Toronto Police paying more attention to e-bikes

Not a pedal bike, not a scooter and definitely not a motorcycle, e-bikes seem to be causing some confusion about how this new form of transportation should be regulated.

Currently in Toronto, here are some key rules for e-bikes:

  • You have to be 16 years old to drive one
  • You can’t ride in bike lanes
  • You have to wear a helmet

But unlike scooters, e-bikes don’t require a licence or insurance.

Unfortunately for e-bike riders, I don’t think a lot of people like them. For drivers, they are slow in their lanes (they can only go a max of 32 km/h). For cyclists, it’s frustrating when they end up in your bike lanes because it’s illegal and could be dangerous.

CBC featured an interesting video on e-bikes yesterday, showing that some are completely unaware about the rules of the road. Watch it here.

For the most part, I think e-bikes are stuck in this weird place, and both cyclists and drivers are frustrated by them.

If you ride an e-bike, I’d love to hear from you and learn more about your perspective.

I saw a cyclist get hit by a car today

Let me start by saying the cyclist is alive. Eventually I watched him stand up and slowly walk to the police cruiser.

But he was hurt badly. And he was making a painful noise I’ll never forget.

It happened at King & Niagara. The driver, who was probably in his late teens or early 20s, was turning left on King. The cyclist was going straight south on Niagara. When he was hit, he flipped (his legs up in the air) and landed on the ground. The driver pulled over and ran to the cyclist. So did many pedestrians and the police were there within 4 minutes after the accident happened.

The driver kept saying “I didn’t see him!”, “I didn’t see him!”. And I believe the kid who looked like he just passed his G2. He likely didn’t see him. He probably wasn’t looking for a cyclist.

The thing is, the cyclist was likely riding at a very fast speed. So if he was coming south on Niagara then the driver probably thought he had enough time to turn or didn’t even think to look up the street for the cyclist.

The cyclist was wearing a helmet. If he wasn’t, I can’t imagine what kind of state he would be in. I think he landed on his shoulder and I think he’ll be spending some time at the hospital tonight. I hope he’ll be OK.

I wonder when he’ll get back on his bike? And I wonder when the young kid will feel comfortable driving again?

I don’t blame either for this accident. To help prevent it … maybe the cyclist should have slowed down when driving through a busy intersection, and the driver should always be aware of cyclists.

To me, tonight wasn’t a case of the blame game. Instead lets figure out the best way to improve our city’s biking infrastructure.

Because we can do better. Much better.

Q&A with a frustrated driver

And that driver is my mom.

Every time I’m driving with my mom in the city, she expresses her frustration about cyclists. I decided to sit down with her this weekend to discuss her take on biking in the city. Here’s what she had to say.

Q: Do you hate all cyclists … other than me?
A: No! Absolutely not. I want to understand their choices when they do not obey the rules of the road. It’s frustrating when cyclists don’t obey the rules because I do. It’s the basic stuff like stopping at stop signs. It puts them in danger and I’m the one who has to live with it if I hit them.

Q: What bothers you the most about cyclists?
A: The unpredictability of them. What I mean by that is you don’t know if it’s someone who will obey the rules. So as soon as I see a cyclist, I don’t know if it’s someone who will cut me off, run a stop sign, etc., or not. And those cyclists who do not wear helmet – I just don’t understand that. So ultimately, I’m nervous with all cyclists.

Q: How many cyclists do you think obey the rules?
Sadly, I don’t even think it’s even 50/50. From my experience, it’s more like 30/70. 30% who obey and 70% who do not.

Q: Do you think car drivers want to share the road with cyclists?
Car drivers want to share the road but when cyclists cut in front of them, or drive in between the cars, it’s scary. From the drivers perspective, I’m the person who might hit you and that’s frightening. I don’t know if some cyclists get that – the impact it will have on someone who could hit you.

Q: If there’s one thing you think would make a big difference, what would it be?
A: A respect and understanding between each other on the road.

Q: Would you ever consider riding your bike in the city?
A: Yes. And I would obey the rules of the road and wear a helmet!

