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Stifling Urban Bicycling 8

Bicycling in Toronto

All photos by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

This website normally focuses on the positive things happening around the world with respect to improving conditions for urban bicycling. This post however is going to focus on the negative aspects that we see in many North American cities that end up stifling urban bicycling.

In countries like the Netherlands or Denmark – with established urban bicycling cultures, you will seldom encounter obstacles that are designed to discourage you from bicycling. But here in North America, there are plenty of laws, signs, and infrastructure that make it inconvenient to ride a bicycle.

A prime case in point is the fact that my condo building doesn’t allow bicycles on outdoor patios, or inside the building or on elevators. It also prohibits bicycles from being parked in the parking garage beside automobiles. Thus, it’s no wonder that most residents in my building take public transit, walk, or drive to work.

The rules don’t stop there. Cities have municipal/provincial laws, signs and terrible infrastructure scattered across our city that can make it uncomfortable to ride a bicycle, thus tempting people back on to public transit or their automobiles.

Some of these rules make sense:

HTA 178(1) – Attaching to a vehicle – You are not permitted to attach yourself to the outside of another vehicle or streetcar for the purpose of “hitching a ride.” Set fine: $85.00

Other laws are just asinine:

Unable to keep both hands on handlebars ($8.75 fine)

I wonder how I’m supposed to signal my turn while keeping both of my hands on the handlebars? (HTA section 142(1) – $85 fine).

To highlight some of the obstacles that we face here in Toronto, I gathered some photos of signs and bad infrastructure that I have encountered around the city. Most of these photos are simply a result of bad urban planning.

Here is a sign that reminds bicyclists that they too must stop. I’d like to see a reminder to motorists that the sign applies to them. Because just like bicyclists, many drivers don’t stop at stop signs either:

Bicycling in Toronto

These “cyclists dismount” signs are all over the city. I have yet to see anyone actually dismount (including myself):

Bicycling in Toronto

This sign indicates to bicyclists that they need to walk their bike 60 metres where the trail will resume (thankfully the city built a new trail in 2010 that bypasses this section of the trail):

Bicycling in Toronto

Bike lanes in Toronto often end abruptly:

Bicycling in Toronto

Bicyclists must squeeze into the lane with cars:

Bicycling in Toronto

Another “cyclists dismount” sign. Perhaps we should post some “drivers dismount” signs around the city for fun:

Bicycling in Toronto

This is a marked bicycle route. Usually bicycle routes are quiet, safe streets. However, this route goes through a nasty dark tunnel (without a bike lane):

Bicycling in Toronto

And when you emerge to the other side, there are dump trucks and potholes everywhere:

Bicycling in Toronto

This is my favourite sign. The bicycle route continues 75 metres to the left. However, you aren’t legally allowed to turn left. Break the law, or forget about the “bike route”:

Bicycling in Toronto

This parking lot (and prime waterfront area) allows neither bicyclists nor pedestrians:

Bicycling in Toronto

Many bike lanes in Toronto put bicyclists in the “door zone” of parked automobiles:

Bicycling in Toronto


To end this post on a positive note, things could be much worse: we could be stuck in this mess:

Bicycling in Toronto

All photos by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at

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8 thoughts on “Stifling Urban Bicycling

  1. Kevin Love Dec 13,2010 4:18 pm

    If your condo building was erected after July 20,1993 then it is required to have secure bicycle parking. See:

    Page 34 has the by-law requirements. It must be a secure bike room or bike lockers.

    If your building does not conform to the by-law and it was erected after July 20, 1993, then I advice you to make a complaint to the City’s by-law enforcement enforcement officer.

  2. James D. Schwartz Dec 13,2010 5:04 pm

    Hey Kevin, I left out some of the details to increase dramatic effect 😉 Actually, I left out the details because I didn’t want to drag it on trying to explain why it’s a pain.

    The building does provide bike lockers, but it’s quite frankly a real pain in the butt to use the bike lockers. It works fine for recreational bicycling, but when you use your bicycle every single day, the lockers aren’t practical – simply because it takes about 10 minutes just to retrieve your bicycle.

    Anyway, I lock my bike up on my ground-floor patio – which is technically against the rules, but not enforced (like many asinine bicycling rules in Toronto).

  3. Ryan Dec 13,2010 5:56 pm

    That’s the one thing that always turned me off of condo living (minus a big fire that just happened that forced a few hundred out).
    Too many rules and not always bike friendly.
    I did notice a condo in Victoria once that advertised on “plenty of secure bike parking”.

    Likewise in Montréal many realtor’s put down “close to bus stop & close to bike lanes/paths” (Condo or house mind you).

    As for the dismount sign, fortunately the only ones we encounter here in St. Catharines are along the Welland Canal, which are few and far between. You can always spot the tourists because they are the ones dismounting.

  4. Alexwarrior Dec 14,2010 12:34 am

    My old 6th floor apartment that I leased from 2005-2006 had a clause in the lease that said I couldn’t store bicycles in the suite, on the balcony, or move a bicycle through the hallways or on the elevator. I broke that rule pretty much every day, often right in front of the building manager, but the rule was never brought up luckily, lol.

  5. Mr. S. Dec 14,2010 9:59 am

    Toronto has a world of stupid signs and infrastructure for the simple reason that they’re not planned by people who ride! You should throw up pictures of the stretches along Harbord and Queen’s Quay where the bike lane is disrupted because the city won’t tell drivers to take anyone else’s life into consideration: places where lanes are needed most. In any case bike-lanes and signs are not the most important: policing drivers is. That and heavy liability is how it is done here in Tokyo.

    Sure, they have cyclists on the committees, but do the cyclists have the final say? Cyclists who work with the city may have the best intentions, but I’d never join one of these committees for the same reason I wouldn’t have served Vichy-France: don’t be a collaborator.

  6. James D. Schwartz Dec 15,2010 3:30 pm

    Alex, my building is similar – the bicycle rules aren’t enforced. But it’s annoying having to break rules.

    Mr. S/JamesMallon, one of the photos here is from Queens Quay highlighting those abruptly-ending lanes.

    I think enforcement does help, but I think it takes more than just enforcement to change society. An interesting case study is drinking and driving. Even with increased enforcement & increased penalties, lots of people still drink and drive.

    Although I think the root cause of drinking and driving is how we have designed our cities. The only way people in the ‘burbs can get to bars is to drive. We have built “bix box” bars instead of neighbourhoods with local taverns that are within walking distance.

    The design of our cities has been one of the most damaging things we have done to our society/environment.

  7. Daniel Dec 15,2010 4:02 pm

    a good one from Montreal – it is illegal to attach (i.e. lock) your bike to street furniture (including parking signs). happily it’s even less enforced than jay-walking by-laws…

  8. Pingback: Berkeley Bicycle Licensing and $220 Fines ← The Urban Country

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