York Urbanist

Archive for the ‘Trails’ Category

Calculating Vaughan’s Cure for Congestion

June 9th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Recreation, Trails

Vaughan’s crisis is congestion.  The solution may be simpler than you think, but hard to believe.

You hear it from the car drivers, politicians, ratepayers associations and businesses. Driving through Maple is calamitous 7:30 to 9am and 3:30 to 6:30pm. Travelers have been given a vent around Maple with Teston’s access from Hwy 400, Keele and McNaughton.  But how does that help businesses on Major Mackenzie?  Eight lanes of Rutherford east of Hwy 400 create confusion for the uninitiated. Where do I get off?  How do I get to the curb lane? Keele and Jane Streets are dense with traffic day-long while Dufferin Street awaits infill of housing before it will also be intolerable. But herein lies an opportunity.

Hwy 7 rail overpassCouncillor Carella is holding the sword to lead the charge to make the rail crossing of Hwy 7 near Islington Avenue wider for cars beneath. But this is not the rail company’s mistake. It is the error of near sighted planning of suburban street patterns that are not permeable to the traffic that oversize lots generate. There are alternatives to easy fixes as the Councillor is touting.

IMG_00003295Drivers use the hypotenuse that is Islington Avenue through Kleinburg to avoid jamming on Hwy 27′s two traffic signals.  With earlier planning of streets and smart signals at the intersections in advance of subdivisions, density of street traffic could have been paused a few years. But that solution has passed.

The long term cure is allowing planning for lands developed over 40 years ago to redevelop to higher density and mixed use, prior to allowing single family lots to be developed on the edges.  Mississauga suffered the last decade of Hazel’s reign because of just that – too many single family housing units strewn to the edges of Mississauga’s developable land.  And without opportunity for employment nearby, cars jammed the streets leading to the already congested 400-series highways.  But there is a short-term fix at minimal cost that can be funded by subdivision planning in process.  Learn from Mississauga’s traffic and financial debacles. Typically, employment lands frame the highways.  Residential lands extend away from employment lands. Inefficiently, traffic crosses the employment lands from residential communities. But as congestion dictates unrecoverable time on the road, people change their housing desires.  They want to be closer to work.  They avoid congestion by the move or by their time of use. The latter has implications on their employment agreements with their employers. So, moving closer makes more sense.  Yet, how does one get from that closer housing to place of work? Streets are for cars in Vaughan. Sidewalks are too narrow for comfort, if they exist at all.

Now for the simple solution. car size bicycle parking Address the alternative short-trip facilities: transit; cycling; and pedestrian routes. Do this before opportunities disappear as happened in Toronto. Broad boulevards required by dictatorial engineers of the past remain on regional roads and the major street grid of Vaughan. Having cycled east to west along Rutherford Road, there is ample space to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.  Street Diet is a term used to reduce 2 lane widths by 0.6m each to create a 1.2m wide cycle lane. Emergency vehicles are not affected, as the pavement width does not change..only the line painting! Calculation: 1000 vehicles per hour through an intersection – If 1% of drivers change to cycling or walking, we lose 10 vehicles (through every intersection they pass). Translated, that could be one signal transition less for your trip to work….. Each signal.  How many signals do you pass on your way to work? A typical 1/2 hour trip to work could be reduced by 5 minutes. This buys you one half a work week of time each year. All this for the cost of paint on existing roads.

cyclists and peds compared to carsParts of Islington Avenue south of Major Mackenzie have a 2.5m wide asphalt multi-use trail.  This is an excellent example of providing access for students to Emily Carr High School…. except that it ends before it gets to the school! This trail is cheaper than installing the City’s 1.5m wide concrete sidewalk but accommodates both cycling and walking! More of these safe and comfortable trails would encourage children to ride – in other words, mom/dad are not diverting to the school, too.  Calculation: Estimate that each trip is 4km extra for mom/dad.  Each school has 1500 students.  If 20% get rides to school, then there are 300 trips of 4km or 1200km per day. Reduce that by encouragement through better cycling routes to reduce trips to school by 25% and 300km are saved. At 60 cents per kilometre, then direct cost savings are $180 per day. In one school year, $36,000 of direct costs are saved. That would buy 300m of trails in one year. In the four years of high school, 1.2km of trails are afforded. In the 30 year life cycle of one high school building, over 8km of trails could be built for no real cost.  Fifteen high schools in Vaughan translate into 120km of cycling trails FOR FREE.

