Proving our point…..again. (John St volunteer traffic count #2.)

Note:  Please see the update at the bottom

Last week, I helped organise a group of volunteers to do a traffic count on John Street.  The purpose of the count was simple: to show that data found in the John Street Corridor Improvement study was inaccurate,  fabricated and perhaps intentionally designed to support an anti-bike design for the street.

The discrepancy between our data and the city’s, was astounding:

This would have been a great opportunity for city officials to say “we’re gonna take a look at this.  Something sure seems wrong”.  Instead, both city staff and the local Councillor discounted our efforts and publicly insisted in the Toronto Star that the 2% number was indeed accurate.

“The reality is that the traffic counts that were done by the professionals were done to the standards that are acceptable to the city’s engineering department.”

Uh, no, they weren’t.  In fact, I’m quite sure that the ‘professionals’ did not count at all.  I believe that the 2% is imaginary.  Pulled out of the air.

So I put out a public call:

One City Councillor accepted the challenge:

Thank you Josh. Councillor Matlow is one of the most investigative Councillors I know.  On any given topic, he drowns himself in information – from both sides of the issue, and tries to make up his mind based on solid evidence.  So I wasn’t surprised to see him sign-up to the challenge.

Josh and I chose a date, and I invited a few volunteers to help out.  Last week’s count was during the morning rush hour  (7:30 to 9:30am), so this time we chose an afternoon count (4 to 6pm).   As with last week, we looked at the modal split on John (in two locations) and we also had counters on Simcoe, Peter and Duncan so we could compare bike traffic on all four.

Our Monday team inluded Steve Barnes, Stephen Cooper, Jane Farrow, Baye Hunter, Ross K, Herb van den Dool, Josh Matlow, Miro Wagner and Lynda Young

I wasn’t sure if the numbers would look good this time, because John Street had been closed all weekend for the Much Music Video Awards.  Cyclists might avoid it.  I expected a drop in the numbers, but hoped that we would still be well above 10%, and nowhere near the City’s 2% number.

It was great to be joined by Josh, as well as Toronto Star reporter Catherine Porter (read her story here), and Jane Farrow, the Executive Director of Janes’s Walk (named after Jane Jacobs). Jane has done an enormous amount of research and advocacy about pedestrian infrastructure and safety, including an exhibit currently on display at the UrbanSpace Gallery.

At 4pm we scattered to our counting stations, started clicking …and this is what we found:

21% •Average for cyclists over two hours, northbound at Richmond.
30% •
Highest level of cyclists during a 15 minute period at Richmond.
18% •
Average for bikes over two hours, northbound, at Adelaide.
24% • Highest level of cyclists during a 15 minute period at Adelaide.
695 • Northbound rush-hour cyclists in the Entertainment District.
Number of bikelanes in the area.

(download raw data: pdfexcel)

The split between the four streets was very similar to last week’s count:

So the questions remain:

1) Where did the 2% come from?

2) Why was it included in the EA report?

3) When will the false data be REMOVED from the report?

There were 700 bikes traveling through the Entertainment District today, commuting home after a day’s work.  These folks deserve to be counted, and they deserve a safe space to bike on John Street.



This post is the second part in a three-part series.  On June 22nd, we finally got this note from City staff:

“On the City’s behalf, I’d like to thank you for the effort that you have put in to supplementing our counts with new material gathered in the past weeks…..We agree it was inappropriate and incorrect to have used the 2% figure for weekday peak hours.”

This was great exercise in community engagement and democracy.  I want to thank the volunteers who made it happen:

Andie Garcia, Baye Hunter, Ben Sulky, Dan Godin, Herb van den Dool, Jane Farrow, Josh Matlow, Stephen Cooper,Steve Barnes, Lynda Young, Miro Wagner, Ross K and Stephen Cooper.

I also want to thank Stephen Schijns, Manager of Infrastructure Planning at the City, for being very responsive and working with us to resolve the situation.

Tally Ho!


16 responses to “Proving our point…..again. (John St volunteer traffic count #2.)

  1. AIRE Aporte interdisciplinario para la Region (interdisciplinary contribution to the Region)
  2. Is Ford/Minnan Wong going to work with you guys on the bike plan? OTHERWISE bicyclists should take a lane if they have to…

  3. You people with your “data” and “evidence”. Don’t you know the Ford brothers are trying to run a city based on their ideology? Why do you insist on bringing facts into the debate?

  4. you have to do your homework and hopefully someone will listen!

  5. I think it is splendid that you went out and made a difference. Well done.

  6. Bravo. Thank you for doing this. And kudos to Councillor Matlow for being the ONLY one to take you up on this. Unless we stand up and point out flaws in logic like this The Ford Government will steamroll to their hearts content.

  7. militantcyclist

    Nice work! We cant let those with a motorist only mentality win.