Q. Would you ever consider riding on Queen St or Spadina?
A: Unlikely.

Q: Do you believe cyclists and car drivers could live in harmony?
A: Absolutely. It will just take a change in attitude on both parts.

My mom, her bike & the country roads - her favourite place to ride

My mom, her bike & the country roads – her favourite place to ride

Cyclists represent 40% of traffic

That is, on Harbord St. During peak hours.

So the city is going to do something about it. Awesome. Way to go city!

The City of Toronto is planning to upgrade Harbord St. with a ‘bi-directional cycle track design’. Meaning it could look something like this path in Vancouver:

Image

Image courtesy of City of Toronto

But unlikely it will be that awesome.

Many big cities have bi-directional cycle paths already like New York, Chicago, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver. So we’re playing a little catch-up here but that’s just fine…

The bi-directional design will move both the east and west bound bike lanes to one side of the street. Therefore it will mean the removal of on-street parking on parts of Harbord – which I’m sure will be a pain for many.

But I’ll remain a bit selfish here and say I am thrilled about this plan. One step forward.

Last Thursday, the city organized a Public Drop-In Event to review the designs for the improved bike lane. It’s cool – they really are looking for the public’s opinion as they develop the bike lanes. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it, but, if you use Harbord, I encourage you to take a look at the current report online here.

The city hasn’t finalized the design yet. They want our input. On page 21 they show the different design considerations. What gets my fairly uninformed vote?

Montreal’s full curb separation design.

Of course I like the more expensive design which will require more construction. But this is an investment in the city’s future. And this looks the safest of all options.

Harbord already has painted separation so I can’t see how bi-directional painted separation makes it safer. To be honest, I’m usually a lot more scared of the way other cyclists ride so I don’t want one coming at me from the opposite direction without a separate from traffic. I foresee many more fights among cyclists.

The raised cycle track seems like I could easily fall off the edge… again I called this my uninformed decision so obviously look for your personal comments here.

I also came across this report on the many problems with bi-directional cycling paths. What works for Harbord is there are only a few major intersection, so turning isn’t as much of an issue. Read ibiketo.ca blog about their thoughts on uni-directional vs. bi-directional when it comes to Richmond and Adelaide.

Again my vote – Full Curb Separation. Make the investment, make it safe. Cyclists represent 40% of Harbord traffic during peak hours. And as they say in Field Of Dream, if you build it they will come. I guarantee if they put in a full curb separation bike lane – the cyclists will come!

The coolest thing is that the city wants to hear from you! So share your voice … email bikeplan@toronto.ca. And please share your opinion with me too.

Be confident. You can do this.

For all the wanna-be cyclists out there, watch this video by Grist and follow their 7 simple steps:

1. Plan Route
2. Suit Up
3. Check Your Brakes
4. Mind The Door Zone
5. Claim The Lane
6. Careful With Turns
7. Don’t Run Over Pedestrians

But most importantly, BE CONFIDENT.

ENJOY!

3 Confessions of a Cyclist

Sometimes I am a bad cyclist. I do things I shouldn’t. It just seems so easy to break the rules.

Here are my three confessions:

  • I go the wrong way up the one way street where I live
  • On quiet streets I blow through stop signs
  • I don’t stop for streetcars for the entire time the door is open

I know I shouldn’t do them. But sometimes I think – my bike isn’t a car so why should it follow the exact same rules as a car?

For example, on my ride to work I go through Trinity Bellwoods. And I have to turn into the park via the sidewalk. Should I be get off my bike when I go on the sidewalk then get back on my bike once I’m on the path?

I would be a fan of bike licensing. But I just can’t imagine what the process is for something like this.  

According to the City Of Toronto’s Bicycle Licensing History, here are three major reasons licensing has been rejected:

* The difficulty in keeping a database complete and current
* The difficulty in licensing children, given that they ride bikes too
* Licensing in and of itself does not change the behaviour of cyclists who are disobeying traffic laws.

What are your thoughts on bike licensing? And am I a bad cyclist?