Not to mention the reduced carbon footprint.   You are trafficwhat's the point of cycle lanes

Cycle the 400 Series Highways

May 30th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Recreation, Trails

Why Cycle Lanes on 400 series highways?

  • Effective Use of land: Wasted space on the edges of highways requires MORE maintenance than the paved surfaces that could be trails. The highways have removed oxygen producing trees and shrubs, replacing them with grass, which is often mown. The asphalt of a cycle lane is not damaged like that of motorized vehicle lanes, so maintenance is minimal.
  • The direction cyclists want to go: Just as we in motorized vehicles want a stopless direct route to destinations, so to do cyclists.
  • Understanding Commuter cyclists: 400-series highways are built for commuters, although their primary purpose is to give access for delivery of goods from hinterlands to cities. Cyclists are also commuters.
  • Exiting Toronto fast: 400 series highways provide the most direct exit from the city and have available land on their edges.
  • Reduced grades: Although avid cyclists like the challenge of changes in grades, commuter cyclists are appreciative of the requirements of MTO to maintain grades at less than 5% inclines.
  • Positive reaction from cycling community: When this was raised in a workshop and on line, avid cyclists had to think for a moment. Yes, they said, this provides the opportunity to turn my recreation to a method of getting to work.
  • Puts planning in the provincial jurisdiction: Currently, the provision of cycling facilities is the purview of municipalities. As such, public consultation is limited to municipal boundaries, yet cyclists can travel 500km in one day, well beyond the jurisdiction of one city.
  • Raises awareness of Active Transportation: Volumes of drivers of motorized vehicles will see an alternative form of transportation as they sit in traffic. Meanwhile, cyclists continue unimpeded by other forms of transportation.

Where has this been done?

The public will be surprised that there already exist examples of highway related cycling facilities. The idea of cycling routes parallel to motorized routes may seem like a foreign concept. However the following list will surprise you. Let us start with more progressive jurisdictions off-shore

  • Australia roadside cycling routeAustralia is well known for its support of athletics and health. This lane is associated with an 80km/hr speedway. Apparently, avid cyclists can feel comfortable in this association.






  • Amsterdam roundaboutAmsterdam, Netherlands: The reaction from the uninitiated is, ‘well that’s because cycling is ingrained in their culture’. I respond that it is because cycling facilities have been incorporated into their transportation systems. Chicken and Egg? This example shows distinct and separated bike lanes on the outside, yet they continue to have crossings that allow motorists the right of way. A curious example has been circulating the social media that shows an elevated cycle facility at traffic circles. https://bicycledutch.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/turbo-roundabout.jpg

what's the point of cycle lanes



  • QEW Niagara service roadQEW Niagara was part of the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure for years. Although an unpleasant straight ride for this recreation ride, it is straight and allows for commuter cyclists to travel the same route as motorists.



  • Toronto Waterfront TrailToronto, Is there a more travelled route than the Gardiner/Lakeshore? Toronto created the Waterfront Trail to provide for primarily commuter cyclists who find their way to work much faster than the routes that regularly make the 680 traffic at the ones report. 5m wide this route is so well used that rules have needed to be created for its use, summer and winter.


  • Rosehill cycle separation productRosehill products in the UK can be used to establish the safety that transportation engineers use to scare away cycling facilities from the public realms.


See also:




June 4 – Walk and Ride – Vaughan’s Active Transportation

May 27th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Recreation, Trails

Become involved in COMMUNITY! A vortex of enthusiasm brought three groups together for a single event.

BUG logoVaughan Bicycle Users Group, BUG for short, expresses a common face of the community of bicycle riders. It is made up of recreation, racing and utilitarian cyclists. The goal is to advocate for those who want and need to travel further than walking can achieve. But Vaughan is lagging in the development of cycling facilities. The celebratory cycle lanes on Napa Valley and Peter Rupert are a compromise, but at least they have painted the lines.

BUG’s crowning 2014 achievement is being celebrated on June 4! Ride one of the first cycle lanes yet devised in Woodbridge!

