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The 3 hidden flaws of the Colborne Street protected bike lanes

When the City of London unveiled the Colborne Street bike track, it said the north-south route from Horton Street to Dufferin Avenue would make London more bike-friendly, but one critic says the design is a decade behind the times and puts cyclists in conflict with cars and trucks.

While cyclists might now have their own space, the car is still king on Colborne Street

The 3 flaws of the Colborne Street protected bike lanes 1:40

On its website, the City of London calls the cycling tracks along Colborne Street in the downtown, "a premier feature of the new cycling master plan."

Ben Cowie sees a missed opportunity. 

"It could have been a showpiece for 'hey, we can do a really great job at making this easy for everybody.' Instead, they've made it difficult for everybody," said the owner of the London Bicycle Cafe.  

When the City of London unveiled the Colborne Street bike track earlier this month, it said the north-south route that extends from Horton Street to Dufferin Avenue would make London a more bike-friendly city, that cyclists would feel more at ease separated from traffic by a concrete parking curb and a series of green flags. 

The problem though, according to Cowie, is the design is a decade behind the times and puts cyclists in conflict with cars and trucks. 

"The designs we're seeing on the streets are kind of circa 2006, 2007, 10 year old designs. Things have changed a lot in the world of cycling since then." 

Among the difficult situations cyclists are put into along Colborne, is having to cross over three lanes of traffic in order to exit the cycling track and make a left turn. 

 "The city desperately needs an active transportation department," - Ben Cowie, owner of London Bicycle Cafe

The position of the cycling tracks along Colborne also puts cyclists into conflict with cars and trucks by forcing vehicles to turn right into cycling lanes along Dundas Street, for example. 

That conflict could easily be eliminated by adding seperate lights for bikes and cars, according to Cowie. 

"The cars turn on their signal and the bikes go straight on their signal," he said, noting the city has some, but they've been deployed in the wrong spot."

"Queens has a seperate lighting system for bikes, but it doesn't need it because nobody's turning right onto Queens the wrong way on the one-way street. It doesn't have any benefit," he said. 

Cowie said he hears a lot of feedback from people at his downtown cafe and bicycle repair and rental shop on Clarence Street and wishes city officials could listen in on some of the conversations. 

"There's really no way to get that feedback to the city," he said, noting that the city lacks a specialist who could incorporate bicycles safely into the streetscape using the latest techniques. 

"Designing for active transportation is different from designing for regular streets. The city desperately needs an active transportation department," he said. "The cycling community would really like to see that."