Proposal for Bloor St. bike lane pilot project from Shaw to Sherbourne streets

Proposal for Bloor St. bike lane pilot project from Shaw to Sherbourne streets

October 1, 2013

This document sets out the details for a proposed pilot project in 2014 for bike lanes on Bloor St. between Sherbourne and Shaw streets, encompassing approximately 25 city blocks — a distance of four km. The pilot includes the stretch of Bloor known as the Mink Mile (actually 0.9km) along Bloor in Yorkville, but no change is proposed to the recently added “sharrows” (from Avenue Rd to Church.) The pilot would therefore involve implementing appropriately marked eastbound and westbound bike lanes on Bloor for a distance of three km. The pilot would provide an east-west connection to existing or approved north-south bike lanes on Sherbourne, St. George, Grace, Montrose, and Shaw streets. 

 The pilot should include a careful monitoring and assessment of the impacts on the movement of goods and people, on local business, and on the environment. We recommend that the pilot be accompanied by measures to optimize, with available technologies, the use of available off-street parking resources (such as municipal paid parking lots) and the encouragement of car-pooling.

A. Summary and Rationale

  1. Bloor St. is a popular cycling route despite the fact that there is virtually no provision for the safety of cyclists  (with the exception of sharrows in Yorkville and lanes in the area around the Bloor St. viaduct);
  2. Bloor St. has long been identified as an ideal cycling route that could form the spine of Toronto’s cycling network given the long east-west reach, the absence of streetcar tracks, and the flat topography;
  3.  A pilot project would provide the community (residents, business owners, and visitors) with a concrete view of the streetscape when bike lanes are added, along with the opportunity to monitor and assess the positive and negative impacts of bike lanes on Bloor, and the elimination of some on-street (curb) parking;   
  4. The pilot area would connect a number of existing north-south bike lanes, and therefore maximize use of existing municipal investments in cycling infrastructure. The east-west pilot would connect with existing or approved north-south bike lanes on Sherbourne, St. George, Montrose, and Shaw. The pilot would therefore create the beginnings of a comprehensive cycling network for Toronto;   
  5. The pilot area is very well served by transit, including both the University, Yonge, and Bloor subway lines (and interconnections) as well as streetcar lines on Spadina and Bathurst and good bus service;
  6. There is a significant amount of off-street parking (including a number of municipal parking lots and free side street parking) available for motorists visiting Bloor St.;
  7. The pilot can be carried out by eliminating a lane of parking on one side of Bloor, which lane is generally used for motor traffic during rush hour. (Eliminating some parking from Bloor St. may also reduce the risk of being “doored”, which is currently a significant cause of injury to cyclists.) Much of Bloor St in the Spadina to Sherbourne stretch actually has sufficient width to accommodate two motor lanes and a bike lane in each direction. The pilot would assess if off-street parking, including parking in municipal paid lots, could accommodate the loss of curbside parking on Bloor.
  8. The pilot project is consistent with the City’s Official plan objectives of creating alternatives to motor vehicle traffic and with the Secondary Plan for the University of Toronto, which borders Bloor St.
  9. The pilot would benefit residents who already cycle on Bloor as well as informing the community about the potential growth of cycling in the area, including the addition of motorists who might be motivated to turn to cycling because of the new bike lanes.[i]

B. Description of the three areas in the pilot area of Bloor St.:

            Sherbourne St. to Avenue Rd. (1.5 km)

This area is characterized by large commercial, retail, and residential developments including The Bay, Manulife Centre, Rogers, and the so-called Mink Mile in Yorkville, with very limited on-street parking but significant off-street parking in municipal and private underground parking garages and other lots.

The pilot would not include any change from Church to Avenue Rd. (the Mink Mile in Yorkville), given the recent addition of sharrows. The sharrows are a limited benefit to cyclists but the pilot, although encompassing this area, does not contemplate any change to the status quo for this area. We note that in the redevelopment of this stretch of Bloor St. all on-street parking was eliminated, with support from the Yorkville business improvement area (BIA).

In terms of existing north-south cycling infrastructure in this area, the pilot would be bounded on the east by Sherbourne St, which has Toronto’s first separated bike lane. East of Sherbourne (outside the pilot study) there is an existing east-west bike lane on Bloor that would connect to the pilot bike lanes. This would allow for a continuous bike lane on Bloor St. from Shaw St. to Broadview Ave, once the pilot is implemented.

There is paid, non-rush hour parking[ii] on parts of Bloor between Sherbourne and Church.

The area is well-served by transit. The Yonge line of the subway intersects the Bloor line at Yonge St.