Green Ribbon TreeTrees For Kleinburg may be self-evident by its name. But it is more than just trees. It is an environmental, event planning and business friendly group. A pilot project directed by this group is nearing completion in May 2015. This pilot project was a test of the mettle of volunteers and City staffers.  It took convincing a steadfast engineering department that a walking facility, such as their proposed sidewalk on Islington Avenue, could use trees to make the route a more comfortable. The City of Vaughan’s Vision speaks to that very need.

This crowning achievement is being celebrated on June 4! A stop on the Jane’s Walk will allow you to help plant a commemorative tree.

greenbelt_Logo_4C_OL[1]Greenbelt Foundation learned of Trees For Kleinburg from the City of Vaughan staff. Kleinburg is the perfect venue for a Jane’s Walk, where a village steeped in history can come to life through a guided walk. The Greenbelt Foundation promotes hiking in the villages and valleys that are contained and edge Ontario’s Greenbelt. The Greenbelt is up for review by the province and public meetings are being held this year to redefine or reconfirm its boundaries and mandate.

This banner year is being promoted on June 4 as a collaboration with BUG and Trees For Kleinburg.

Ride and Walk June 4 2015Get your walking or riding gear together and meet at 6:30pm at Sonoma Heights Park to start a journey whose destination is McMichael Gallery, but its ultimate goal is to raise awareness of the need for Active Transportation facilities in Vaughan. See what Vaughan has committed to by clicking the link to these new cycle facilities. Like the pilot project for Trees For Kleinburg, unofficial cycle lanes took two years to enact. If not for the actions of Councillor Alan Shefman getting a pedestrian and cycling task force, active transportation would not be an agenda item for Vaughan Council.

Go further, Vaughan! Involve Communities and encourage them with action, not two years of waiting for compromise solutions!



Editor’s Note: Choosing June 4 may have been folly, as it conflicts with the Mayor’s Gala. But will be an alternative event with no cost, but much benefit.

GTA West Corridor – A Blast Through the Greenbelt

February 25th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Recreation, Trails, Transportation issues

GTA West Corridor map

I am a co-author of trails master plans for York Region and the City of Vaughan. I have had correspondence with others regarding the GTA West Corridor particularly about how its construction will impact cycling and pedestrian activities in the future, during and post construction. The HVHTA will host a trail walk March 7, 2015 in lands that will be impacted by the highway construction. It seems a fait accompli that the highway will be built but there must be a way to ensure that modes other than motorized vehicles are accommodated in what today is designated Greenbelt. Accordingly, I have composed the following short summary, which is consistent with expressions of concern in other jurisdictions affected by GTA West Corridor.

MTO must consider pedestrian and cycling facilities as inherent parts of the GTA West Corridor system:

  • Connected and integrated cycle routes and paths: Newly constructed cycle trails/paths should parallel the proposed motorized vehicular routes. Multi-use Pedestrian / Cycle paths should be a minimum 3m wide allowing access between all overpasses crossing the future highway.
  • Address Municipal Cycling/Pedestrian Master Plans: Peel and York Regions, Brampton, Vaughan and King have Master Plans recommending connected and circumferential trails. These must be integrated into the plans for the Corridor and indeed, become an enhancement to encourage active transportation.
  • Permeability: In particular, frequent pedestrian / cycle overpasses must be part of a permeable system of crossings. Unlike recent MTO constructs, there should be generous and safe sidewalks for pedestrians. Crossings for cyclists should be on a separated lane for safety on all crossings of the future highway, as elevated overpasses can have greater wind velocities.
  • Trail Connections: Ensure the GTA West does not preclude other trail connections, particularly HVHTA’s Bolton to Kleinburg route through the Nashville Tract Conservation lands and Bolton Resource Management Tract Conservation lands.
  • Active transportation facilities: should be integrated in the overall design plan to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists: walking and cycling facilities at interchanges and ramp crossings; accessible crossings located to support direct pedestrian routes; adequate lighting and sight distances.
  • Landscaped Corridor: The poorly vegetated 407 must not be replicated. The GTA West Corridor removes considerable forest cover and hedgerows. These wildlife corridors will be lost. The wind protection and cooling effects they afford need to be compensated. In municipalities, developers are required to replace or compensate for removal of all trees. MTO, by construction of the highway, is a developer and should not be exempt.