  8. My reading of their ‘number’ was that it was averaged over all seasons. So to be fair, you should be counting the numbers in winter time as well, no? Obviously this is still more valid than the 2% number.

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your dedication to this. You are an inspiration.

  10. Dave, the John Street plans look great. This will be a safe, slow street for all users, including cyclists, and including my 8-year-old daughter. No separate lanes necessary.

    I agree the City fudged the numbers on John, but — with all respect — it is insane to side with Minnan-Wong against Vaughan (and Shelley Carroll [!?!]). Keep the City honest, for sure, but please! climb down from the clouds and take a hard look at your new City Hall cycling buddies, Rob Ford and Minnan-Wong. Their consistent anti-cycling record prior to the election was your first clue. Scrapping the Cycling Committee was your second. And now, putting out a bike plan that scraps Bloor bike lanes in order to fund the removal of even more bike lanes should settle the issue. Ford and Minnan-Wong are not your allies!

    Focus on Peter for a fast north-south route for cyclists, and work with Vaughan on a separated lane for Richmond or Adelaide. Leave John alone.

  11. I’d add a fourth question:

    Why is the city so insistent on sticking with demonstrably false and inaccurate data? Didn’t someone once suggest that when you find yourself in a hole, you want to stop digging?

  12. John, you’re mixing up issues that are unrelated. I’ve been advocating for bike lanes on John Street for over a year – well before Ford was elected Mayor and before DMW was chair of PWIC.

    So I’m not sure why you are connecting the two. I know that some people are trying to frame this as an “Adam VS Denzil” situation, but I don’t buy into that. That’s just typical hockey-style polarization at Council. I find it quite boring.

    As for Shelley’s tweet (“then you didn’t go shopping on the LederStraat, busiest shopping in town. Peds, Cyclists, trams all sharing), I’m not sure how it’s relevant either. There’s hardly any shopping on John Street! It has few common characteristics with pedestrian malls found in other cities. More importantly, there is NO plan to pedestrianise the street. There are two proposed plans: one has room for bikes, and one squeezes bikes behind cars forcing them to inhale fumes while stuck in traffic.

    Lastly, I’m surprised that you’ve mentioned Peter Street as something I should “focus” on. I’ve done more writing and support for a Peter bike lane than anyone in this City. But I’m still waiting to see strong support from Adam V. As soon as we have solid plans for a good bike lane on Peter, then the debate about John will fade away. But Adam has to become a strong champion for Peter. That includes redesigning the entire intersection at Queen, and finding a way to connect it back to Beverly (not as easy thing to do). I’ve written about this here:

    Lastly, if Adam wants any cyclists to take him seriously, he should support seperated lanes on Richmond, and let go of his “2-way” proposal. You can read about THAT here:

    Hope that answers some of your questions. I’m not picking sides between Adam and Denzil. I’m just asking for some dedicated street space for bikes. It’s not a lot to ask for.

  13. Dave, your statement that “there is NO plan to pedestrianise the street” is, well, wrong, unless you believe anything shy of a full pedestrian mall is not “pedestrianized.” The John Street plans are quite explicit in declaring that pedestrians are to be the priority (even if they are not necessarily shopping).

    I know you are skeptical of Hans Monderman and the Naked Streets concept, despite its growing empirical support. And it has never really been tried in Toronto, so I suppose there are grounds for skepticism. But your inability to recognize that a pedestrian-friendly street like the proposed John Street will be a major improvement for cycling (and pedestrians) suggests you may be guilty of some polarization of your own. I am reminded of how many folks opposed the Wychwood Barns, insisting that all the space become parkland, and not the weird concept proposed by Artscape. I sense similar rigidity at work here.

    And Adam Vaughan does seem to coming around in favor of both the Peter bike lane and the protected Richmond bike lane, as evidenced by this map that Vaughan released. Now, these plans may not be as “solid” as one would like, and you may demand more “solid support.” But I remain baffled why you would be more skeptical of Vaughan’s sincerity on this point than Minnan-Wong’s or Ford’s.

    And if it bores you that this is being framed as Adam vs. Denzil, you will have tell me which other politician is proposing a streetscape plan for John Street. We may not need to choose sides exactly, but we had better recognize that in the current ruthless political climate, criticism of one plan can and will be exploited to show support for the other. And if you believe that any bike lane, even one proposed by a proven anti-bike zealot seeking only to get “pain in the ass” cyclists out of the way of motorized traffic, would be an improvement over Vaughan’s beautiful John Street plan, I suggest you watch the “Li’l Lisa’s Patented Animal Slurry” episode of the Simpsons, and remind yourself why activists need to carefully examine the motives of powerful people who want to “reach out.”

  14. Pingback: News and views from around the #theatrosphere – Praxis Theatre

  15. Pingback: The Intersection of Advocacy and Ad Hoc Traffic Counts in Toronto | Encountering Urbanization

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