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It's a transit platform, it's bike lane, it's a...?

Posted by Derek Flack / January 6, 2011

Roncesvalles Transit PlatformSo it's pretty much Roncesvalles day on blogTO. Along with taking a tour of the yet-to-be-completed construction with Rob Ford and members of the BIA this afternoon, I also spent some time checking out the new transit platforms that have been installed on the street. For whatever reason I've become more and more interested in urban infrastructure of this nature and ever since hearing about these, I've been curious to see just what the finished product will look like (in fact, it's the main reason I made the visit today).

What are they and what do they do? As Joshua Tusin noted in his post on them last year, transit platforms "are meant to facilitate smooth boarding on the new streetcars" and will "make things safer for pedestrians." They accomplish this by eliminating the need to step onto the road when entering and exiting streetcars (something which is crucial for those with mobility devices).

Transit Platform RoncesvallesBut therein lies some of the criticism these have received from cyclists. Although the north/south entrances to the platforms are sloped so that cyclists can easily ride on them (and thus not in the line of the streetcar), concern has been expressed over potential confusion over who these platforms belong to - pedestrians or cyclists. For my part, however, I suspect that signage (to come in spring) will ensure that people shouldn't be confused.

It seems rather obvious that when passengers are boarding the streetcar, cyclists must cede the right of way to them. That's the same as it would work on a street without a platform. Where it might get a little dicey is with people who ignore or disobey the instructions. In the absence of a platform, it's extremely rare to see folks standing out on the street waiting for the next vehicle. That lane, after all, is the domain of cars, and even when it's busy, people tend to value their personal safety enough to wait on the curb.

Transit Platform RoncesvallesBut the question is whether or not this will be the case when the threat of collision is reduced. Because bikes are quieter, less dangerous and (mostly) a less frequent source of traffic along this stretch, it wouldn't surprise me to see prospective passengers using the platforms while waiting for streetcars that have yet to arrive.

That's of course speculation -- and a skeptical bit at that -- but if you've ever been riding a bike and had a pedestrian shoot off the sidewalk into your path without looking, you're probably also of the belief that cyclists are often low on their radar.

But here's the thing: so what? If ideas were abandoned because of the potential that people might not follow instructions, that'd put a pretty serious damper on innovation. The real test will come in the early summer when construction is (hopefully) complete and all forms of traffic increase along Roncesvalles, but so far these transit platforms look okay to me.



Chino / January 6, 2011 at 07:20 pm
Interesting. So was the work along Roncesvalle mainly for these platforms?

Are there plans to expand these to other streets?
kat / January 6, 2011 at 07:20 pm
what you fail to mention is that cars are using the platforms for parking/don't notice them and drive up onto them as your photo above shows one of the signs knocked over. They are actually pretty dangerous right now.

Roncesvalles is no safer/faster than it was 2.5 years ago.
bob replying to a comment from kat / January 6, 2011 at 07:28 pm
The sign wasn't knocked down, it was placed there for what ever reason (it's pretty well aligned with the street and platform). And why would a car park in front of a transit shelter or streetcar stop? Oh wait, it's Toronto...
t / January 6, 2011 at 07:37 pm
it's bad enough when "lookers" drift into the street to see if they can see the next streetcar coming (it is a strongly held belief by these "lookers" that seeing the streetcar makes it come faster). these platforms will only enhance the phenomena, though after a bunch of collisions and near misses the regular Roncesvalles streetcar riders will hopefully learn to stay on the sidewalk.
JR / January 6, 2011 at 07:48 pm
So these are really ugly.....
Antony / January 6, 2011 at 08:07 pm
Looks fine, I expect it will be pretty much a non-issue. Some folks will stand in the bike lane, folks will ding their bells and say 'scuse me', problem will be resolved.

Then the cyclist will continue on in the bike lane, get doored in the collarbone and run over by a truck.
iSkyscraper / January 6, 2011 at 08:14 pm
JR is correct - using cheap-ass asphalt is pretty third-world, and doesn't help with the mixed-messages. In any other city with surface rail, these sloped platforms would be made of textured pavers. (Here's one example -

But poor, mean Toronto likes to reinvent everything on the cheap and on the ugly, undermining whatever goal they were trying to pull off and giving ammunititon to the haters (see: St. Clair, Spadina, garbage cans, Yonge Dundas square, bike lanes, tree pits....)