I implore any readers of this blog to send a letter to the Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, whose contact information is located: http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/members/members_detail.do?locale=en&ID=7205

Vaughan Cycling Limited

June 18th, 2013
Healthy Communities, Recreation, Trails

Bike Month in Vaughan – it seems anomalous that my city needs a whole month to travel the two major trails that are pictured on the York Region Cycling Trails map. http://ww4.yorkmaps.ca/YorkMaps/CyclingMap/index.html  .

With the exception of the subdivision north of Major Mackenzie and west of Weston, there are no through routes that connect communities of the City without revving your motor!
In Vaughan, there is a chicken and egg scenario. The City Council will not build bike routes because there are not many riders. There are few riders because the bike routes are limited. Every Vaughan bike seminar and event was held in a location to which I had to drive. As adamant as Geoffrey Haines and Mike Tavares (City Staff) are to see routes constructed, the pace of that construction is slow. And it will be thus until it is indicated that there is a financial benefit. There is (a financial benefit):
These are only two of many studies. Look no further than Kleinburg to see the land values. With surroundings of greenways peppered with trails, Kleinburg housing commands more than 20% premium on similar properties in Woodbridge and Brampton. That translates into higher taxes for the city. Health benefits will rarely be quantifiable, but undeniably, residents with access to recreation maintain a healthier lifestyle. PriceWaterhouseCooper in their study for TransCanada Trail explain it succinctly:

“A dollar spent on trail construction, maintenance or by users of the trail, circulates and recirculates within the economy, multiplying the effects of the original expenditures on overall economic activity. This process is referred to as the economic multiplier effect. It operates at several levels:

The initial expenditures of the trail users and trail operators on goods and services, wages, materials and other trail-related expenditures are generally referred to as the direct costs of operation and their effects are referred to as the initial (direct) effects.

Subsequent purchases by suppliers of materials and services to sustain the direct expenditures are called the indirect effects.

Induced effects emerge when workers in the sectors stimulated by initial and indirect expenditures spend their additional incomes on consumer goods and services.”

Currently, east to west travel by non-motorized means is, at best, unsafe. Regional Councillor Deb Schulte says she rode Major Mackenzie to City Hall twice last year, but has no plans to do so this year. A plan, I am told, exists to construct a bikeway adjacent to a reconstructed Major Mackenzie between Weston and Islington. It still does not get one across the near-impenetrable Highway 400. The hospital planned for construction in the next 5 years should be an impetus for the construction for such a crossing.
Cycling can be a healthy business, call it Vaughan Cycling Limited, instead of limited Vaughan cycling.

Response to Provincial Cycling Strategy

December 6th, 2012
Trails, Transportation issues

Cycling Strategy will take much from the Province to ensure the viability of a full network. The Ministry of Transportation is currently reviewing the route for a highway linking Highways 401/402/407/400 from Guelph to Vaughan. There has been no mention of cycling in the document. A new limited access highway will create a barrier to crossing. In this case, north to south access will presumably be for vehicles across bridges over the new route. Cycle lanes on those bridges should be imposed as a requirement for providing Safety and Accessibility. Many of those crossing routes are currently used by cyclists, primarily for tourism and recreation. As a corollory, crossings of limited access highways need to be more generous in width to allow for pedestrian routes and afford wildlife corridors.

But in addition to those crossings, cycling may require mid-concession crossings. Limited access highways should be more permeable allowing for cyclists (and pedestrians) to cross at more locations than motorized vehicles. The study of cycling and pedestrian movements should be a significant part of highway design.

Transportation Planning should be part of City Planning.  Cycling will only increase if the distance between origin and destination is reduced.  Building limited access highways encourages suburban living. Suburban living has had the impact of discouraging commuter cycling.  Only by further encouraging “Places To Grow” will there be significant increase in utilitarian cycling.


See also: http://yorkurbanist.com/2012/11/gta-west-corridor-study/


Wait Until Dark – Trails

December 3rd, 2012
Recreation, Trails

Trails are 24 hour, year-round facilities, worthy of recreation investment dollars.

On November 30, five intrepids wandered the Humber Valley. It was not exceptional weather. There was some cloud cover. But with the darkness, there was a new awareness…of quiet in places and traffic din on the horizon….of urban orange glow to the south and darkness to the north. One’s senses are tested in different ways.

