Dodgeville

Random Wanderings and Wonderings

Posts tagged: what’s wrong with Toronto

No, I will not obey my signal

By , May 7, 2012

Dumb pedestrian signal

Dumb pedestrian signal

It’s hard to believe that in 2012, the City of Toronto persists in installing new pedestrian signals on sidewalks across the top of T-intersections. This one, installed as part of the signalization earlier this year of the intersection of Laird and Esandar Drives in Leaside, has also been noted by the Fixer for its perplexing lights that face the two quiet driveways at the top of the T.

It’s not the waste of money or phony “war on” anything that bothers me here, it’s the fact that such a useless signal represents the current standard for pedestrian infrastructure in 2012. City planners and traffic engineers hear me now: a pedestrian on a sidewalk always has the right of way over any kind of traffic that crosses that sidewalk. Period. A vehicle coming out of a driveway should never have the right of way over a pedestrian on the sidewalk.

As for the “pedestrians obey your signals” sign, here’s a hint for the City: any time you feel obligated to put up a sign or signal, and then another sign instructing people to obey the first one, you’re doing it wrong.

(A similar signal installation was noted by Vic Gedris back in 2007.)

Same path, same day, different rules

By , February 24, 2012

In Taylor Creek Park near the forks of the Don, a raised pathway was installed a while ago so that pedestrians and cyclists wouldn’t have to contend with vehicular traffic on the park roadway. When you’re heading east into the park, the shared path beckons to cyclists, explicitly declaring that it’s “open for bikers [sic] and pedestrians”:

Welcome, eastbound cyclists.

But at the other end of the path, cyclists heading west out of the park are sternly instructed to dismount:

Go away, westbound cyclists.

To be clear, this is the same “shared pathway,” only about 100 metres long, and built with the express purpose of giving safe passage under the Don Valley Parkway away from cars on the park road. And although it’s signed as a shared pathway at both ends, it seems that only eastbound cyclists are actually allowed to ride their bikes.

If the pathway is too narrow to allow cyclists to ride in both directions while mingling with pedestrians (an assessment I wouldn’t disagree with), or if there’s a blind corner that makes riding full-bore unsafe, why weren’t those issues addressed during design and construction? Or better yet, why not just mark it as a pedestrian walkway and encourage cyclists to just take the road, which is the route still chosen by the vast majority of cyclists anyway?

Ironically, the raised path would be of most use to westbound cyclists because it doesn’t dip as low under the bridge as the roadway does, making the short hill on the far side easier to climb. Yet it’s westbound cyclists who are singled out for dismounting. Personally, I think that if the city wants this passage to be safer, it should instruct drivers to get out of their cars and push. After all, there’s a blind corner and the lanes are a little narrow…

This is why Toronto can’t have nice things

By , February 23, 2012
Poorly placed bollards on the Lower Don path at Pottery Road

Holes for new bollards were cut into the middle of the asphalt ripple pattern on the Lower Don trail.

Less than two months after the upgraded Pottery Road crossing of the Lower Don trail was officially opened to a single rave review (as far as I know, I’m the only one who cared enough to review it), the city had already taken a knife to the artistic blue asphalt ripples to install a couple of bollards to prevent unauthorized vehicular access to the mixed-use path. I don’t have a problem with the bollards themselves, but would it have killed the installation crew to move them forward or backward a couple of feet and place them on the plain black asphalt instead of cutting into the middle of the embedded pattern? And did they have to make the same poor placement choice on the paths on both the north and south sides of Pottery Road? Anticipating the need for bollards during the main work would have allowed them to be installed without having to cut an ugly square patch out of freshly laid asphalt. Even looking at it now, I’m not really sure why the cuts were necessary.

This is such a small detail in the context of the much larger Pottery Road reconstruction that it probably didn’t merit any specific design other than someone jabbing a finger at a drawing roughly where each bollard should go and someone else going down to Bollards R Us to pick up a pair of the current preferred model. I can’t imagine that there was any real requirement to place the bollards exactly where they did, nor that moving them a little bit would create a problem of any kind or cause them to be any less effective. So if there are no drawbacks, why wouldn’t you install them in a way that doesn’t degrade something unique that’s already there? And while this particular incident isn’t really worth getting too worked up about, the carelessness shown here is depressing only because it’s so endemic to public works in Toronto that overcoming it seems impossible.

(Yes, this is my seventh post about the Pottery Road reconstruction. Will it be the last? Probably. At least until next month.)

Two bucks to fiscal responsibility

By , December 6, 2011

Via Torontoist, Councillor John Parker was quoted by the National Post advocating for user fees on using swimming pools, visiting Riverdale Farm, and a variety of other things that his family never does:

Quite honestly, just off the cuff, I can’t see that a two dollar fee for anything is anything that should get anyone too riled up.