Bloor St. between Sherbourne and Church is very wide and could accommodate a bike lane and two motor vehicle lanes in each direction.[iii]

Avenue Rd. to Spadina Rd. (0.9km)

This area is characterized by large institutional buildings, including the University of Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), Varsity Stadium, the Royal Conservatory of Music, Bloor St. United Church, as well as University of Toronto Schools (UTS). In addition, there are large condominium buildings and hotels with their own parking facilities.

The City’s secondary plan for the U of T includes the promotion of cycling. The large number of students at the university (the majority without cars) would benefit from more cycling safety provisions.

There is limited parking on Bloor that would have to be removed, but the number of parking spots is small relative to off-street parking, particularly in private and municipal parking lots and garages. In any case, it is self-evident that people do not expect to park in front of the ROM or Varsity Stadium, for example, when they visit. There are some small businesses on the north side of Bloor near Spadina, which has nearby municipal parking lots and some pay-for-use and free side-street parking – as well as easy access to the subway (including the junction of the north-south subway with the east-west line). 

The area is well-served by all forms of TTC transit.

The area includes a popular north-south bike lane on St George that bisects the university.

The roadway in this area is wide enough to accommodate two motoring lanes each way and a bike lane on each side.[iv]

Spadina Rd. to Shaw St. (1.6 km)

This area is dominated by small businesses (retail and restaurant) bounded by apartments and low-rise residential homes. On Bloor itself the ground-level shops sit under residential apartment units.

The area is characterized by heavy pedestrian and cycling traffic, and is well served by transit including subway and streetcar lines.

In terms of existing cycling infrastructure, the following existing and approved north-south routes are encompassed by the pilot: 

  • Christie/Grace have bike lanes south of Bloor, and for a stretch of Christie north of Bloor; and
  • Montrose Ave. has a contra-flow bike lane; and
  • Shaw St. has an approved contra-flow lane. 

Bike lanes have broad community support in the area, including most of the residents’ associations and the Bloor-Annex BIA.[v]

Rush hour car lanes replace parking in the morning and evening rush hours. The rush hour lane is actually too narrow to accommodate an average car and a bike safely.[vi]

Parking along Bloor St. (from Spadina to Shaw) includes about 152 spots on the north side of Bloor and 108 spots on the south side of Bloor.

There is significant off-street parking in municipal and private lots[vii] and free parking on side streets during business hours.[viii] The combination of off-street and side-street parking outnumbers parking on the north side of Bloor by a ratio of 8 to 1 and on the south side of Bloor by a ratio of 12:1. (More efficient use could also be made of parking at schools during off hours). The TDSB has two facilities in the immediate vicinity of Bloor (Central Tech and the Bickford Centre) that have parking for almost 150 cars. These numbers are not counted in our inventory. The lots are often significantly under-utilized during off hours at schools.)

A 2009 study by the Clean Air Partnership showed that only 10% of business for local merchants is from motorists.[ix] Cyclists and pedestrians were the store patrons that spent the most each month.

The same study found that:

  • even during peak periods no more than 80% of paid parking spaces are occupied;
  • the reduction in on-street parking supply on Bloor from the installation of a bike lane could be accommodated in the area’s off-street municipal parking lots.[x]
  • 30% of Annex businesses believed that eliminating parking to provide for bike lanes would be good for business;
  • 74% of respondents believed that eliminating parking would be either positive or neutral in terms of their business; and
  • The study (among others) shows that a significant portion of merchants over-estimate the contribution to their businesses from motorists. [xi]

The report concluded, in the context of Bloor St. between Spadina and Avenue Rd, that:

The spending habits of cyclists and pedestrians, their relatively high travel mode share and the minimal impact on parking all demonstrate that merchants in this area are unlikely to be negatively affected by re-allocating on-street parking space to a bike lane. On the contrary this change will likely increase commercial activity.[xii]

Other studies, including work done by Toronto’s Cycling Think and Do Tank, show the potential increase in property values and business patronage from increasing cycling and walking infrastructure.[xiii]

Parking Inventory[xiv]

Since the elimination of some or all curbside parking on Bloor St. is likely to face a certain amount of opposition in the stretch of Bloor from Shaw to Spadina (encompassing the Annex, Koreatown, and Christie Pits), we conducted an inventory of all parking spots within a short walking distance to Bloor, immediately adjacent to Bloor, and on Bloor. This included pay-for-use public and private lots almost immediately adjacent to Bloor. We also counted all free parking available on side streets during business hours. We also counted (the small amount of) paid parking spots on side streets. We counted only the parking spots on side streets up to the first cross street on the assumption that almost all motorists would be willing to walk at least this far. (The motorist would not have to cross an intersection).