Would there be coyotes in packs? Could we see/hear nocturnal scavengers? The adventure is one of how our minds will react in the dark. We are all the more cautious in our steps through grasslands, but the destination at the height of land with a vista of lighted horizon and emerging stars is worth the trepidation of tripping hazards. It builds awareness of nature in what is becoming an urban oasis.

The Night Trail Trek is further enhanced by apps on one phone showing us the star formations. For our future treks, we imagined that night vision glasses would add adventure.

This one and a half hour recreation stint cost the government nothing, further utilized a capital investment from over 10 years ago and realized an economic benefit from the purchase of specialty equipment and post-trek libations in the local constabulary. Despite the latter economic benefit, the health component cannot be overlooked – a group exercising without the need for machines, generating no carbon emissions and breathing air filtered by the buffer of forests and leas.

At a cost of about $10,000-50,000 per kilometre of trail, remind me what other recreation facility provides such utility per investment dollar! And, challenge yourself to a night hike with your friends. You will be surprised at the different perspective you take on them and yourself.

See also: http://yorkurbanist.com/trails/trails-tourism/

Ottawa Trails

November 15th, 2012

Just back from Ottawa.
As Toronto closes the Jarvis Street bike lanes to much fanfare, City of Ottawa is constructing more lanes on Rideau Street. The bright green bike lane crossings in Ottawa announce that “We understand bike safety”. Everywhere in the downtown there were bicyclists, bixie bikes, walkers and dedicated crossings. How refreshing, coming from Vaughan where pedestrianization and cycling are a future prospect.

Trails – Mobility Devices

November 1st, 2012
Trails, Uncategorized

Recent discussion on LinkedIn has prompted me to include this dialogue on Mobility Devices. When can we allow Segways, or golf carts, or health related mobility devices? Here is a link: http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/smallbusiness/smallbusprimer2010.htm#wheelchairs
Advances in technology have given rise to new power-driven devices that are not necessarily designed for people with disabilities, but are being used by some people with disabilities for mobility. The term “other power-driven mobility devices” is used in the revised ADA regulations to refer to any mobility device powered by batteries, fuel, or other engines, whether or not they are designed primarily for use by individuals with mobility disabilities for the purpose of locomotion. Such devices include Segways®, golf cars, and other devices designed to operate in non-pedestrian areas. Public accommodations must allow individuals who use these devices to enter their premises unless the business can demonstrate that the particular type of device cannot be accommodated because of legitimate safety requirements. Such safety requirements must be based on actual risks, not on speculation or stereotypes about a particular class of devices or how they will be operated by individuals using them.
Remember: It is not permissible to ask individuals about their disabilities, when asking about their mobility devices.

See http://yorkurbanist.com/trails/trails-mobility-devices/ for more information and pictures.

An Idea Unleashed

September 6th, 2012
Trails, Urban Design

I engaged with the OnTrack board of directors last night at their public meeting in St. Thomas, Ontario to unleash to the public their idea for an elevated park on the elevated and abandonned trestle bridge in the city. This bold initiative will move forward once they have raised $250,000 by December 7, 2012. This is when the option to buy closes. The endeavour is more than a bridge reuse, more than a trail, but a community building project that has the potential to bring the city international acclaim.
Matt Janes, Ed Vandermaarel and Serge Lavoie made an eloquent presentation to well over 100 persons present. The show was further enhanced by an impassioned, if unexpected, plea by a sixteen year-old young lady who wants this project to work for the community. St. Thomas has a recent successful history for community projects that reinforce its title as the “Railway Capital of Canada” . This project to create a park on the Trestle Bridge will put St. Thomas on the map, not just a directional sign on Hwy 401.
Matt Janes sited Goderich and St. Mary’s as examples of community renovated bridge projects. But this project goes further, more in the vein of New York’s High Line, described by Ed Vandermaarel and in this article – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/03/opinion/a-high-line-thats-good-for-new-york.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1346943910-EboCyr96EV+8SVIsmLGOmA .

Watch my website and this website, http://www.ontrackstthomas.ca/ as they “Track” the progress of this soon to be international phenomenon and an example of excellence in urban design.