I’d like to agree with John Parker: two bucks is nothing to anyone. And in that spirit, I think that the councillor should advocate for the following non-riling fees to help fix this mythical budget crunch:

This may all seem radical, but hey, it’s just two bucks, right? And a two dollar fee for anything is nothing to get riled up about, right? Hell, I’ll even register and license my bike for a toonie. Whaddaya say, councillor?

Pharmacy bike lanes gone but not forgotten

By , November 4, 2011

The bike lane was removed from Pharmacy Ave last month. As someone who rides regularly along Pharmacy as an alternative to Warden and Victoria Park, I think the city, driven by the misguided local councillor Michelle Berardinetti, made a big mistake taking it out. But what’s even worse than taking out the lane is the way that they did it. Before the bike lane was originally put in, Pharmacy was four lanes wide. When the bike lanes were painted, Pharmacy went from four lanes to…four lanes: two bike lanes and two vehicular lanes. The reconfiguration also allowed painting of a centre median and the creation of left-turn lanes at every intersection. So in places, there were actually five lanes.

When the city took out the bike lanes, it would have made sense to configure the street as it had been originally, with four traffic lanes and no turn lanes. Instead, they simply erased the bike markings, retained the centre striping, and reduced Pharmacy to a single lane in each direction. The current configuration has absolutely zero benefit to anyone over the configuration with bike lanes.

Confused, I emailed Councillor Berardinetti earlier this week to ask whether the road would be restored to four lanes or left as-is, and this was her reply:

Operation crews promised that the full restorative work would be complete by the end of this month. However, given the colder November nights and shortage of equipment, city staff are indicating that the work will now only be complete at the onset of spring.

Having said all that, we are all glad [Ed. note: actually, "we all" are not glad] that the lanes are going back to their original state but if the work could not be done at a single time, then they would have been better off leaving everything as was until the spring.

So the lanes were removed this fall for, really, no reason whatsoever.

In a followup email, I asked the councillor if she could recommend an alternative north-south cycling route to access the businesses on and around Eglinton. No answer yet. If she (or a staffer) took the time to look at a map to try to answer my question, she’d have seen that there is no such beast.

Chester Hill bike lane construction continues apace

By , February 7, 2009

A sign has finally been erected allowing bikes to turn into the bike lane.

Some six months after the last bit of work done on the still-not-quite-finished bike lane on Chester Hill Road, a little more progress was made in January. And not just once, but work was done on at least two different occasions. Now that’s progress.

For those not familiar, Chester Hill has a 70 metre long contra-flow lane from Broadview Avenue to Cambridge Avenue. Yes, that’s 70 metres, not 700 metres or 7 km; not even as long as an Olympic sprint. The lane has been worked on in fits and starts since construction began in November 2007. I realize how terribly complex and difficult it can be to put up a few signs and paint a 70 metre long stripe down a quiet residential street, but surely 15 months (and counting) is a little long for the completion of such a short lane.

The temporary stop sign that was erected at the end of the lane last spring blew over in late December and was quickly buried under the snow banks that the city ploughs have been storing in the bike lane this winter. It seemed like a perfect metaphor for the bike lane (and the Bike Plan in general). But early January brought an unexpected sign of action on Chester Hill. Not only was the sign pulled out of the snow and re-erected, but it also got two fresh sandbags to hold it upright for another few months. Although the metaphor has changed a bit, it still seems appropriate.

A couple of weeks later in mid-January, another small item was knocked off the to-do list: there are now “bicycles excepted” signs hanging from the “no right turns” signs on Broadview at Chester Hill. Yes, well over a year after construction began, there’s finally some indication that cyclists are allowed to turn onto the road and actually ride the bike lane for the five seconds it takes to traverse the entire length.

As far as I can tell, some kind of work has been performed on the lane on exactly six days over the past 15 months: two in November 2007, one each in April and July last year, and now two in January 2009. At least they’re picking up the pace again.

I figure that all of the work required to complete this entire bike lane project from beginning to end would take one person no longer than five hours (including a lunch break). In fact, I’m quite confident that if the city dropped off paint, signs, and a ladder at my house, I could have done the entire thing on a Saturday afternoon. At this point, about 4 hours of the work is done. Another few weeks of hard work this coming spring, summer, and fall should be all that’s required to finish the job.

The sad thing is that as short as this lane is, it’s actually part of an important and already very popular connector to the Bloor Viaduct. A formal bike lane here is simply an acknowledgement of its long-time use as such. Too bad that it’s been so terribly neglected.

