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.
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.
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.