These little asphalt platforms are symbols of a much bigger disease.
Jen / January 6, 2011 at 08:14 pm
Yeah, I think cyclists will have problems with these, when pedestrians just stand in them waiting for the streetcar. Pedestrians won't realize they shouldn't, even when a cyclist rides right up to them, because pedestrians tend not to think like cyclists. Not smart, Toronto.
Myles / January 6, 2011 at 09:17 pm
Who knew there could be new source of potential conflict on Toronto's streets. Now accessibility considerations are putting cyclists and pedestrians in an uncomfortable dance.

To be fair it's not easy to resolve these things. Streets are complicated. What's confusing about these platforms is the long approach, which I guess is necessary because of back door egress form the streetcars. If the City's smart they'll yellow paint "caution bike lane" or something to that effect on the extended platform. Otherwise - collision city!
Stephen Rouse / January 6, 2011 at 09:23 pm
As a resident of the area I ran across another problem a couple weeks ago when people put their big recycling container to "the curb" which happened to be the lane you see here. Sure hope the street is well lit as that would be a rude awakening for a cyclist riding at night.
GI Poo / January 6, 2011 at 09:28 pm
bike lane symbol would help. If I were approaching this and saw people I'd weave into the space between the streetcar tracks, just as I would if there was a car parked there.

Expect to see BMX types and skateboarders hopping off the platform into the street.
K / January 6, 2011 at 10:25 pm
Very well written!
Kyle / January 6, 2011 at 10:25 pm
I'm sure this problem will sort itself out. Europe is covered in bike paths. Pedestrians tend to stand in them accidentally since they're literally everywhere, especially tourists who just arrived. You only get hit once by a bike before you learn to look where you're standing.
m / January 6, 2011 at 10:38 pm
Kamal / January 6, 2011 at 11:05 pm
They couldn't even bother to make these concrete... these do look like they could be confusing for drivers. From a distance I'd imagine they just look like painted lines.
Martin / January 6, 2011 at 11:28 pm
Currently the modifications are a total failure. To be fair I will have to wait until everything is finished to see how it will work out, but currently:

At the High Park Blvd/Fermanagh Ave TTC stop on the east side going north:
a)people standing on the bike/asphalt section staring at their smart phones not moving when I have riden through.
b)the produce store’s 6 (or 8?) garbage bins are neatly placed by the city on the bike/asphalt section every night after pick up, blocking the lane.
c)a car parked at the entrance to the bike/asphalt section to go get food at the Friendly Thai, blocked cyclists but more importantly blocked a streetcar for 5 minutes, and when he came out to leave yelled expletives to everyone as opposed to remorse for holding up traffic.

At other TTC stops along the street cars have been parked at both entrances & exits to bike/asphalt lane, at various times.

I can’t wait for real snow to fall and what happens when there is a huge pile of snow from snowplows at the entrance to the bike/asphalt sections, I have ridden in the winter in the past it hasn't been a problem to ride down the street.

I have to disagree with you Derek on people standing on the street looking for streetcars or the huge mass that gather on the road as it approaches, no seems to head the rule that your supposed to stay on the sidewalk until the doors open.

From the TTC website

Customers who enter the roadway before the streetcar has stopped and opened its doors can be fined $28.00

I’m not confident that the general public will understand not to stand on the asphalt while waiting for streetcars, nor will people not try to squeeze their cars into places they shouldn’t park, forcing riders into the street.

If everyone was aware and worked together the street would work, but I doubt it. I guess time will tell.
subversible / January 6, 2011 at 11:51 pm
when and if there's a fire on roncey, then we're going to see how bad an idea Gord Perks had….
RG / January 7, 2011 at 08:07 am
Worth a try
Fathead / January 7, 2011 at 09:02 am
I think it's great! Now we pedestrians can get in the way of cyclists, kind of like when cyclists ride across a cross walk or the side walk.
SP / January 7, 2011 at 09:35 am
as someone who lives in the area takes the streetcar, rides my bike, and drives occasionally, i unfortunately think that these transit platforms, while good intentioned, are a waste and once again show that the Roncesvalles street redesign was done poorly.

i've already once been held up on the streetcar because a car has parked too close to the starting of the platform, thus making the streetcar unable to pass, so i can't imagine when the street eventually gets busier what it would be like.

also, what will happen when a streetcar brakes down? there are quite a few stops North and South on Roncesvalles, so there are quite a few of these taking over the respective right lanes. People won't be able to weave past a broken car without major headaches.

Lastly, when the street was finally reopened in early December, i read in a Globe & Mail article that bike lanes will also be coming. How is that possible?

