.

July 11, 2018

Forwards (and Backwards) on Bloor-Danforth

Last week, the Toronto and East York Community Council approved the recommendations of a planning study done for Danforth Avenue from Coxwell to Victoria Park Avenues, as well as supported expanding the study to cover the section from Broadview to Coxwell Avenues. The Danforth planning study was widely consulted which saw strong support for 7-8 storey mid-rise buildings, heritage conservation, and complete streets including wider sidewalks and protected bike lanes. All four speakers present expressed support for improved cycling facilities and the motion will go to City Council on July 23; the last meeting before October’s election. If approved, we will be one step closer to getting bike lanes on “The Danny”.
2018 Bells on Danforth

July 04, 2018

Cycling Connections at St. Clair and Old Weston

A lot of the Toronto cycling community’s attention on Monday, June 25 was focused on the public meeting debating whether to move the Adelaide protected bike lanes to the left (north) side. However, there was another meeting the same day which has significant potential outside of downtown; that being the St. Clair West Transportation Master Plan (TMP). I had a chance to stop by that meeting on my way home from work to learn more about the transportation issues in that area.

June 11, 2018

Toronto to Brampton (via Eglinton and Etobicoke Creek)

The first time I biked in Brampton was during last year’s “Bike the Creek” event. Since both Mississauga and Brampton have their own trails along Etobicoke Creek, I was curious to find out how cyclists from Toronto could get to Brampton. With Friday being a day off and a need to lose some steam from Thursday’s Fordian slip of an election, I found out by biking the Humber River, Eglinton West, and Etobicoke Creek Trails; a roughly 90-kilometre round trip!

May 15, 2018

Your 2018 Ontario Election Cycling Primer

With the Ontario election 23 days away, transportation has once again become an election issue for many voters. While political party platforms are increasingly featuring cycling and other forms of active transportation, it remains overshadowed by public transit and other issues. Let’s look at what Ontario’s political parties have in store for people who bike.

April 27, 2018

Meet Toronto's Bike Riding Mayoral Candidate-To-Be

With Doug Ford focused on becoming Ontario’s Premier and no high-profile progressives planning to run for mayor (yet), it seems Mayor John Tory is unopposed for this October’s election. His record leaves much to be desired given he supported wasting billions on the one-stop Scarborough subway extension and rebuilding the Gardiner Expressway, as well as opposed Transform Yonge (deferral notwithstanding). Fortunately, road safety advocates and progressives will have at least one candidate they can support – Sarah Climenhaga – whom I spoke with about road safety and other issues.

April 11, 2018

A Pedal Powered Time Capsule

Back in July 2015, Bikes vs Cars launched in Toronto which highlighted the removal of the Jarvis bike lanes, memorial rides, and the late Rob Ford. However, it wasn’t the first film that discussed cycling in Toronto. During last month’s library book sale, I found a copy of Pedal Power from 2009 which served as a time capsule of cycling ten years ago.

March 26, 2018

Stopping Toronto's Kindermoord (Child Murder)

Toronto city council will be debating REimagining Yonge tomorrow and the latest turn of events has left me outraged. Mayor John Tory – along with the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) – have gone against staff which recommended the “Transform Yonge” option reducing Yonge Street in North York from six lanes to four while adding protected bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and an improved public realm. Instead, he is calling for bike lanes to be moved to Beecroft Road which would cost an additional $20 million and do nothing to improve the safety of Yonge Street which people will still use regardless of transportation mode. His main reason – of course – is his foolish refusal to accept anything that would make traffic congestion worse. A repeat of the Gardiner East fiasco?

March 13, 2018

Why I'm Running for Cycle Toronto's Board

Cycle Toronto’s Annual General Meeting is next Thursday, which also marks their 10th anniversary when they started as the Toronto Cyclists Union. This year’s AGM will give members the opportunity to elect four candidates to Cycle Toronto’s board of directors, reflect on the past year’s accomplishments (Hello, Bloor bike lanes!), and socialize (of course). I am pleased to announce I, Robert Zaichkowski, will be running for a board position along with nine other candidates (click here for bios). Not only would I like to explain why I am running, but also give you the chance to ask me questions on this blog, Twitter, or the Biking Toronto Facebook group.
Here's a brief profile I sent to Cycle Toronto.

