Sunday, June 14, 2015

Queen's Quay Redevelopment - Problems, Opportunities on Toronto's new "Complete Street"

The new Queen's Quay layout is days away from being completed and fully opened to the public on June 19, 2015. For cyclists, this is particularly welcome news as the closure of the Martin Goodman Trail ("MGT") for years has left a significant gap in the cycling waterfront route. The good news is the new MGT configuration will replace that gap with a new, complete street model that incorporates many of the best practices from around the world. The bad news is there are a couple of major issues that cyclists will have to be aware of to safely travel the route.

1. The Physical Structure

The redesigned Queen's Quay is a multi-modal street that includes:
  • 2 single lanes of auto traffic on the north side
  • A dedicated transit right-of-way
  • A well-signed and complete bike lane that is part of the Martin Goodman Trail Wide pedestrian zones

At every intersection there are mixing zones where different users come together. The designers have used signage, traffic signals and physical materials to let users know how they should behave in these zones and where they should be going.

Below is a picture of the bike marking at one of these mixed zones. There are also going to be painted Blue Boxes for cyclists at every major intersection.

Here are examples of texture and colour used to inform users where they're supposed to go.

And here we have an example of a dedicated bicycle signal.

The changes in material, the markings and the dedicated signals are all meant to tell users where they should go and how they can safely proceed through the intersections.

2. Users Sharing the Road

The physical separation of autos, transit and cyclists seems to work well (well, aside from some motorists who can't quite seem to figure out where they're supposed to be).

Unfortunately, the separation of cyclists and pedestrians is much less clear. As can be seen from the above photo, there are many spaces where pedestrians can freely access the MGT. The design includes a row of trees along the MGT and a physical change in materials from the royal red granite used for pedestrian spaces to the asphalt of the MGT, but these are somewhat subtle differences for a space that is going to have many tourists and family users who may not notice these visual and tactile cues.

An even larger problem is posed by the location and orientation of the 22 benches that have been placed right next to the MGT. Both cyclists and pedestrians will have to be very careful in these areas, as anyone moving even a step or two from the bench is directly in the path of MGT users.

And there are some particular areas where either the signage and pavement markings haven't been completed, or they are inadequate:

1. Service Road entrances

2. The entrance to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal (where I witnessed 4 near-misses in less than 5 minutes):

Jack Layton Ferry Terminal user conflicts - PicMonkey collage -

We certainly welcome the changes to the Queen's Quay layout and congratulate Waterfront Toronto on completion of a project that should help to bring more people down to the waterfront. But we hope that they will be closely monitoring how users actually behave in these areas and will be ready to tweak any design elements that may prove to be less than ideal in real-world use. As for our advice to Toronto cyclists, its to treat the Queen's Quay MGT like the portion at the Woodbine Beach beach volleyball and change room area - ride slowly, obey your signals, always be under control and be prepared to stop on a dime at any moment.

Note - we'll be posting an update after the MGT opens in order to let you know what additional features have been added and how the MGT is working.

Gerry Brown
Ward 30 Bikes

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