Monday, February 06, 2012

Bicycle trails

(via I Bike TO) This evening, the civil servants charged with planning bicycle transportation will hold an open house at Northern District Library. They plan to present a proposal to fill the gaps in the city's bicycle network with trails. In many respects, I welcome this proposal. I have just a few questions: the civil servants and politicians charged with designing these facilities describe them with the word "multi-use". Does the city plan to provide genuine multi-use trails with a clearly delineated bicycle component,  or will they simply go with a "shared" facility, which throws the burden of keeping traffic separated on the users, and which often creates conflict and even endangers users. When I go to the open house this evening, I have no doubt I will find out.

A trail defined as multi-use mixes pedestrians and cyclists. The West Toronto rail path, one of the best examples of such a trail, actually functions as more of a linear park than a simple trail; it offers benches and grassy areas, and the cyclists passing by mingle with the dog walkers, joggers, and children playing. The civility that distinguishes Toronto at its best often makes this mix work, but does not eliminate the inherent problem with the design. Bicycles travel too fast to mix safely with pedestrians. An cyclist can easily move about three times as fast as the average pedestrian; the average urban motorist only moves about twice as fast as a cyclist. As events last summer tragically proved, collisions between cyclists and pedestrians can have tragic results.

The designers of the Martin Goodman Trail on the waterfront tried to solve this problem by dividing parts of the trail into pedestrian and bicycle pathways. This works quite well on some parts of the trail, less well on others. How well this separation works depends on both the effectiveness of trail marks and signs, and on the willingness of trail users to cooperate. Ideally, a trail divided for bicycle and pedestrian use would separate the paths in much the same way as road designs separate pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Such a design would reflect sound engineering principles, by making the safe choices the easiest and most obvious, but would also affirm the status of bicycle paths, routes and lanes as transportation corridors, like roads and subway lines, rather than recreational facilities. Cyclists ride to get to destinations. We have places to get to, and like other users of the city transportation networks, we have time pressures and deadlines to meet. If the bicycle facilities the city provides do not permit us to ride fast enough in safety. we can always use the roads, but that eliminates the safety advantages the city has attempted to provide by building the trails.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The new trails planned through the Finch Hydro Corridors from Willowdale to Pineway Avenue are being built directly under the Hydro Lines. The City coducted an EMF study and found that the EMF levels were very high and were high enough to cause leukemia in children under 12 years of age. Toronto Public Health recommended that the path be relocated to the south end of the field but the City did not do this.
The EMF readings all along this path are approximately at the the 50 milligaus level. Anywhere but in hydro field they are at 1 to 2 milligaus. The World Health Organization listed EMF exposure as a possible carcinogen in 2001 and have not taken it off the list to date. So basically, riding, walking or playing under hydro lines may cause cancer and I will not ride in these fields. The actual study was not released to the Public, however you can ask for the actual study fron Daniel Egan at the City of Toronto. The department of Public Health recomendations can probably also be requested from Public Health. You need to be very specific and ask for the report from these trails. Otherwise they will send you their EMF policy. The City deided to use hydro fields for multiuse trails because they feel that the benefit of exercise outways the number of deaths that may result from cancer. However they also decided to hide the possible cancer risk. Personaly, I can ride my bike on the road or in parks and never worry about getting cancer from EMF's. Avoid riding in hydro fields.