Did they change the plans and the Globe was misinformed, or did the planners plan a "super street" with wide sidewalks, transit platforms, bike lanes, and who knows what else, only to realize that it's impossible on Roncesvalles.
J.S. / January 7, 2011 at 10:09 am
The platforms do not take up any space that was not already being taken up by parked cars before. The right lane was never available for passing streetcars or broken-down cars. I am not sure why SP is only wondering about how to weave past a transit platform now, when SP presumably didn't care about how weave past a row of parked cars before the redesign.
Laurie / January 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm
When the markings are painted on the platforms it will reduce pedestrian confusion. A couple of narrow pilons between the bike lane and traffic lane on the approaches to the platform will prevent illegal parking there.
electric / January 7, 2011 at 03:16 pm
I'm going to get some sweet air off that ramp on my way back from work!

Mark Dowling / January 7, 2011 at 03:36 pm
The yellow strip should be on the curb, not the bike lane. Having it on the lane encourages people to stand at/behind it as they would a subway platform.
KD replying to a comment from SP / January 7, 2011 at 07:11 pm
Hi SP:

The Globe article was incorrect. Roncesvalles is too narrow for proper bike lanes. There's been a fair bit of confusion surrounding the bike ramps at transit platforms. Lots of press confuse or conflate the ramps with lanes.

For the most part, biking on Roncesvalles will be exactly as before: bike beside a row of parked cars. Biggest real difference IMO: a smooth ride! Finally!
gricer1326 / January 7, 2011 at 10:11 pm
OK, this is a step in the right direction, but asphalt cannot be used as part of a sidewalk (or in this case a platform)! What's likely is that these are temporary and the City intends to replace them later. If not i'm gonna be pissed.
Also, denote the platforms as bike lanes and only allow people to use them for boarding and alighting, after that they must stand clear.
Ratpick / January 8, 2011 at 08:20 am
You have all missed the point. These features were built so that cars would have an easier time mounting the curb and wiping out whoever is waiting for the TTC.
gricer1326 replying to a comment from Ratpick / January 8, 2011 at 01:12 pm
Are you for real?
Larry / January 8, 2011 at 06:46 pm
If the platform/bumpout is supposed to make boarding a streetcar easier (without having to step into the street), I think they've got it backwards. Riders should be waiting at the curb - in fact maybe the shelter should be moved farther out - and bike lanes should be routed behind them, between the main sidewalk and the waiting area. Pedestrians would only have to cross the bike lane to get to their own island.
Mikey / January 9, 2011 at 03:02 pm
I was skeptical of these bump outs at first but after walking up and down roncy, waiting for the streetcar and riding my bike over these bumps, I can see that they are in fact well conceived. It's a smooth ride for a cyclist and the black asphalt lets pedestrians know its a lane. It's only a matter of time (maybe a ticket from bylaw enforcement?) before people stop putting their garbage bins on them.
Ratpick replying to a comment from gricer1326 / January 9, 2011 at 11:00 pm
Yes, gricer1326, I am for real. Pull my beard and see for yourself.

I also ride the TTC every day and my streetcar stop is the one above with the mown-down sign. My point was that these rampy things are extremely poor design. They WILL catch outsider motorists off guard, so heads up!
gricer1326 replying to a comment from Ratpick / January 9, 2011 at 11:29 pm
Honestly, what kind of a comment is that to make about what is obviously a step in the right direction? Anemic, yes, but nevertheless a step in the right direction. We are coming closer to making our streetcars curbside! Everyone will be happier that way. So please don't prematurely stifle progress.
Aaron replying to a comment from gricer1326 / January 10, 2011 at 08:59 am

Right over your head
Ratpick replying to a comment from gricer1326 / January 10, 2011 at 09:44 am
Well, as you stand on these launch ramps waiting for your streetcar, I hope that your confidence in progress protects you from the confused motorist heading your way.

You should try driving a car down Roncesvalles. Those rampy bumpy things are almost invisible from the P.O.V. of a motorist, especially one who has never seen such a structure before.

Forward-thinking urban planners have not always been right, you know.
Feldwebel Wolfenstool / January 10, 2011 at 09:47 am
That's a space on the road that's been solely reserved for Mad Mike Bryant.
gricer1326 replying to a comment from Aaron / January 10, 2011 at 12:18 pm
gricer1326 replying to a comment from Ratpick / January 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm
I'm not saying they're perfect, i'm saying they are an improvement over what we had before, which was a shelter on the sidewalk. The next step is to replace the asphalt with brick or a different colour of concrete to denote the bicycle lane and make the platforms more visible to motorists.
JB / January 10, 2011 at 01:40 pm

In the renders from back in 2007 they clearly portrayed these bump-outs as being concrete sidewalk extensions with a little ramp & gully for bikes to pass through.

