Toronto took its time recognizing the need for pedestrian space during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It wasn’t until late April that the mayor and the medical officer of health considered limited curb lane closures to accommodate crowded sidewalks in front of supermarkets, drug stores, and other essential businesses.
But those curb lane closures — called CurbTO — later expanded to ActiveTO, which includes hundreds of kilometres of “Quiet Streets” for pedestrians and cyclusts and regular weekend road closures on Lake Shore Boulevard and Bayview Avenue. By June, CurbTO and ActiveTO were joined by CafeTO — which would expedite restaurant patio licences and even allow temporary patio space in parking lanes — as well as CampTO and SwimTO, programs to safely open up public pools and day camps for the summer.
Most significantly, new cycle tracks and bike were approved by a wide margin at Council in May, including the entire stretch of Bloor-Danforth between Runnymede Road and Dawes Road.
Through the weekend road closures are closed off with metal barriers and enforced by police, the Quiet Streets are protected only by pylons and temporary signage. On Shaughnessy Boulevard, one of the first Quiet Street implementations, pylons were removed by angry motorists. Elsewhere, residents rearranged pylons to block half the street, doing more to discourage through traffic.
In Kensington Market, pylons were moved by drivers onto the sidewalk, creating additional barriers to pedestrians, especially those with disabilities.
Clearly, pylons are not enough.
While I was in Brampton recently, I noticed a more effective approach. On Scott Street, just east of the city’s downtown core, a narrow bridge was closed to motor traffic in order to provide a quiet and safe crossing of Etobicoke Creek to connect two sections of the Etobicoke Creek Trail. Instead of moveable pylons, rigid plastic bollards were bolted to the roadway, with a compliant “road closed” sign posted in the middle.
Signage approaching the closed bridge was also also quite clear.
I also noted that bolted bollards were also used to mark the interim bike lanes on Vodden Street and Howden Boulevard at every intersection, precluding their use by through traffic. On that early weekday afternoon, only one vehicle was illegally parked in the lane along the entire four-kilometre route. Not one pylon was out of place either.
While Brampton was one of the first cities in Ontario to implement improved active transportation infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has done little else since. However, Brampton has an ambitious new active transportation master plan to fix many gaps in its cycling infrastructure and expand its paths system; hopefully it will able to accelerate parts of its plan as Toronto is now doing.
But what Brampton did right was putting in effective barriers and signage to protect its temporary walking and cycling routes. This is something Toronto could learn from.
3 replies on “Pylons are not enough: how to make a quiet street”
How effective are the Toronto fluffs?
Notice those signs in the back windows of some cars: “Baby On Board”. About that effective, or rather ineffective.
More than a few times, as I’m cycling toward a main street on a street denoted a “Quiet Street” with the opposing lane pyloned-off at the main street, vehicles came swerving off the main avenue and then have run me off to the gutter to save being hit.
Is it any wonder Toronto is such a failure on ‘trying to be World Class’ when it thinks unsecured plastic pylons make for safe cycleways?
Maybe John Tory wears sponge foam to protect his head when he tries to cycle? Maybe an egg carton? What could possibly go wrong?
Thank you for exposing the inadequate response from the City of Toronto. I noticed that these “Quiet Streets” measures weren’t really working. For instance, on Brock Street, the signage, printed on corrugated plastic, were folded into themselves, obscuring the message.
Interesting you raise Brock Street, it’s one of the instances where I’ve faced traffic coming at me on the wrong side of the road. Rather than using that road as a safe cycleway, I now avoid it.
The irony is that it was safer *before* the pylons went up.
The instance where I was run into a gutter to avoid being hit is…OMG…I just checked the map to make sure I got the street name correct…it was *Brock* just south of Bloor. There are (were) pylons at Bloor across the southbound lane. Part of an extension I use coming west to extend the ‘reach’ of the Harbord lanes.
Rumour has it that the City is going to replace the pylons with feather-dusters…but it has to go to committee first…