'Flimsy' bike lane barriers need replacing to protect cyclists, advocates say

A cycling advocacy group says the bollards the city has been using to provide barriers for many of its bike lanes are too "flimsy" and a new, permanent solution is needed to protect the growing number of people opting to use bikes to move around Toronto.

'We need to use concrete curbs as barriers for protected bike lanes in the city of Toronto.' - Jared Kolb, executive director, Cycle Toronto

Jared Kolb, the executive director of Cycle Toronto, says while bollards put in place by the city to protect some bike lanes are a really great retrofit solution, frustration is growing among cyclists who say a permanent fix is needed.

"These bollards, they're fairly flimsy; motor vehicles can just roll right over them and they can get damaged as well. There are downed bollards across the city," Kolb told CBC Toronto.

"That's not only a safety consideration for people that are walking by or riding by but it's also fairly unsightly."

David Donnelly/CBC

Kolb is also concerned that brand new bike lanes are being rolled out with the bollards, rather than more sturdy barriers.

He said when the bollards break, they sometimes fall right into the bike lane and someone who's not accustomed to riding the particular route may miss them.

Additionally, Kolb said, if a number of the bollards are knocked down, drivers enter through the open space and start parking in the bike lanes.

 "We'd encourage the city to really take a second look at that and to create a more permanent solution that is sturdier," he said. 

"We need to use concrete curbs as barriers for protected bike lanes in the city of Toronto."

CBC

In a statement, the city said it has about 2,000 bollards on 16 bike corridors in Toronto. Road operations staff respond to complaints and remove "downed or significantly damaged" bollards, according to city spokesperson Eric Holmes.

Holmes said replacement of the bollards that have been removed is done in batches and it usually takes about two to three weeks for staff to collect enough work to issue a work order to a contractor for repairs. Replacement follows staff patrols and resident requests, he added.

Holmes said the "approximate average bid price" for the supply and installation of removable tubular bollards is $150.

Full inspection of the bollards is done at least twice a year, usually in the spring so that infrastructure in the city is in its best condition for the start of cycling season and in the fall just before winter begins, he said.

"Winter replacements can be a challenge with snow accumulation, so damaged bollards are often removed if they have become a concern and the replacement installed when weather permits or during the spring cleanup," Holmes added.

Not all cyclists agree with call for concrete barriers

Andrew Leinonen said the more infrastructure there is close to the bike lanes, the less freedom there is for riders to take their own precautions.

CBC

In fact, instead of barriers, Leinonen believes clearly marked lanes is the way to go.

"I like well demarcated lanes particularly where the [drivers of] vehicles know where the bikes are supposed to be and where they are supposed to be," he told CBC Toronto.

"Just communicate that as clearly as possible."

Meanwhile, Jesper Wahlberg, who grew up in Denmark, said the cycling culture in Toronto is exploding.

He said when he stands at some intersections during rush hour, there are usually up to 40 bikes, something he said is reminiscent of growing up in Europe. But he said the infrastructure has not kept pace with the rate at which the cycling culture is growing.

"We're really behind. The infrastructure is not quite there and this is a bit of a joke," Wahlberg said.