These things look really cheap - not the kind of thing businesses signed up for when they decided to endure 2 years of construction for supposedly a gorgeous streetscape.
Ratpick replying to a comment from gricer1326 / January 10, 2011 at 02:26 pm
Maybe that'll help -- as long as they do a better job with the bricks there, than they did on the sidewalks.

I still think these, and the idea of bringing the curb to the streetcar on a functioning street of mixed traffic, will fail. They're trying to accommodate 5 elements: motorists, streetcars, wheelchair accessibility, cyclists AND pedestrians. I say pick 3 or maybe 4 of those elements and do it right.
gricer1326 replying to a comment from Ratpick / January 10, 2011 at 04:31 pm
Like I said, the current platforms are probably temporary installations which will be rebuilt properly when construction starts again. Portland has effectively brought the curb to the streetcar on functioning streets of mixed traffic for years and they haven't had many problems. I don't see why we would either.
Missy replying to a comment from Ratpick / January 11, 2011 at 01:23 am
That is so funny but true. I have thought of doing that myself, with my car! Great minds think alike. lolololol Not intentionally of course. But the possibility of such an accident is real strong.
Those bump-outs are yet again another real stupid urban planning mess! Sorry cyclists,
I would have rather they used a portion of the widened sidewalk as a dedicated bike lane for you, so as to keep you safer. But alas, that would have been way to easy I guess.
Missy replying to a comment from Kamal / January 11, 2011 at 01:38 am

Yes, the Roncesvalles bump-outs/bike lane is the experiment for the rest of Transit City.
Can you believe it. They want to put these suckers all over the place. I hope that Mayor Ford's insistence to re-design TC will omit them, now that he has seen these ridiculous eyesores for what they really are. A USELESS MESS!

Gord Perks should spend a year working with sub-division builder.....he may then learn a thing or two. Until then, wishful thinking blunders is all he is capable of.
joe silva / August 9, 2011 at 03:52 am
this is so fucking supid david miller and his pinco friends and him fucking left wing assholes at city hall dont think about the money the bussiness are going to loose because people cant park there cars get the fucking bike union asshole to pay for that instend who payed are the poor old ladies and men that are on a penion are are just struggling by to pay there property taxes and put food on the table but most of these fucking envo freeks that rent apts and rooms have fucing noting to do but make up fake fucking e mails to the fucking asshole conncelor at approved this fucking bullshit the money that was spend for this project could gone to help yhe elderly in the area or to the hosptals in the area instead fucking david fucking asshole miller and his fucking pinko left wing freinds spent it allon this bull shit i hope ford cleans the fucking shit out of city hall and respects the eldery taxpayers in the area they where there before these fucking left wing tree huggers moved in go back to your fucking towns where you came from i was born in this city 46 years ago and these fucking freeks where not around so lets wait and see how many people get hurt or die in these fucking bike lane like that fucking asshole that hit the old lady going down the one way sreet the rong way last month remember that and licence these fucking ediots that dont obey the traffic laws but they want there own lane well get you fucking bike union assholes that in the to pay for that annex to pay for that wait till the snow comes and these fucking curbs you cant see them because there covered in snow and you damage you wheels send the bill to david miller and and his asshole left wing pinkos riding there bikes
joe silva replying to a comment from Feldwebel Wolfenstool / August 9, 2011 at 04:02 am
what a fucking name you fucking freek go bact to bc and hug your fucking tree and go paint your pictures in you fucking room and smoke your dope and ride your bike with the flowers in the basket better yet go join your pinko freinds in amsterdam holand country and city where not built be you fucking leftwing envo freeks go back to your small town you fucking asshole
joe silva replying to a comment from Feldwebel Wolfenstool / August 9, 2011 at 04:03 am
stick you fucking name in you your ass and also david millers hes your boyfriend
Michael / August 13, 2011 at 09:50 pm
Just another example of engineering-by-committee that Toronto is so well known for.
Feldwebel Wolfenstool / December 18, 2011 at 02:51 pm
...I think something crawled up joe-boy silva's ass, and died...
Feldwebel Wolfenstool / December 18, 2011 at 02:52 pm
...and it wasn't me...
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