Sunday, October 16, 2016

Upgrading the Dundas Street East bike lanes

We spend a lot of time at Ward 30 Bikes discussing potential new bike lanes and bike routes. As part of the new 10 year cycling network plan, however, the City of Toronto is also looking to identify routes that can be upgraded from painted bike lanes to protected bike lanes or cycle tracks. Here in Ward 30, there's an obvious candidate: the Dundas Street East bike lanes, which are a major east-west route across the middle of the Ward, used heavily by commuters heading to and from downtown.

Recently, City staff have suggested to us that, although they have identified Dundas Street East as a candidate for upgrading, these upgrades might need to be limited to improved road markings and paint, rather than a fully separated lane with bollards, planters, or hard curbs.

So let's take a closer look and see what's possible with the current roadway space on Dundas, using the City's online GIS map, and Streetmix. Keep in mind that this is just an initial look at possibilities, and some of these ideas may not be feasible upon further study.

The current bike lanes on Dundas run for about 3.3 km, from Broadview Avenue to Kingston Road. Dundas Street is classified as a Minor Arterial street, and it is consistently 14 metres wide for basically this entire length. There are basically three different road configurations for the bike lanes.

The first of these is where there is parking on one side of the street, such as from Broadview to the railway tracks near Logan.

This is how these sections look like today:

The bike lanes here are quite wide, as are the travel lanes. As such, it should actually be pretty easy to make space for bike lanes buffered by paint, bollards, or even planters or hard curbs. Here's one possibility:

As we head east along Dundas, we have a few sections that have no parking, and either a painted buffer or a left turn lane in the middle of the street. Again we can fairly change the current arrangement... accommodate separated bike lanes:

The tricky part is where there is parking on both sides of the street, which is most of Dundas east of Pape - a distance of 2.5 km, the vast majority of the route. Basically, each section of the roadway here - bike lanes, parking lanes, and travel lanes - is already at or close to the City's recommended widths:

Of course, if some of the on street parking was removed, there could be space for a configuration like the one above with parking on one side of the street. This is happening on Bloor, and on Woodbine and it's great that it is. But until parking studies are done, maybe there's a path of less resistance that would make parked cars, bicycles, and their people all happy on Dundas East.

Because the space is so tight, the easiest thing to do would be to just add some painted buffer space. We can just bring the traffic lanes down to recommended width to do that:

We could also move the buffer next to the parked cars instead, to avoid "dooring" - although this is less of an issue on Dundas East as it is on other commercial streets, since it has almost exclusively longer-term residential parking.

So far, we could fairly easily have some properly separated lanes for almost 1 km from Broadview to Logan or Carlaw, to connect to north-south routes, and then have painted buffers added to the bike lanes for the remaining 2.5 km to Kingston Road. Add some new paint and bike boxes at the intersections, and that might be ok. But maybe, just maybe, we could do better.

If we squeeze everything down to absolute minimum widths, we can fit the bike lanes in behind the parked cars, so that people on bikes are protected by parked cars, instead of the parked cars being protected by people on bikes:

My sense is that City staff don't like to squeeze things in so tight, so this might be a stretch to achieve. But it may be worth pushing for, as it keeps parking, while helping protect cyclists. We know that any kind of protected bike lane is better than a painted one for bike safety, and bike lanes adjacent to parked cars are the least safe type of bike lane.

So far, we've only looked at uni-directional bike lanes on either side of the street - of the kind Toronto has installed so far. In other Canadian cities, however, there are many bi-directional bike lanes, such as these on Cannon Street in Hamilton:

Bi-directional lanes may not be ideal for Dundas Street East, with its relatively short blocks. But since it would only need one buffer zone, it does allow some breathing room in the space of the roadway, such as this example:

There might be a need for additional intersection treatments, including potentially turn restrictions and dedicated bike signals with bi-directional bike lanes. But it does show that separated bike lanes are at least theoretically possible within the current width of Dundas Street East.

