One of the more appealing features of the proposed reconstruction plan for Roncesvalles is the promise of being able to board the streetcar directly from the curb. However, this is more complicated than one might think.
For one thing, there is the question of how traffic will move if snow is not completely cleared away from the curb. This was a big problem recently on the St. Clair line, after December’s huge snowfall.
A second issue is cycling safety. If there are no gaps between the streetcar and the curb, this will leave only a tiny 60 cm space between the curb and the rail. This is unsafe for cyclists, who could very easily get caught in the rail, as Seattle cyclists are now discovering.
On Sunday we displayed a picture, as a way of illustrating how the new widened sidewalks might be used. As some readers pointed out, there do not appear to be any provisions for cyclists in the picture. This picture, however, was from an earlier conception for the sidewalk, first presented last July. Since then, City and TTC planners have been thinking hard on how best to maximize both transit accessibility and bicycle safety.
The planners are considering three options. The first has no cycling provisions, such as shown in the picture mentioned above. No one appears to be in favor of this option, and the BIA would strongly oppose any option that made no provision for cyclists. The second (see image, right) would simply continue the “sharrow” zone, leaving a 1.6 metre space between the curb and the rail. This would mean that transit riders would not be able to step directly onto the streetcar, but at least would not have to cross a traffic lane. The third option calls for a 1.5 metre “bike trough” (click here for an illustration) that would cut through the curb extension itself, mixing the pedestrian and cycling zones and allowing transit riders to board directly from the curb.
At a recent meeting with businesses and residents, the community expressed its preference for the second option out of what has been proposed. They thought the mixed zones would be too confusing, and wondered how it would allow for snow clearance in the winter.
There may be other options. Anthony Humphreys, who writes for the cycling blog IBikeTO, suggests that planners consider flangeway fillers. These work by filling the rail line with a type of synthetic rubber. A cyclist will experience the rail line as being flat, while the heavier streetcar will press down on the material, allowing it to be guided along the rail as usual. The snow issue would still remain, however.
Do you have any ideas on how best to balance the needs of cyclists with those of other users of the road? Please share your opinion by or your local residents’ association, or leaving a comment.