Saturday, September 30, 2006


Due to a variety of things going on, I’ve driven my car more than half the days to work this past 2 weeks. Just like anyone else, I don’t get any joy or pleasure through my drive to work other than possibly hearing something interesting on the radio. Driving the car is a chore, and one that gets even more draining when you’re stuck staring at the car in front of you. Traffic jams are an inevitability of driving a car in a city with too many cars, and they're a huge motivator to return to my bike.

Compared to the spring, the time spent stopped in my car has gotten much longer. My car drive home is now consistently the same duration as my bike commute. Both routes are also approximately the same distance, since I often don’t use the expressways, which usually take even longer in the evening. So even though I manage to get my car up to 60 km/h on some stretches, my average car speed is really the same as an average bike speed of about 23 km/h.

Even when traffic is a bit lighter in the mornings and I can take the expressways (401 and 404), the average car speed is 40 km/h. But because I take the expressways, my route is actually 3 km longer. If you adjust for the inefficiency of having to drive out of the way to get to the faster route, my real average speed is 34 km/h.

If you told most of the car driving public that their average speed was 23 km/h, they’d be pretty disappointed. In all the recent talk about tearing down the Gardiner Expressway, the statistics say that the average speed along the full length of the highway is currently 36 to 43 km/h (see report in pdf). This isn’t accounting for entering and exiting the highway, and speeds for the entire trip. It’s not hard to extrapolate from those numbers that the average speed for a trip from Etobicoke to downtown by car has an average speed in the 30’s km/h at best, especially since my trips in the north of the city average in the 20’s km/h.

Here's a quick look at the average speeds (blue) compared to the top speed limits (red) along the various trips.

All this information was coming to light at the same time that Martino posted a document that has been distributed to European city governments. The document, a technical guide, describes how to modify a city’s streets to be more welcoming to cyclists. One of the changes that is emphasized in the document is the reduction in speed limits on city streets. This can be done through laws and changing the street layout.

The guide talks about 30 km/h being a speed at which cyclists and pedestrians can comfortably share the road with cars. Drivers are able to see cyclists and pedestrians better, and respond to them better. Cyclists are traveling at closer to the same speed as the cars, so are able to interact better with the cars.

Most drivers in Toronto would be offended by the mere suggestion that 30 km/h be the speed limit. However, looking at the Gardiner report, and my recent (highly scientific) car speed studies, 30 km/h isn’t such a stretch for the major streets in our city. Once drivers get over the shock that they never went faster than 30 km/h anyway, the result would be calmer, more people-friendly streets.

Darren J 9/30/2006 09:21:00 PM


Hi again Darren,

Excellent to have such practical scientific research ... of course, it would be discounted because the bureaucrats didn't authorize it: They'd need at least a committee as well as a few hundred thousand $s for an ongoing study ... instead of simply 'researching' (i.e. 'discussing') with those who already know.

That's what happened with the original 'Bicycle Master Plan (Committee)' ... which was more than a bit of a joke. As well as the most recent (post amalgamation) Toronto Official Plan ... again, more than a bit of a joke.
Sadly, there's nothing the least bit funny about either of 'em.

Another recent study (by the so-called 'experts') was to place 'observers' at various points to observe, scientifically, and at a considerable cost, the auto traffic and count occupants: coming to the conclusion (in early 2000s by the way) that the vast majority of cars are single occupant.

Wow, really?!

Just wondering, was it you that had studied Urban Planning or am is it another local blogger (the monkeymarian character, maybe?!).

Care to mention your line of work ... related to urban issues in any way?


P.S. If interested, my email ...
Give a shout.
By "studied urban planning", do you mean read a lot of blogs and message boards about it? That's me.

I don't know who has any formal training in the subject. My line of work has nothing to do with it.

Speaking of single occupant motor vehicles, I was looking at people in the car-pool lane on the 404 (while I was stuck in traffic) and seeing about 1 in 5 vehicles with only one person. The cops were on the side of the road one morning pulling over a big Expedition or something. Most mornings the police are not there, and it looks like lots of people take their chances.
While I don't have much good to say about Urban Planners,
so I wanted to check with you before I released a torrent of vitriol. Well, actually, I'll be nice.

I imagine they all have great intentions when they start out studying (though, I do question the content and 'currency' of their knowledge/understanding). The aim of their planning is to be 'saleable' to the voting public: which is not conducive to truly innovative/creative thinking.

Since your line of work 'has nothing to do with it' ... that alone gives you the edge in actually understanding. You're not confined to their preconceptions.


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