Ward: 14 (Parkdale-High Park)
Occupation: Accounting Manager at Grafton Apparel
Cyclist: Well rounded (e.g. commuting, errands, long distance touring)
Skill: Finance/Accounting
Bio: Originally from Moncton, New Brunswick, I have been passionate about bicycles, numbers, and civic engagement since childhood. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CMA) with almost ten years of accounting experience. I volunteered with Cycle Toronto for over five years and write the Two Wheeled Politics bike blog (http://twowheelpoli.blogspot.ca).
Why I want to join the Cycle Toronto Board of Directors: I strongly believe successful board candidates need to be connected with grassroots advocates. My experience as a former Ward 14 Co-Captain and current service to the Advocacy Committee can be that connection. I want to continue Cycle Toronto’s suburban outreach and actions on issues beyond bike lanes such as budgets and design guidelines.
Skills & Experience: My accounting experience has been used within Cycle Toronto by helping advocates get involved in Toronto’s budget process and calling for increased cycling funding. I formerly served on a not-for-profit board for two years as a treasurer. Finally, I have a proven record in establishing partnerships with like minded organizations and effective use of social media.

Regarding the grassroots, I heard from many Cycle Toronto volunteers over the years about some board members not being visible at Cycle Toronto’s events or other advocacy functions. Yes, Cycle Toronto requires their board members to sit on at least one committee – a common practice for corporate and not-for-profit boards – and attend at one event per year. However, having regular grassroots experience (e.g. ward advocacy, working groups, bike valet, get lit) gives board members a feel for the thoughts of other advocates and the public, which helps improve their ability to do the primary task of ensuring effective governance and holding staff accountable. One thing I call on all board candidates – successful or not – if they aren’t already doing so is to get involved in Cycle Toronto in any capacity they can. Especially with the provincial and municipal elections happening later this year.
Building partnerships is part of Cycle Toronto’s mission, vision, and values. Since I started volunteering with Cycle Toronto, I have been exposed to many other grassroots organizations. These include election campaigns (and elected representatives) at all three levels of government, resident associations, business improvement areas, special causes (e.g. No Jets TO, TTCriders), and other cycling organizations (e.g. Share the Road, Canada Bikes, Durham Region Cycling Coalition). I also had the opportunity to attend conferences such as last year’s Winter Cycling Congress in Montréal, which brought together over 400 cycling advocates and experts from around the world. Finally, my blog covered a wide variety of perspectives including pedestrian and accessibility advocates, road violence survivors, bike couriers, lawyers, and cycling in different places.

These kinds of partnerships will come in handy when it comes to fundraising, membership recruitment, factoring in new perspectives for bikeway design, and expanding Cycle Toronto’s suburban outreach. The latter is critical given last month's Reimagining Yonge setback.

Here is what you can do to support my candidacy:
1. Get a Cycle Toronto membership if you are not a member or your membership expired! Base memberships start at $30 per year, which gets you discounts at various bike shops and other places, as well as supports advocacy efforts across the city. If you join in March, you have the chance to win a bike. :) 
2. Attend the AGM on Thursday, March 22 (7 PM) at the Garrison (Dundas & Ossington). Only members can attend, though you can join at the door.
3. You can arrange for proxy votes if you cannot attend. Click here to get your proxy form, which needs to be filled out and sent to proxy@cycleto.ca by 6 PM on Tuesday, March 20.
4. Feel free to ask me any questions you have.

I look forward to seeing you on March 22 and wish the other candidates the best of luck.

Cheers! 
Rob Z (e-mail

March 05, 2018

A Taste of Vaughan

Back in mid-December, the TTC opened the Spadina subway extension with six additional stops including the first ones outside the (amalgamated) City of Toronto. While I biked on some backroads in York Region (Stouffville) in 2013 and 2014 to train for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, they were rural roads which had no cycling infrastructure except for some paved shoulders. Helen and I explored the new subway stops and did a brief bike ride in Vaughan last weekend to take care of both things at once.

Before biking in Vaughan, we locked our bikes at the end of the line; that being Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. Why couldn’t the TTC call the station “Vaughan Centre” to make things easier? Naming aside, Vaughan Centre left a good impression when getting off the platform. It easily connects to the VivaNext bus rapid transit line on Highway 7, while the station’s aesthetics were modern with the mirrors visible from the escalators and a dome shaped exterior. Ample ring-and-post bike parking was provided, while cycling infrastructure has been provided next to the station. (more on this shortly)
Arriving at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre

The other subway stations also displayed modern styling, though the placement of certain stations is questionable. Especially Highway 407 which doesn’t have anything within walking distance and exists only to connect GO buses to the TTC. Pioneer Village is almost one kilometre away from the real village, which may cause some to question the chosen name, though its wooden paneled exterior stands out.
York University station with its large courtyard
York University’s design is a double winged version of the one at Vaughan and along with a large courtyard, serves as a student gateway. Finch West is all about stripes and will connect with the future LRT. Finally, Downsview Park connects with the Barrie GO line and the nearby market is mediocre at best.