I'll save the issue of improving the sharrows on Dundas west of Broadview for another post - a tricky but worthwhile project. But for now...

What do you think? 
Are painted buffers fine for part of the route?
Should there be separated lanes the entire length of Dundas? Uni-directional or bi-directional?
Take out the parking?

Let us know in the comments, or by sending us an email or coming out to an upcoming meeting.


  1. Great post! I ride Dundas all the time, and not as a commute to work. It's the route i take to get to my kids rock climbing gym and piano lessons, and if i'm heading to the Beaches or to Leslieville. It's my most used lane!

  2. Oh man this is a scary article if any of the proposed changes other than simply increasing the buffered paint are seriously considered. Physically protected lanes on that stretch of Dundas is overkill and the wrong call. I have biked that stretch every single day summer and winter for ten years and have rarely ever encountered issues with motorists that would warrant such extreme measures. The downsides are significant: first, for residents it will make parking so much more challenging. We want the residents to be on-board not pissed off. Second it adds hazard for cyclists in terms of inter cycle collisions. There are a huge diversity of cyclist levels that use those lanes from families to roadies to working cyclists to commuters. That means passing. Right now it's easy to pass with the more advanced or quicker cyclists riding on the outside (car side) of the bike lane for the brief passing period and then merging right back in. Adding physical separation makes this infinitely more tricky and could leave passing cyclists stranded outside the protected lane for longer than necessary.

    And PLEASE never ever suggest buffering bike lanes with a line of parked cars (as is implemented on Bloor West)! This is the worst idea ever for a very simple reason: passengers are 300% more likely to open their doors without looking than drivers. Couple that with being trapped between the cars and the curb and your chance of serious injury due to dooring soars to seriously scary levels. Don't "protect" bikes with cars. Protect bikes FROM cars.

    Leave Dundas as it is. The best thing you can do for the Dundas East bike lanes are:

    1. Repave the roadway and eliminate rough patches like at Rhodes.
    2. Reprioritize snow and leaf removal so the bike lanes remain usable year round
    3. Sequence the lights for a "green wave" at around 25kph westbound in the AM and eastbound in the PM.
    4. Sure, repaint the lines and buffer them but leave them where they are.

  3. +TomAuger
    Good points and a nicely formed arguments.
    Missing is the idea of '8-80 Streets'.
    I agree with the point about the diversity of cyclists and how current City of Toronto separation designs make passing difficult.
    But to include kids in that diversity - so that kids can get to school via an 8-80 designed Dundas Bike Lanes - perhaps we need to remove parking and make really wide separated Bike Lanes?
    The trade off is - with children-safe separated lanes (and enough room to pass inside of those lanes), people who are currently driving their kids to school - and then continuing from there driving into work in the core - can then make the lifestyle switch to No-Car. So bike with their (younger) children to school and then continue on to work by bike.

  4. The most important thing for cyclist safety, I think, is increasing the number of cyclists such that drivers come to anticipate the need to look for cyclists. Network completion is critical for this. Getting biking lanes on to Donlands, Broadview, Eastern Avenue east of Leslie, and Coxwell (Eastern to Queen, and Upper Gerrard to Cosburn) would really help, Danforth being the grand finale as numbers warrant. There are improved designs for bike lanes, side guards for trucks, sideview cameras for cars (no blind spot), and better driver and cyclist education that would all be helpful. Most of that is tied to critical mass numbers of cyclists in more of Toronto (and other Cities across Ontario and Canada. Locally, let's get the network finished, and Bikeshare much more available. I think we could double the number of cyclists in 2-3 years. That would do wonders!

  5. Agree with all of that.

    This city council was mortified of the back-lash vote all the sprawl-burb Councillors feel is out there. I think it's over-rated.

    We need to have a municipal election one of these days where bike lanes are one of the top three issues.

    Perhaps the mass public transit build-out currently underway will make things a little more fluid as congestion eases (if it eases).