Toronto takes on the Dutch-style intersection

Protected intersections that separate bike riders from motor vehicles and improve visibility hold good promise in the realm of road safety, and the City of Toronto is preparing to dip its toes in these waters with a new project in the downtown area.

Popularised in the Netherlands, “Dutch-style” intersections are designed to offer physical separation for bike riders and improve safety through features like priority traffic signalling and clear and colourful lane markings.

This creates an environment where riders’ exposure to conflict with motor vehicles (and their drivers) is kept to a minimum and the turning speeds of vehicles moving through the intersection are lower.

The City of Toronto is moving ahead with the construction of its first such intersection at the corner of Bloor and St George streets. A rider died following a collision with a truck at this site in 2018, amplifying calls among local road safety advocates for better protection of bike riders.

The reimagined intersection will feature wide pedestrian crossings where bikes and motor vehicles will yield to people walking, the right of way indicated by “shark’s teeth” markings on the lane surface.

Dedicated bike lanterns will be installed for priority signalling and protection islands and stopping areas will be in place ahead of each of the four corners for riders waiting to cross. Motor vehicles turning right will have separate signal phasing.

According to the City of Toronto, the new configuration will provide “a high degree of comfort and safety for people of all ages and abilities,” reports the Toronto Star.

In recent years, Dutch-style intersections have been increasingly adopted by other countries in Europe, but in some cases with mixed results. One installed in Cambridge in 2020, the first in the UK, has resulted in an increase in collisions, though the local council reasons that the number of riders has increased by almost 50%.

This style of intersection has also popped up in Ireland and on home soil, in East Melbourne in 2020. Meanwhile, Canberra may see them become the norm as the ACT Government pursues new standards of best-practice intersection design with increased active travel rates in mind.

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