Transportation

Best Practices for Protected Bike Lanes

By Jason Leach
Published June 10, 2013

Here's some great news out of Toronto: physically separated bike lanes on Sherbourne with bright, visible green lanes and bike boxes at intersections.

Toronto follows on the heels of Ottawa, which recently opened a separated lane on Laurier Avenue with more to come, as well as bold, green lanes and bike boxes.

It's great to see Ontario cities finally catching up to the North American leaders on this vital infrastructure. Seeing this design makes a lot of sense, with raised curbs to separate cyclists from drivers and the green painted lanes through intersections.

One word of caution already coming out of Toronto this week since these lanes opened: the rounded curb edge is allowing drivers to feel comfortable about hopping over and blocking the lanes.

A cube van blocks the Sherbourne bike lane (Image Credit: Now Magazine)
A cube van blocks the Sherbourne bike lane (Image Credit: Now Magazine)

Adjusting the car-dominant culture in Ontario will take some time, but using higher, straight curbs and adding more bollards like we see in Ottawa would help:

Curbs and bollards on Ottawa's Laurier Avenue separated bike lane (Image Credit: Westsideaction.com)
Curbs and bollards on Ottawa's Laurier Avenue separated bike lane (Image Credit: West Side Action)

Ottawa has a bicycle traffic counter on Laurier Avenue, which carries on average around 2,000 cyclists a weekday from the months of May through October (or 1,171 cyclists a weekday averaged year-round).

Looking west for inspiration, Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto's chief planner, just suggested on twitter that Toronto could separate bike lanes with some of the small planter boxes like we see through Vancouver:

Dunsmuir separated bike lane in Vancouver (Image Credit: canadianveggie on flickr)
Dunsmuir separated bike lane in Vancouver (Image Credit: canadianveggie on flickr)

Keesmaat wrote, "you can't drive over them + they are not over-engineered. True separation."

Personally, I love the simplicity and ease of this design, which could be interspersed with curbs like the ones in Ottawa:

Planters and parked cars protect Vancouver's Hornby Street bike lane (Image Credit: Paul Krueger)
Planters and parked cars protect Vancouver's Hornby Street bike lane (Image Credit: Paul Krueger)

I know we are planning separated lanes on Hunter Street. This is the chance for us to learn from other cities and use the best ideas, including real barriers cars can't cross, affordable planter boxes and painted bike boxes like other cities are using.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted June 10, 2013 at 10:44:13

Lol were talking about Hamilton here no such luck accept in the west end and the mountain

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 10, 2013 at 10:53:13

I love the look of the lanes in the Downtown Vancouver BIA but am less than encouraged by the
City of Hamilton/Downtown Hamilton BIA's inability to keep sun-scorched planters across the core from being repurposed into garbage bins/ashtrays.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted June 10, 2013 at 11:42:08

These lanes at Sherbourne are nice, but yes, every time I ride on them I encounter at least one vehicle parked on the bike lane - usually a delivery truck. Luckily, since the street is designed to keep traffic slow and calm, it is not difficult to merge into the roadway and pass them - this would not work on a roadway that had more than two lanes or was easy to speed on.

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By hamish (anonymous) | Posted June 10, 2013 at 13:56:24

There's no doubt that these are progress, and have been well maintained in winter, but it's like putting in a granite counter top to please the missus when the roof is leaking and the kids need new shoes: oh soo soo much more needs to be done to create new bike lanes in a linked, smooth, safe network in the core, but the push is to get headlines and cite millions vs. give safe, wider mobility for bikes in the core. I was protesting there urging bike lanes on Bloor with mere paint at $25,000 a km vs. whatever Sherbourne is/was.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 10, 2013 at 21:06:59

looks like Lloyd Alter beat me to this last October: http://www.treehugger.com/bikes/how-not-...

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 14, 2014 at 20:20:53

Great news. These protection elements are being planned for the Cannon St cycle track coming this spring: planter boxes as seen in Vancouver, curbs with bollards as seen on Laurier in Ottawa, and painted buffer strips with bollards such as this:

http://b.3cdn.net/bikes/c1dc41ee57b05f20...

Also, green bike boxes, green turning boxes and bike traffic signals.

More info here: http://hamilton.siretechnologies.com/sir...

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