There is still more to be gleaned from the City’s revealled plans for the reconstruction of Queen Street.
What’s in it for cyclists?
Queen will not have much in the way of specific cycling infrastructure — no bike lanes, no bike tracks (ie separated bike surface adjacent the sidewalk). It will have very wide general traffic lanes so that motorized vehicles can take the centre of the road and still leave some space for cyclists on the side, supposedly with a metre of space between them. The wide lane width seems to be hedging the bets that the “super sharrows” down the centre of the traffic lane won’t be all that useful:
There will be a painted cycling lane on Lyon, along with “bicycle boxes”, those in-advance-of-the-cars’-stopline launching pads that allow cyclists to get first crack at entering the intersection. Good.
These are useful, provided motorists stop at their own stop line. I think they would work best if no-right-turns-on-red were in place, which is also of considerable benefit to pedestrians. At not just at rush hour, but 24/7.
Put your finger on the diagram above and trace a cyclist riding down from the top of the picture on Lyon, approaching Queen. Stop at the bike boxes. The large white triangles on the box indicate a raised intersection ahead. Cycle through the intersection, only on a green light of course, and cycle by … the bus stop. Cycle fast if you detect a bus coming up your rear, because the bus has to stop on the lane itself, physically blocking the lane. I hope it won’t leave any cyclists hanging behind in the intersection. Such pressure situations are what make cyclists uncomfortable riding in the core, and can lead to impulsive actions (pull out around the bus? what if the bus starts to leave? what’s behind me in the next lane? is the light still green? aghh, where did that pedestrian come from? why are taxis so eager to lean on the horn? I’m not riding here !)
I’m not thrilled with the layout shown. Cities around the world have come up with better bike-lane-at-the-bus-stop layouts than this. Why aren’t we using them? I suspect the culprit here is excessive caution on the part of OC Transpo. The presence of multiple bus shelters here, plus the lobby of the Lyon St Station entrance lobby, suggests planners see this as a major bus stop with lots of traffic. I’m pessimistic that this layout will work well.
The left turn lane for Queen St traffic going west and turning south, shown below, doesn’t help. Why isn’t there a bike box here, to help cyclists make the turn? The rest of the intersection makes it difficult to do a two stage left turn (ie, go to the far west curb, turn bike, wait for next green light, then pedal south). If cyclists are supposed to feel comfortable riding in the centre of the vehicle lane, they should feel comfortable in the left turn lane too … but the absence of a sharrow suggests we shouldn’t be there.
The illustration below is Kent at Queen. Kent travels north, from bottom of the picture to the top. Unlike Lyon, there is no bike lane or even a sharrow. Kent remains a traffic sewer dedicated to getting people who drive out of the downtown core as fast as possible. Don’t expect outdoor cafes or quality streetlife along this road. Especially if OC Transpo local buses continue to time stop along the right hand lane for the preceding two blocks.
The intersection of Bank and Queen isn’t exactly cycle friendly either. No sharrows or guidance as to where to cycle on Bank Street. Very generously wide curb radii to facilitate large vehicles (buses? tractor trailers?) turning on all four sides.
If you have a long memory, you may recall that in the approvals stage for the Confederation Line, much was made of cycle parking at the Stations. Including the downtown stations. And that a councillor demanded more, and the plan was amended. Yet when we look at the drawings … there are no bike racks near any of the stations nor are any of the bollards or fixtures along the sidewalks bike rings. Nor are bike posts on the list of features for the redone Queen, nor on the “key” to the drawings.
Where have all the bikes gone? Or did they never exist?
Recall that Queen west of Bay will remain as is, four lanes of traffic. As will Queen east of O’Connor over to Elgin (shown below). There are promises to extend the Queen St design further west and east at a future time. That might allow the design to be tweaked depending on how well it works in the inaugural sections. Also not shown is the O’Connor bikeway, as it will not be constructed until post-2018.