We focused only on the area of Spadina Rd west to Shaw given that the remaining part of the pilot area (Spadina east to Sherbourne) includes very little on-street parking relative to large amounts of parking in both private and municipal lots (surface or parking garages) in the immediate vicinity of Bloor.[xv]

Our inventory does not count any spots that are on residential property or that are for the exclusive use of shoppers at particular establishments. For example, the Metro at Bloor and Robert has a surface parking lot for about 40 vehicles. Such lots are not counted in our inventory.

Our parking inventory for Bloor St. from Spadina to Shaw produced the following numbers:

Bloor St. curbside parking (pay-for-use during most hours, except rush hour, or free during many non-business hours):                                                                                 

  • north side:          150
  • south side:          100

Off-Bloor parking includes the following:

Municipal paid parking lots immediately adjacent to Bloor:    338[xvi]

Paid private lots open to public adjacent to Bloor:    165[xvii]

Municipal paid curbside parking spots on roads intersecting Bloor

  (Spadina, Christie, and Markham):  60[xviii]

Side-street/off-Bloor (free) parking in the first block (ie to the first cross street)[xix]:                         678[xx]

Total off-street and side-street parking available for Bloor motorists:   1241

Thus the ratio of total off-street and free side-street parking relative to parking on one side of Bloor is approximately 8:1 for the north side of Bloor and 12:1 for the south side of Bloor.

More efficient use of parking space

There is some parking in the vicinity of Bloor St. that could be better utilized. The TDSB has two surface parking lots (at Central Tech and at the Bickford Centre) providing space for over 140 cars. These lots are generally not used during non-school hours and could therefore become a resource for shoppers and visitors, while providing additional revenue for the TDSB. The Bickford Centre is on Bloor St. and Central Tech is within a five minute walk.

In addition, better use can be made of technology to direct people to available parking spaces in order to avoid excess driving and pollution caused by the need to “cruise” for parking.[xxi] This could be done with digital displays or smart phone technology.

Elimination of rush-hour motor lanes

On many stretches of Bloor St. that would be affected by the pilot project, the elimination of a parking lane would also involve the elimination of an east-bound rush hour lane (7-9am or 7:30 to 9:30am) or a westbound rush hour lanes (4-6 pm or 3:30 to 6:30 pm).

A pilot project eliminating the west-bound rush hour lane of Bloor St. between Spadina and Christie was carried out in the summer of 2013. The results of this pilot have not been released but would be useful in the planning of the proposed bike lane pilot for 2014.

The elimination of rush hour motor lanes could inspire some motorists to car-pool, take transit, or walk thereby eliminating any adverse impact on the movement of people and goods in the area. Less motor traffic would create obvious benefits to the community in terms of better air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions, and potentially even less congestion.

Note respecting distinct Bathurst to Spadina pilot for 2014

We understand that there may be an additional pilot project for 2014 involving the elimination of one parking/rush hour lane to be replaced by a combination of a bike lane on one or both sides of the street and a widening of the sidewalk area for cafes and related services. We have not seen any details of that pilot, but would be happy to consider an integration of that pilot into our proposed pilot.

Endnotes

[i] Surveys consistently show that more people would cycle if they felt safer on the roads, namely by being protected by cycling infrastructure such as bike lanes. See, for example, Toronto’s Bike Plan: “Shifting Gears”, 2001; online at: http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/bikeplan/ at p. 6-1.

[ii] Morning rush hour is posted as either 7-9am or 7:30-9:30am while the afternoon rush hour is posted as 4-6pm or 3:30 to 6:30pm. There are some sidewalk lay-bys (ie for drop offs) near the Rogers building and in front of St. Paul’s Church.

[iii] There are left turn lanes at Church, Ted Rogers Way, Mount Pleasant/Huntley, and at Sherbourne. Along Bloor the roadway measures 27 ft and 4 inches to the centre line (at 360 Bloor) and 26 ft, 11 inches (in front of St. Paul’s Church). The curb lane in Yorkville, which includes the sharrows, measures 12ft, 11 inches.

[iv] East of Spadina near Madison Ave. the roadway measures 26 ft, 8 inches to the centre line. Between Huron and St. George the left turn lanes essentially take up the extra middle lane. Between Bedford and St. George (in front of the Munk Centre building) the roadway to the centre line measures 26 ft, 10 inches. East of Bedford in front of the Telus Centre for the Performing Arts, the roadway measures 26 ft, 8 inches to the centre line. (There is also a lay-by for passenger pickup on the south side.) There are left turn lanes at Spadina, Huron, St. George, Bedford, and Avenue Rd.

