Queen’s Quay Boulevard Cycle Track: Introducing Toronto’s new waterfront boulevard

On Friday June 19th 2015, Queens Quay Boulevard was officially re-opened.  Through years of design, consultation and construction, the street was transformed from an ordinary road to a grand boulevard.


The project, led by Waterfront Toronto, was to completely redesign the central segment of Queens Quay Boulevard, between Spadina Avenue and Bay Street.  Previously, the configuration was of two traffic lanes in each direction and a streetcar right-of-way, with ordinary sidewalks on each side.  There was no bicycle infrastructure whatsoever, even though the street was part of Toronto Bicycle Route 2, a major east-west route across the city.

The new configuration is of a roadway, a streetcar right-of-way, and a bicycle path, each with one lane in each direction.  And the south sidewalk has been widened to act as a waterfront promenade that can accommodate a variety of uses including street vendors, seating, events and of course strolling.

Same angle as above, post-reconstruction.

Same angle as above, post-reconstruction.

East and west of the project area, there were one-way painted bicycle lanes on each side of the street.  With the new segment being a bi-directional path on the south side, a westbound cyclist would have been required to cross to the south side of street at Bay Street, and back to the north side at Spadina Avenue.  That configuration was unacceptable to Waterfront Toronto, since their goal was a seamless journey along the street. So in conjunction with the central project, they created two additional projects to complete the two-way bicycle path along the entire length of the street, completing the Martin Goodman Trail across the central city.  These secondary projects were built to a noticeably lower standard, since they are merely temporary connections until those street segments get completely rebuilt like the central segment.

Temporary bicycle path on Queens Quay East

Temporary bicycle path on Queens Quay East

But today’s post is a celebration of the completed central segment and its top-notch cycling infrastructure. Check out the video below for a virtual ride along the path, noting that the central segment ends at 6:24.

The new Queens Quay Blvd is an embodiment of 8-80 principles, whereby streets should be safe and comfortable for anyone between the ages of 8 and 80. Bicycle traffic is kept well away from car traffic, and conflicts are all managed using protected signal phases. Pedestrians and cyclists each have their own path, with a generous granite sidewalk separated from the path by a row of benches.

A quick look at the people riding along the street confirms that the redesign has been successful in attracting people of all ages and abilities to try riding a bicycle across downtown Toronto.

Of course, it has not been entirely a success story. Two major deficiencies quickly became apparent with the design: the design of pavement markings at pedestrian-bicycle conflict points gives both modes the impression that they have priority over the other, and the placement of the left turn signals makes them easy for drivers to miss, which has resulted in several collisions.

Fortunately, signal placement and pavement markings are relatively easy to fix. Once they are revised, I would have no hesitation in proclaiming the central segment of Queens Quay to be the best piece of urban cycling infrastructure in Ontario.

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8 Responses to Queen’s Quay Boulevard Cycle Track: Introducing Toronto’s new waterfront boulevard

  1. Lol, ironic, the first video appears to show a vehicle pull up and directly block the entire bike path.


    • Seems like it could use a green wave too. Otherwise, fantastic piece of infrastructure.


      • reaperexpressblogs says:

        Traffic signals along Queens Quay are currently co-ordinated based on private motor traffic, but I wouldn’t be surprised if bicycle ridership grows to the point that bicycles outnumber cars within the next few years. At that point, there would be little difficulty in getting the co-ordination re-done to optimize for bicycles instead.

        But in any case, my ride above is not representative of a typical ride since at that point not all the vehicle detectors were working, so many phases were on recall. Basically it’s the worst-case scenario as far as green time for bicycles (and everyone else, for that matter).

        Queens Quay is the southernmost street in the network, so the actual number of motor vehicles crossing the path on the south side is fairly low, it’s just people going in and out of driveways. Now that the vehicle detection is working, many the turning phases end up getting skipped or shortened.

        More recently when I’ve ridden the path I’ve gotten all the way through the central segment with at most one red light, though this has generally been in the evening when there is very little car traffic.


    • reaperexpressblogs says:

      I don’t see the irony, but it was certainly an odd manoeuvre. She had a green light and for some reason when the light changed to amber she decided to stop and sit in the middle of the intersection rather than clearing it.


  2. Pingback: Queen’s Quay Boulevard Cycle Track: Reconciling cyclists and pedestrians | The Ontario Traffic Man

  3. Robert says:

    I do not see how one turns off the cycleway here. Even an Eastbound cyclist turning right. What can they do? I also suggest adding a slip lane for cyclists so they can avoid the red lights. It would have a pedestrian priority crossing and an angle to allow for medium speed cycling, about 20 km/h perhaps while turning and being in a good position to check left rather than doing a shoulder check.


    • reaperexpressblogs says:

      Cyclists turning off the bicycle path toward the north (westbound right and eastbound left) wait in a “bicycle box” between the streetcar tracks and the bicycle path. This is perfectly safe, because there are no motor vehicle movements permitted in that area while the bicycle path has a green light. The signal phase after the bicycle path’s is always the northbound green which allows cyclists to complete their turn onto the perpendicular roadway.

      Turning toward the south from the bicycle path is just like any ordinary intersection. Eastbound right turns must yield to pedestrians, and westbound left turns must yield to both pedestrians and eastbound bicycle traffic.

      All the T-intersections in the rebuilt segment do have slip lanes in the sense that the bicycle path bypasses the traffic signals. 4-way intersections don’t have right-turn slip lanes because right turns on red are already permitted in Ontario and there is barely any southbound traffic at any of the intersections (so you’d hardly ever need to wait anyway).


  4. Pingback: Richmond-Adelaide cycle track review | The Ontario Traffic Man

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