Toronto’s parking enforcers are looking to put a stop to illegal bike lane parking once and for all.
As the city installs new downtown bike lanes in a year-long pilot project, it will be using a combination of new pavement markings, signage that threatens a $150 fine, and targeted enforcement blitzes to keep the lanes clear of idle cars.
The goal is to make the painted outlines of a bike lane as effective as a physical barrier.
The Simcoe St. bike lane will be the first to “go live,” when all the traffic signals and signs are up on July 9. Richmond and Adelaide Sts. will have bike lanes by the end of July.
“We’re going to be doing some pretty heavy enforcement as soon as it’s open,” said Daniel Egan, the city’s cycling infrastructure manager.
“We’ll be taking a good accounting of what level of enforcement it takes, what resources, what time, and what number of tickets are given out. We’ve always had anecdotal evidence, but we’ve never had anything scientific.”
For the first time in Toronto, signs will clearly warn drivers of the $150 penalty for illegal curbside parking (last January, the fine was raised from $60). And rather than a single painted line, two lines will form a buffer zone between the bike lane and motor traffic.
Egan said city staff want to see whether physical barriers — for example the flexible poles on the Sherbourne Ave. bike lane — are necessary. In the winter, for example, special plows are needed if such barriers are in place, driving maintenance costs way up.
“There’s some people who think we don’t always need to put physical separation, that a higher fine and better markings and enforcement will do the job,” Egan said. “We may gradually add other separation devices, but we want to see how this works first.”
Erin Kanygin was biking down the freshly painted Simcoe bike lane on Thursday afternoon when she had to swerve to avoid a parked car.
“When I turned the corner today, I thought, ‘Yes!’” Kanygin said. “I had no idea they were putting this lane in. But yeah, the parked cars are really annoying.”
When the enforcement campaign starts on July 9, the focus will be on Simcoe — but Kanygin, who bikes to work most days, said other painted lanes in the city are notoriously bad. “The worst is the bike lane on College, where I live,” she said.
Hilary Iles, another cyclist who had to dodge the parked car on Simcoe, also mentioned the College lane. “I got doored last year on College as I was going around a parked car,” she said. “The middle of the afternoon like this, that’s the worst time because there’s not as many bikers.”
Egan said city staff need to stay focused on just the pilot project area for now. “Then we can look where the hot spots are on our existing bike lines, and go after them strategically,” he said. “I think it’ll be a different combination of things that makes sense on each route.”
Const. Hugh Smith, of the police traffic services unit, said a key goal is to make drivers think twice about their surroundings, instead of just parking while on “autopilot.”
“We want to make the signs really in your face, so when you stop it’s right there,” he said. “Hopefully people will get the message through the signage and the paint, and we won’t have to put in the poles.”
The new bike lanes are being installed this month as a pilot project to see whether they should be kept permanently. They roughly form a square along Bathurst, Richmond, Simcoe and Adelaide Sts.
Big-ticket bike lanes
Which streets have seen the most tickets for illegal parking in a bike lane? Data from the past two years:
Bloor Street W. – 5036
College St. – 3088
Sherbourne St. – 1061
Wellesley St. E. – 955
Bloor St. E. – 948
Gerrard St. E. – 907
Shuter St. – 702
Elizabeth St. – 694
Davenport Rd. – 685
St. George St. – 671
Gerrard St. W. – 605