June 22, 2015

Turning Cycling Setbacks into Opportunities

While the previous post discussed recent setbacks for Toronto’s cyclists such as the Gardiner East vote and the three deaths in two weeks, advocates also need to turn setbacks into opportunities! Not only through lessons learned from the Netherlands and elsewhere, but by recognizing positive developments close to home and applying them to future challenges. During Bike Month (May 25 – June 25), there are at least five positive developments which deserve recognition.

May 28 – PWIC approves safer cycling in construction zones!

When Bell Media obtained film permits to block the Richmond Street cycle track in late April, many cyclists called them out on social media. Councillors Layton, Cressy, and McMahon promptly responded by having Motion PW5.10 to improve cycling safety in construction zones and other closures added to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) meeting agenda. The motion passed unanimously and while recommendations are not due until November, it already led to temporary cycle tracks on Richmond during a recent closure.
June 10 – Cycle Toronto reaches 3000 members!

In 2008, an organization called the Toronto Cyclists Union started. Seven years, two municipal elections, one name change, and 3000 members later, Cycle Toronto has grown into the primary voice for Toronto’s cycling community! They are involved in the community via Bikewatch and Bike Valet volunteers at major events, Ward Advocacy Groups to connect with local councillors and residents[1], Street Smarts workshops, monthly social events, and Bike Month. They are aiming to reach 3500 members this year, so please go to http://www.cycleto.ca/join to join or renew your membership, as well as encourage fellow Toronto cyclists to do the same.
June 17 – Downtown cycle tracks to be expanded!

In Summer 2014, a pilot project for cycle tracks on Richmond Street (Bathurst to York Streets), Adelaide Street (Bathurst to Simcoe Streets), and Simcoe Street (Queen to Front Streets) was installed. Staff reports confirmed bicycle traffic on those streets tripled and even reduced travel times for drivers. Given that report and 181 letters sent to PWIC – including one from Toronto’s Financial District – Motion PW6.12 passed unanimously at committee and goes to City Council on July 7. Motions were also added to study extending the Simcoe cycle tracks to Queen’s Quay and improving east end connectivity via bike lane upgrades on River, Shuter, and Dundas Streets, which will return to committee in September.
June 19 – New Queen’s Quay opens!

After three years of construction, Toronto’s Waterfront street – Queen’s Quay – finally had its grand opening, which was attended by hundreds of residents. Officials such as Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray, Mayor John Tory, and Councillor Joe Cressy gave speeches before cutting the ribbon. The new street is impressive and fits the definition of a complete street! Trees line the streetscape, pedestrians have access to extra wide sidewalks with beautiful granite maple leaf motifs, and TTC streetcars have a new right of way. For cyclists, this means except for a small segment near the Leslie Spit, there is 23 kilometres of continuous bike path from Mimico to the Beaches!
June 22 – 30 km/h speed limits

Last month, City Council passed new rules to make it easier to reduce speed limits on local and collector roads to 30 km/h without traffic calming. To take things a step further, councillors of the Toronto East York district brought forward Motion TE8.1 to reduce speed limits on all local roads in their wards to 30 km/h. At the time of writing, the community council just unanimously passed the motion with implementation to start in September! While more needs to be done in order to achieve Vision Zero such as traffic calming, building a Minimum Grid of cycling infrastructure, reducing speed limits of arterial roads to 40 km/h, and expanding 30 km/h zones to the rest of the city, this is a good first step.

Given these positive developments during Bike Month (and more), Toronto’s cycling advocates need to keep the pressure on City Hall to realize the mission of safer streets for all. If this past Saturday’s Ghost Ride for Adam Excell is of any indication – an emotional yet moving experience where at least 150 – 200 cyclists took part and my first such ride – they are on the right track. Let’s hope we do not need to do many more Ghost Rides before City Hall acts on that message.

Change the mood!
Rob Z (e-mail)


[1] For full disclosure, I am a co-captain of the Ward 14 advocacy group. That group can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/groups/W14Cycle or Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/W14Cycle.

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