At this rate (70m in 18 months, assuming that Chester Hill is finished in May), it would take the city 345 years to finish the bike lane on Lawrence and 8,570 years to finish all of the lanes in the Bikeway Network. Here’s hoping that the Bike Plan is Y10K compliant.

Toronto Rink Report 2007

By , April 15, 2007

Spring doesn’t seem in any particular rush to arrive so let’s take a final look back at the state of outdoor skating in this town. The city’s Parks and Environment Committee recently received an extensive review (PDF) of its outdoor skating rinks from the Centre for Local Research into Public Space (CELOS), the research arm of the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park. The paper casts an unflattering spotlight on the state of management of the city’s rinks, condemning everything from staffing and policy to signage and maintenance.

Although the problem rinks discussed in the report are rarely identified by name, they sound suspiciously like my two neighbourhood rinks in Riverdale Park and Withrow Park. Mind you, I’m sure that most rinks in the city suffer the same problems.

On the positive side, CELOS mentions that Toronto operates more outdoor artificial ice rinks than any city in the world. Rather than having one or two large central rinks, we scatter ours throughout the city’s neighbourhoods. It’s one of the small touches that makes Toronto unique.

The report provides interesting reading for people who skate — or refuse to — at their local rinks. Although it contains many common-sense and inexpensive recommendations, I anticipate resistance at council. I’m sure that at least a few councillors will interpret this report as “we have problems with many of our rinks, therefore we should close several and concentrate on running just a few.”

(Related: I reviewed some of the rinks I skated at this past winter. See the Rink Review category for the posts.)

Operation Safe Journey

By , March 20, 2007

The Toronto Police issued a press release (thanks to Martino for the link) on Sunday announcing the start of Operation Safe Journey, a week-long blitz against drivers and cyclists who endanger pedestrians. Bravo! But tellingly, the press release also promises to target “pedestrians who fail to obey traffic signals or who fail to yield to traffic.”

If you believe the CityNews take on the crackdown, it’s aimed almost entirely at pedestrians. City’s story typifies the blame-the-victim mentality of the media and the police, stating, “Many of those killed last year were guilty of crossing the street in the worst possible place and at the worst possible time.” Mmm, smells like Rob Ford. Yes, it’s your own damn fault if you venture into the city without a car. You’ve got some nerve, not waiting (and waiting, and waiting…) your turn to cross the street. Don’t you know that streets are for cars?

So as a public service to the Toronto Police, I’m rewriting their press release. This is how it should read:

In 2006, there were 57 traffic fatalities in the City of Toronto. Thirty were pedestrians, with one?third of them over 65. In contrast, 38 people were killed by guns in the City of Toronto in the same period.

These were tragedies that need not have occurred.

As members of our society and as road users, whether as pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists, we share a responsibility for preventing these tragedies.

Motorists must exercise more caution when manoeuvring their 2-tonne vehicles around the city, and remember that pedestrians don’t have crumple zones, air bags, or seat belts to keep them safe in collisions. In fact, in your haste to be the last car turning through the advanced green a full 5 seconds after it stopped flashing, or make that right turn without looking where you’re going, or zip past the bus stopped in front of the crosswalk, you’re putting pedestrians’ lives at risk. Oh, and your premiums may go up a little after your insurance company pays a few thousand dollars to scrape a dead pedestrian out of your grill.

Being in a car does not automatically give you the right of way. Shaving a few seconds off your mad cross-town dash isn’t a good enough reason to endanger someone’s life. Just because a pedestrian isn’t in a car doesn’t mean that she isn’t in as much of a rush as you are to get to where she’s going.

Pedestrians should remember that many motorists don’t see you unless you’re inside a shiny metal box on four wheels. Many of those that do see you consider you to be a nuisance, serving no purpose but to delay them on their appointed rounds. The motorists who do treat you with the respect you deserve risk being rear-ended by all of the other motorists. Please look both ways before you cross the street.

On Monday, March 19, 2007, the Toronto Police Service will embark on a one?week education and enforcement campaign entitled “Operation Safe Journey”. This campaign will target motorists whose aggressive driving habits endanger the safety of pedestrians.

And next week, we’ll be running Operation Safe Shootings, a blitz targetting people who get shot. It’s their own fault, you know.

Of course, what they really wanted to write probably looks something more like this:

Hey Pedestrians! Get outta the way!

Note for the argumentative: I am a motorist, cyclist, and pedestrian, though not necessarily in that order. Of the three groups, motorists have the largest burden to act responsibly because of the amount of damage they can inflict on the other two groups when something goes wrong. Yes, there are irresponsible cyclists, and irresponsible pedestrians, but let’s be honest about where the responsibility lies.

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