Sharing space along Roncesvalles

The recent death of a cyclist on Eglinton Avenue reminds us of the dangers of riding on roads dominated by cars. In this tragic case, the driver of a parked car thoughtlessly opened her door into the path of the cyclist, who then fell into the path of a cube van. His death has prompted cycling activists to push for more bike lanes under Toronto’s Bike Plan. Roncesvalles is not part of the Bike Plan, likely due to the lack of real estate (Sorauren and High Park Blvd are the recommended alternatives). The proposed 2009 Roncesvalles reconstruction plan proposes “sharrow lanes,” where road markings would indicate to all users that the road belongs to both bikes and cars. But is this all that can be done to encourage the sharing of our road?

Recent new thinking suggests that strict divisions between traffic zones and an overreliance on signage and signals can sometimes be counterproductive. Against all intuition, recent evidence suggests that this “corset of prescriptions” may actually make things less safe. When roads are highly regulated, motorists tend to drive more ruthlessly, seeking out personal advantage within their zones of entitlement. But when drivers, cyclists and pedestrians lose these entitlements and are all given more freedom, they reassume responsibility and safer practices emerge. This thinking has been called the Shared Space Philosophy or the “Monderman Model,” after an early advocate, Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman. It was a hot topic at the recent Walk21 Conference in Toronto, where Dan Egan, the City’s manager of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, described Monderman as a “philosopher-engineer.”

Is there a way of using road architecture to encourage a new traffic culture along Roncesvalles? Could we create a street where cyclists ride alongside cars in the same lane, while making things safer for both? Could we actually shorten trip times while slowing Roncesvalles down? The “Full Monderman” may not be feasible on a North American road where drivers are too accustomed to certain features. But some of these ideas can already be seen on a few Toronto streets, such as St. George Street. What would work on Roncesvalles? Please share your ideas with the BIA (info@roncesvallesvillage.ca)!

SEE ALSO:

Can naked streets make pedestrians sexy? (Spacing.ca)

Some modest proposals to liberate city streets (Toronto Star)

Roads Gone Wild (Wired)