[v] For example, on October 2, 2012 the Annex Residents Association conducted a community consultation. There was overwhelming support for the group’s proposal for bike lanes on Bloor in the Annex neighbourhood. The ARA has an adopted policy calling for the implementation of bike lanes; online at: http://www.theara.org/traffic-transportation#.UjHXQV3XulA  Other residents’ associations that have expressed support for bike lanes on Bloor are the Huron-Sussex Residents’ Association, the Harbord Village Residents’ Association, The Seaton Village Residents Association, The Palmerston Area Residents’ Association, and the Christie Pits Residents Association. In addition the annual Bells on Bloor rides for bike lanes on Bloor have drawn up to 2000 cyclists each year; online at: http://bellsonbloor.org/  A 2009 petition for bike lanes on Bloor drew 5000 signatures. A 2013 petition by Cycle Toronto drew almost 1000 signatures over a period of only a few months.

[vi] Bloor St. east of Howland measures 19ft, 10 inches to the centre line; while the curb lane measures 9ft, 11 inches. There are left turn lanes at Spadina and Christie.

[vii] For example, Honest Ed’s has a large parking lot near the corner of Bathurst and Bloor. The lot is open to non-store users. The lot has about 122 parking spots available during business hours until about 9pm.

[viii] From midnight to about 7am, only residents or visitors with permits are entitled to park (for a fee) on the side streets. Spadina, Markham and Christie have paid curbside parking. Bathurst St has some free parking but for fairly limited hours during the week.

[ix] Clean Air Partnership: “Bike Lanes, On-Street Parking and Business”, February 2009.

[x] Clean Air Partnership: “Bike Lanes, On-Street Parking and Business”, February 2009.

[xi] Clean Air Partnership:  “Bike Lanes, On-Street Parking and Business”, February 2009, Executive Summary.

[xii] Ibid at p. 12. The study calculated that there are 168 on-street (curbside) parking spaces on Bloor, but 267 paid spots easily accessible for the area in paid municipal lots. The study did not look at free parking available on side streets.

[xiv] Our inventory was based on personal observations as well as some publicly available data from the city, especially in relation to paid municipal parking lots. In terms of side-streets we simply counted cars (during peak parking times) and vacant spaces. This method may have over-counted the number of designated parking spots given the city’s curbside measurements for a parking space, namely 18 ft by 7.5 ft. (or 135 square feet). Parking spots in parking lots generally take up more space since access aisles are needed. Thus a single parking spot can measure up to 350 square feet.) At municipal parking lots we did a direct count but compared this to numbers provided on the city’s website; online at: http://parking.greenp.com/find-parking/  For private pay-for-use lots open to the public, we counted parking spots.

[xv] As noted, in the 2009 revitalization of Bloor between Avenue Rd. and Church all of the on-street parking was eliminated in a project endorsed by the local Business Improvement Area.

[xvi] On Spadina, Manning, Euclid and Palmerston on the north side (194 spots), and Lippincott on the south side (144 spots).

[xvii] On Spadina behind #720 (16 spots), Brunswick (5 spots), Manning (23 spots) and behind Honest Ed’s at Bloor and Bathurst (31 surface and 81 underground).

[xviii] There are 36 spots on side streets on the north side of Bloor, and 24 spots on the south side of Bloor. There are also about 20 parking spots on Bathurst north of Bloor. These spots are free but restricted to a small number of hours during the week – otherwise the lane is for motor traffic.

[xix] Parking is by permit only, generally between midnight and 7 or 10 am. In some, but not many, cases the side street parking is restricted to one hour. Only residents can apply for parking permits, which range in cost from $14 to $49 per month. (The lower price is where the resident has no on-property parking.) We counted to the first block based on the premise that these spots are easily accessible to motorists and the walking distance would not be an obstacle to shopping on Bloor St.

[xx] There are 311 spots on the north side of Bloor and 367 on the south side for a total of 693.

[xxi] For examples of the massive amount of excess travel caused by “cruising” for parking see Donald Shoup: The High Cost of Free Parking, American Planning Association, 2011 at pp 358-361.

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2 Responses to Proposal for Bloor St. bike lane pilot project from Shaw to Sherbourne streets

  1. Emily Sutlic says:

    Bike lanes on Bloor will ensure that all cyclists can enjoy our beautiful city without sacrificing their safety.

  2. Peter says:

    Thank-you for all of this hard work! But as someone who lives west of Ossington, I must say that a pilot stretch that went west FROM Shaw would have been very appreciated, as we are not lucky enough to have the Harbord bike lanes reach us. The stretch from Shaw to Lansdowne would help to connect the Annette lanes to Bloor via Lansdowne. But I understand the logic of running the pilot to connect existing lanes. Looking forward to this. Cheers!

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