Back at Vaughan, bike lanes could be found everywhere within a short walk from the station. Highway 7’s bus rapid transit route included buffered bike lanes from the start, though some progress has been made to protected bike lanes elsewhere in York Region per their latest cycling newsletter. They currently exist on Highway 7 from Town Centre Boulevard to Sciberras Road in Markham, while a pilot project from Town Centre Boulevard to Roddick Road using bollards was also done.
A raised cycle track on Millway only on one side

Millway Avenue has a proper raised cycle track next to the bus terminal just north of the subway station, which unfortunately covers only one block and one side next to the bus terminal. The remainder from Highway 7 to Portage Parkway consists of buffered bike lanes which were blocked by parked cars doing pick ups and drop offs. Maybe York Region should get their own Kyle Ashley to check this out? Raised cycle tracks were also present on Apple Mill Road from Jane Street to Millway Avenue, which ought to be extended west to Edgeley Road once construction has been completed. A suburban mini-Amsterdam?
Maybe York Regional Police needs their own Kyle Ashley?

The bike lanes disappear north of Portage Parkway, but it’s an industrial area with very few cars during the weekend. After Millway ends north of Langstaff, we then headed to Edgeley to Vaughan Mills. Unfortunately, no bike lanes exist for the rest of the trip, which lead to sidewalk riding on wider roads. Vaughan Mills does have some ring-and-post parking, but it is not the kind of destination to bike to with some sharrow markings surrounding the mall. However, the worst seen during our brief trip to just south of Major Mackenzie is the use of sharrows on Jane Street! What were they thinking, placing sharrows on a road designed for 80+ km/h which is fatal for people on bikes in the event they get struck? York Region later informed me protected bike lanes are planned on Jane near Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.
Sharrows on Jane Street north of Langstaff Road (via Google Maps)
Right now, Vaughan is in the process of updating their cycling master plan including a workshop on Thursday, March 8 for those in the area. The latest draft calls for a dense grid near Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, as well as bike lanes on Edgeley and Bass Pro Mills Drive to connect Vaughan Mills with the subway. Several regional roads (e.g. Jane Street) have been included which are York Region’s responsibility, while there are also a few proposed trails. My first impression revealed a few good first steps, but I will need to bring my bike to Vaughan (and York Region) a few more times to get a more complete picture of their cycling network.
These left turn boxes have been used across York Region
Cheers!
Rob Z (e-mail)

January 31, 2018

Let's Talk Road Violence

Despite Toronto city council approving the “Vision Zero” road safety plan in 2016 aimed to eliminate traffic fatalities, road violence has gotten worse. 2017 saw a record number of vulnerable road user deaths at 46 and the first fifteen days of 2018 saw five pedestrians killed. To help humanize the road safety issue, I spoke with Jess Spieker who survived a collision when riding a bicycle in May 2015 and volunteers with Friends and Families for Safe Streets.

January 23, 2018

Bike Painting at Toronto Island

Until this past weekend, I never considered the idea of visiting Toronto Island during the winter. When Artscape Gibraltar Point organized a bicycle painting event called the Bike Island Mural Project, Helen and I felt we had to check it out. We set out on Saturday to Ward’s Island – the only destination open year-round – and were greeted by a vintage bus.

January 15, 2018

Budget Balancing Blues

This year’s Toronto budget is an opportunity for Mayor John Tory and City Council to set the stage for this fall’s election with $11 billion in operating expenditures and $25.7 billion in capital projects at stake. Unfortunately, the current plan fails to account for various council-approved initiatives such as low income passes and two-hour transfers for the TTC, as well as the TransformTO climate action plan. All this disappointment to satisfy the Mayor’s desire to limit property tax hikes to inflation. Social Planning Toronto has a good write up on some of the other unfunded priorities, though I will elaborate on the budget’s impact on cycling.

January 05, 2018

Ring the Post on Bike Parking

The first thing that comes to mind for many people regarding cycling advocacy is bike lanes. But what use would a connected bike lane network have if you don’t have a safe place near your work, school, or errands to lock your bike? The lack of bike parking is a challenge many Torontonians face, as do cities around the world. Let’s look at where Toronto stands with bike parking and what lessons can be learned from elsewhere.
Toronto's iconic ring-and-post bike parking

January 01, 2018

2017 … The Calm Before the Storm

A new year has started which will become pivotal for Toronto’s cycling community. Not only is there October’s municipal election with three new council seats up for grabs and a mayoral rematch between John Tory and Doug Ford, there is the June Ontario election which may see the end of fifteen years of Liberal rule. Before worrying about the coming political storm, let’s take a moment to reflect on 2017.