As a followup to my post earlier this week about how dangerous cycling is in Toronto, I decided to take my camera with me on my daily commute. Over two days, I managed to take snaps of the many wonderful uses of bike lanes – it turns out these are incredibly versatile strips of land. Which means the city would be crazy not to maintain them properly, right? Eh? Oh:

Well, anyway. Here’s my ABC of the many wonderful uses of bike lanes.

Bike lanes are for: Ambulances, in case of accidents:

Bike lanes are for: Bi-modal parking, because sidewalks just aren’t big enough:

Bike lanes are for: Council vans, because there’s nowhere to park the fleet:

Bike lanes are for: Deliveries, so every store should have one:

Bike lanes are for: Excavating, to save us digging up car lanes:

Bike lanes are for: Free parking, just right for a quick bit of shopping:

Bike lanes are for: Going around, because we like the scenic route:

Bike lanes are for: Hydro vans, because mobile workshops are cool:

Bike lanes are for: Idiots, who swim against the flow:

Bike lanes are for: Junk piles, because trash is expensive to haul:

Bike lanes are for: Kerb repairs, a safety margin for the crew:

Bike lanes are for: Lorries, although Canadians call them trucks:

Bike lanes are for: Manhole covers, spaced carefully across the lane:

Bike lanes are for: “No stopping” signs, though nobody knows they’re there:

Bike lanes are for: On-kerb parking, which the police just happen to ignore:

Bike lanes are for: Patching practice, because road crews have to learn:

Bike lanes are for: Quantities of dirt, which are just too big for elsewhere:

Bike lanes are for: Rails. Streetcar rails. You never know when you’ll need them:

Bike lanes are for: Spillovers, because building sites are so small:

Bike lanes are for: Timber piles – look how much will fit:

Bike lanes are for: Unexpected doors, that open in your face:

Bike lanes are for: Very large scoops, just waiting to make more holes:

Bike lanes are for: Washrooms, because even cyclists need to pee:

Bike lanes are for: TaXis, they’re out there cruising for fares:

Bike lanes are for: Yellow diggers, and yes, that’s the second one today:

Bike lanes are for: Zooming along, on the few occasions they’re clear:

Note: All photos were taken by me, this week, on my commute to work, except for the taxi, as the one I was trying to snap drove away too quick (see: Taxi photo credit). Click the photos for bigger versions on Flickr.


  1. Reminds me of the time that I got almost forked over by a huge truck while biking to work (YorkU) at Keele St. He was in the wrong, but didn’t seem to care nor have seen what happened. Glad to now be cycling through the fields again…

  2. There’s a spot on my route to work that I really ought to photograph, there’s space for parallel parking and a bike lane. When I ride along there, however, there’s usually at least one car parked diagonally, so that they not only cover the bike lane but also jut out into the road.

    Fortunately there’s a mixed use pedestrian/cyclist path most of the way, which means I only have to contend with pedestrian slalom every morning and evening.

  3. And then there’s this:

    Which is a little bit silly, but funny in an ow-my-balls sort of way.

    (h/t: The Digital Cuttlefish)

  4. Some classic cycle lane travesties here in case you haven’t seen them. And here’s some guardian reader’s worst cycle lanes.

  5. As a cyclist, sometimes I get a little uneasy about posts like this. I’m afraid people will think that cyclists are just a bunch of complainers who think they deserve a perfect, clear road for zipping along.

    Some of these photos are of relevant activities that legitimately need to obstruct the bike lane. Sidewalk construction/maintenance is as necessary as any other construction, and generally takes place next to bike lanes, it also might mean tearing up a bit of the lane temporarily. There are multitudes of services provided below the ground (electric, water, sewer, runoff, telecommunications, gas, etc.), and sometimes they need to be accessed from above. This also causes legitimate construction in bike lanes.

    While it is fine to strive for clear bike lanes, I think it is important to remember that just like construction happens on roadways, it will happen in bike lanes as well.

  6. @Drew: I think you missed the point of the post. One can argue that all of these things are legitimate; the problem isn’t any of them individually, the problem is that bike lanes are being abused systematically by everyone at the same time. All of these were taken on one route through Toronto in the space of two days last week. If there are that many encroachments into bike lanes all going on at once, it’s plain that everyone regards bike lanes as mutable, and they can be blocked in ways that would be unthinkable for car lanes. Some of the blockages I photographed have been there for weeks, and some for months. No-one would think of dumping construction materials in a car lane for months on end (with no sign of any nearby construction). But in a bike lane, it’s considered okay, because it’s only bikes that are inconvenienced.

    The pattern of abuses, taken as a whole, indicates car-centric thinking. The city can boast a growing network of bike lanes, while in practice most of them are unusable (for cyclists) most of the time. Meanwhile, cyclists, as one of the most vulnerable groups of road users, have to navigate around these obstacles, weaving in and out of other traffic lanes.

    What we really need is a re-design of the streets so that bike lanes are not an afterthought; not just a strip of spare land at the margin of the road. They need to be protected so that they do not offer all the affordances I list above, so that they don’t become just the default space for all the things people don’t want in other traffic lanes.

  7. not just a strip of spare land at the margin of the road
    That is, a gutter.

  8. 0) Great set of pictures! but

    1) Definitely bad, almost worse than having no bike lanes, but it could be worse yet: Bicycyle commuting in Los Angeles. Raw terror,

    2) Fortunately for us, Silicon Valley is pretty good, as is San Francisco. Of course, the climate helps, but so do well-marked bike lanes, bike overpasses over freeways, bike cars in trains, etc … but probably the best thing is a perceptible mode switch when biking reaches some critical mass.
    If few people bike, they are a surprise and motorists handle them poorly, but at some point, any rework of a street tends to get bike lanes, drivers get used to them, and enough people bike some of the time to appreciate the issues when they are driving.

  9. From John’s link, pull on threads to get to here:

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