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Bump Outs Coming to Roncesvalles

Posted by Joshua / May 5, 2009

Roncevalles Avenue Bump OutLater this year and next year Roncesvalles Avenue will be undergoing a rebuild and at today's Infrastructure Committee meeting at City Hall the design concept featuring bump outs and streetcar platforms that emerged from the Environmental Assessment was approved. The various community groups - coalesced into Roncevalles Renewed - have been providing input for about five years and the end result was presented - to some controversy (although whether it was controversial is questioned) - at a March 23rd community meeting. The project documents are available online (see PW24.5).

Councilor Gord Perks was confident that the only thing the committee was passing today was the broad concept for bump outs and that many details of the specific design will need to be worked out as the process continues. He invited the Toronto Cyclist's Union's Executive Director, Yvonne Bambrick, to participate in this process, essentially taking the wind out of the sails of Bambrick's disorganized objections to the proposals and its potential confusion for cyclists.

And it's confusion in general that seems to be at the root of the remaining controversy for this streetscape renovation.

The basic problem as the new look for Roncesvalles has been debated is a simple one of limited space. The right of way is not particularly large and it must accommodate the boulevard (aka sidewalks) with pedestrians (and trees, patios, etc), the busiest streetcar line in the world (504 King, with stops), cars (and parking for those 4-wheelers) and bicycles. Establishing dedicated bike lanes would have meant no parking at all on one side of the street. Turning Roncesvalles into 4 lanes of traffic would have meant infringing on the sidewalks or bicycle safety. And so on.

So the current design reduces the number of parking spaces very slightly (although one resident spoke passionately about large cuts on certain blocks, concerned people won't walk a few blocks to their business of choice) and gives space for cyclists and parked cars. It's a plan that tried to find middle ground, even analyzing demand for existing parking (pdf), ultimately leaving something for everybody to be happy about, or complain about.

But what really got people confused was the introduction of bump outs and transit platforms. The latter are meant to facilitate smooth boarding on the new streetcars, which will hit streets in 2011 (and in full force in the years after that). The bump outs are meant to make things safer for pedestrians. But where the cyclists will fit and how all this will actually look and work is still somewhat of a mystery.

So eight people lined up to speak in front of the committee this morning to variously express concern, objection and support. Most of the concern centered around parking or confusion.

Admittedly, I used to be steadfast in my thinking there had to be dedicated bike lanes. But my desire to dissuade driving was tempered by the simple reality that there are no "Green P" lots in the neighbourhood and cars are an integral part of our lives. We need to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians, but I don't want to see local business closing shop if Roncesvalles isn't considered accessible enough (of course, with as many streetcars as there are hitting the neighbourhood, Roncesvalles is about accessible as it gets in this city).

Ultimately I think the various interested parties concocted a good plan. The details of the bump outs obviously need to be worked out, but considering how closely the BIA and resident associations are working together and focused on this project, I'm confident the design will receive considerable community input.

Now it's just a matter of living through the utility upgrades that will disrupt neighbourhood life this year and the track replacement that will cause headaches next year. But by the end of 2010 - well, let's say by sometime in 2011 - Roncesvalles will have a whole new look.

Discussion

11 Comments

W. K. Lis / May 5, 2009 at 10:23 pm
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I always figured that the school parking lots in the area could be turned into Green P lots after school and on weekends.
Rachel / May 6, 2009 at 12:07 am
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I ride on Roncesvalles all the time. The worst thing is the bumpy road (its horrendous!) and going by parked cars and such, however its the same on this street as any other one (King, Dundas, Queen, you name it). Bump outs will only mean I can't slip past annoying street cars as pedestrians board, which will probably result in a few dangerous weeks as cyclists get used to it. If we ever do.
Mary replying to a comment from Rachel / May 6, 2009 at 09:20 am
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If you are riding a bike shouldn't you be stopping as pedestrians board the streetcars?
Joshua / May 6, 2009 at 09:45 am
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I should've emphasized that finding a way for cyclists to pass without stopping is part of the fine detail design process, and one of the concerns Yvonne Bambrick brought up. The current model is a modified version of what is done in Portland, which is an awkward setup that has cyclists going onto clearly marked sidewalk that is in-between the main transit platform and sidewalk. It looks ripe for disaster, but the version for Roncy is supposed to be modified from this. You can see the photo in <a href="http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2009/pw/bgrd/backgroundfile-20536.pdf";>the PDF appendix.</a>
Mort / May 6, 2009 at 11:01 am
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I would have thought that most of the clientele for Roncy businesses live within walking distance anyway, and part of the appeal of the neighbourhood is walking up and down, so parking at one end and walking is probably part of the shopping experience anyway.
Mark Dowling replying to a comment from W. K. Lis / May 6, 2009 at 11:16 am
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why not turn school parking lots into Green P all the time?
Joe / May 6, 2009 at 01:16 pm
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Great post, Joshua. I should point out that your assumption that "businesses may close up shop if there isn't enough parking" is a controversial one. There are numerous studies that show that making a street less convenient for cars and more convenient for transit, bikes and pedestrians *enhances* economic activity.

Why? Because a street that is a pleasant, safe place to be is a place where people *want* to spend time and spend money.
Robyn / May 6, 2009 at 02:07 pm
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"If you are riding a bike shouldn't you be stopping as pedestrians board the streetcars?"

Yes, you should. Slipping past while pedestrians board is dangerous and rude as well as illegal. Pass streetcars on the straights; it's a good workout!
Rachel replying to a comment from Robyn / May 6, 2009 at 02:12 pm
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I love that my comment about passing streetcars when they happen to be stopped (because I'm totally the only one who does it and am running pedestrians over all the time) is getting more attention more attention than the actual intent of this article.

Dobbs replying to a comment from Rachel / May 11, 2009 at 10:12 am
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That's because idiotic and illegal behavior of the type you're encouraging is a scourge city-wide, not just on Roncesvalles. You also didn't say, "passing streetcars when they're stopped". You said, "slip past annoying street cars as pedestrians board". Those are hardly the same thing. And you might not be the only one doing it, but that doesn't mean you should continue or that others will support your decision to do so.
Chris Ganowski replying to a comment from Mark Dowling / May 11, 2009 at 02:32 pm
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Actually, Howard Public school has a parking lot on Howard Park Ave. just west of Roncesvalles that IS open to the public after school hours and on weekends. It has over 30 parking spaces available.

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