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Community & Culture

Cycling in Heels - Bike Lane Safety

Bike lanes help protect city cyclists. But what happens when that safe space is obstructed? Bonny hopped on her bike to find out.

by Bonny van Rest

Hi, Bonny here!

Thanks for coming back to read cycling 🚲 in heels 👠. In this episode I’m exploring the topic of bike lane safety.

In our last episode, we looked how difficult it is to safely navigate city streets — especially intersections, where it’s not always clear what to do as a cyclist. In order to avoid any unnecessary risks, I try to avoid busy streets and use dedicated bike lanes where possible. These lanes certainly help me feel a bit safer as a cyclist, however you’d be surprised at how often bikes lanes are obstructed — with stopped cars, construction, road debris — you name it!

I feel that cyclists already have such little safe space on the streets, that it can be quite frustrating to see that limited space cluttered with obstructions that make it that much more dangerous. The City of Toronto is actively looking at streets where it can extend bike lanes to allow more room for safe cycling; but before we create more lanes, I feel we should really be taking care of the ones that we already have. As @TomFlood1 said on Twitter, “It doesn’t matter how many bikes, lines and arrows a city paints on the road, if people don’t feel safe using them it’s just not good enough.

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It was reassuring to see that I’m not alone in this frustration, and it got me wondering how often bike lane obstructions happen. One of my favourite Twitter accounts belongs to a #TorontoPolice Service -Parking Enforcement-Bicycle Patrol Officer, Erin Urquhart, aka @TPS_BikeHart. She often tweets out bike lane obstructions that she encounters during her everyday bike patrol in the city. Last month, Officer Urquhart did a short 8 km loop in downtown Toronto, and came across six obstructions during that time. Shocking! I wanted to test this experiment for myself, so I set out on my bike to see how many bike lane obstructions I would encounter during a 10-minute bike ride nearby the Onlia office (check out the video below).

From construction debris, to being squished between a streetcar and a truck, to a poll in the bike lane — I quickly found a few examples of unsafe situations for cyclists. At one point I got off my bike in to clear the lane of an obstruction, and became a dangerous obstruction for an oncoming cyclist myself! How can we prevent these situations from happening? And how would you safely clear obstructions from bike lanes? Tweet us your thoughts @OnliaCA #OnliaCA.

Bike safe.


Aka. Cycling 🚲 in heels 👠

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