A well designed cross walk and cross ride. Note the lack of almost all signs. Proper design doesn't require much signage to slow traffic down.

Ontario’s “Je ne sais quoi” Draft Cycling Strategy – part 3


Ontario Traffic Manual Book 18: Bicycle Facilities

A well designed cross walk and cross ride. Note the lack of almost all signs. Proper design doesn't require much signage to slow traffic down.
A well designed cross walk and cross ride in the Netherlands. Note there are few signs. Proper design doesn’t require many signs to slow traffic down.

This is an item mentioned in the draft policy that I am really looking forward to. Book 18 is nearly ready;  it will be the reference for engineers and planners and designers for bike infrastructure design. Many new ideas will be implemented is the expectation. The book, with input of city staff of a number of Ontario cities, Ottawa being one of them, is delayed as it was supposed to be ready by the end of 2012. I learned that it has been quiet lately. Once many of the new concepts (new for Ontario, old hat for others) are regulated in Book 18, you can a number of changes being implemented on a bigger scale. Some of the ideas you ‘ll find in Ottawa already, often requested by the City as an exemption for a pilot. Fair enough, the Province does give the exceptions usually.

Why am I looking forward to this one? Because these are actual regulations. Unlike strategies, in which we can all dream in Technicolor®, the reality is that regulations set the tone.

Cross rides

Expect cross rides (a ‘cross walk’ for cyclists). A cross ride doesn’t exist in the current reference book, hence bike paths connect to cross walks at intersections, where you have to get off your bike to walk across the street. It is kind of silly to expect that and virtually no one does it. Authorities turn a blind eye.

Traffic lights for bikes

I am also hoping for traffic lights for cyclists, already implemented in several US cities too. It enables cyclists and pedestrians to cross intersections first before the motorised traffic can start. Currently the city engineers are struggling with signs and ‘normal’ traffic lights to instruct drivers and cyclists what one is expected to do. With bike traffic lights, you solve those problems.

There is little incentive to slow down, in fact, one needs to speed up to merge on Baseline. Note that the side walk starts a few meters after the cross walk.....
There is little incentive to slow down, in fact, one needs to speed up to merge on Baseline. Note that the side walk starts a few meters after the cross walk…..

Right turns

Another one that would be nice is the modification of a right turn short cut before a traffic light, which are not ped and cycle friendly designed and allow cars to turn right too fast. Great if you are in a hurry, but not very bike and pedestrian friendly. We already see the merging lane more and more disappearing after the intersection, forcing drivers to slow down and look before they enter a lane.

Cars in this lane basically  have to stop before they turn, automatically forcing them to slow down for pedestrians. Still, it all looks pretty crappy for the Nation's capital.
Cars in this lane basically have to stop before they turn, automatically forcing them to slow down for pedestrians. Still, it all looks pretty crappy for the Nation’s capital.

Bike lanes ending for right turn traffic

Another issue I hope will be addressed is the design of bike lanes stopping all of a sudden and continue further in another lane, to allow exiting traffic to keep the speed up as long as possible when approaching an exit (see picture below).

Hopefully, situations like this will be a thing from the past soon with the new Book 18
Hopefully, designs like this will be a thing from the past soon with the new Book 18

Lack of passion?

I have been struggling with this whole draft strategy wondering what to think of it.  I miss enthusiasm. It is like someone wrote a quick draft last week. I am missing the context of a vision where the province wants to be in 2020 or 2025 and how to get there. There is not much political will to spend serious money on it, even though it would have very long lasting benefits as bike infrastructure lasts long and takes little maintenance, not to mention the consideration of health benefits for a population that is 52% overweight or obese.

I’d like to quote Isabel Dedring, Deputy Mayor for Transport in London, England, from an article in The Times of London that announces that London is planning to ask for a billion Pounds Sterling ($1.6 billion) for cycling infrastructure for the next ten years:

“If we want to deliver the aspiration we have of making cycling a mainstream mode of travel then we have got to invest accordingly and this is a big step in that direction.” The Times of London

Aim for 10% in 15 years from now?

I think that is what I am missing: the aspiration to make cycling a mainstream mode of travel. And yes, I know that Ontario is big, but many of us live within reasonable cycling distance to work, school, stores. Can we aim for a 10% bike modal share please?

Ottawa at least is on the right track: many city staff have seen the light and there is enthusiasm among staff and councillors alike. One can argue about the speed of implementation and the cost, but the province is clearly still at the very beginning of the learning curve.

What can you do?

Here is the document: Ontario draft cycling strategy (in pdf) and the web site that goes with it. Do deliver input. Flood the folks in the Big Smoke with great ideas, but do it before January 29th, 2013.

Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

2 thoughts on “Ontario’s “Je ne sais quoi” Draft Cycling Strategy – part 3

  1. I’ve been trying to figure out what to write in response to this supposed Cycling Strategy, especially as many of my concerns relate more closely to infrastructure design, the subject of the otherwise apparently unrelated update to the Ontario Traffic Council’s manual on cycling facilities, the ‘Ontario Traffic Manual Book 18: Bicycle Facilities’.

    While it is commendable that this Bicycling Facilities manual is being updated, unfortunately it appears to be being updated behind closed doors with absolutely no public input whatsoever. We have no idea, for instance, whether any of the changes you’ve suggested in this blog post will actually come to be in the manual.

So what do you think?

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