September 29, 2017

The Bikelash of September 2017

My word to describe September 2017 is “bikelash”.

For starters, there is the stop sign controversy on Glen Road in Rosedale, which is near a site where a cyclist was killed a few years back. Only two weeks after the stop sign was installed after vigorous pleas from local residents due to speeding problems, calls emerged to have them removed. The matter had gotten so ridiculous even kids took to the streets demanding that the stop signs stay.
Woodbine bike lane opening on September 9, 2017
A similarly ridiculous action happened in Toronto’s east end. Within a similar timeframe, a petition calling for the Woodbine bike lanes to be removed got two thousand signatures within a couple of days and prompted a counter petition. One of the grievances in the petition was a lack of consultation, which is pure baloney. The City had widely consulted on this project and I had the chance to attend one of the public meetings. The Woodbine bike lanes meant I could get to Danforth GO almost exclusively via bike lanes and having the bollards made the experience a lot safer. Sure, the hill can be a challenge and a signal could be added at Dixon Avenue which would allow avoiding Kingston Road altogether, but it’s a critical link for east end cyclists.
Woodbine bike lanes with bollards installed
The Woodbine fiasco served as an unnecessary distraction from the campaign to make the Bloor bike lanes permanent; a decision for which will be made by the Public Works committee (PWIC) on October 18 and by City Council on November 7. Already, councillors such as Denzil Minnan-Wong and Giorgio Mammoliti have been making noise to have the bike lanes removed, which sounds like déjà vu for those who remember the Jarvis bike lane removal. If that wasn't bad enough, Mammoliti is part of PWIC as well as another known bike lane skeptic – Stephen Holyday – which means Toronto's cyclists cannot afford to take the Bloor bike lanes for granted.
Tour de Bloor Passport
The good news is they are not sitting idle. The Bloor Loves Bikes pledge was relaunched in August to focus on keeping the bike lanes, which has over 4400 signatures with paper signatures expected to bring that number above 5000. A passport initiative was launched to show merchants cyclists do shop on Bloor and participants have until October 13 to collect 20 stamps to be eligible for a bike draw. The west end Cycle Toronto groups organized an event to build support for extending the Bloor bike lanes west, which helped land a front-page appearance in the Bloor West Villager. Olympic athletes Curt Harnett and Adam van Koeverden endorsed the bike lanes, while a recent Bells on Bloor count confirmed cycling traffic doubled to over 6000 cyclists per day since the bike lanes were installed.
My front page appearance in the Bloor West Villager
One last disappointment is the more than one-year delay in reopening the Lower Don River Trail and the frustratingly slow pace of implementing the current Cycling Network Plan with only 13 kilometres installed since 2016. Even after the trail reopened with a new underpass, bridge, wayfinding signs and some public art, large parts of the trail still need resurfacing.
New signage on the Lower Don Trail
These delays are familiar to our friends at Walk Toronto, where a crosswalk was demanded near Warden and Ellesmere in Scarborough seven months ago and was the site of this week's death of a mother and child. Two other Scarborough residents were killed while walking this week, which prompted a powerful cover in today's Metro Toronto emphasizing why we must say crash not accident. To improve justice for victims of these recent fatalities, the MPP of my riding – Cheri DiNovo – introduced Bill 158 aimed to protect Vulnerable Road Users.
Today's Metro Toronto cover urging the use of #CrashNotAccident
All the evidence supporting the Bloor bike lanes and persistent delays lead to one frustrating question. Why is it that mobility advocates (pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and people with disabilities) have to fight tooth and nail for meagre gains and put up with delays when the City thinks nothing of wasting over $1 billion on rebuilding Gardiner East or millions to speed up road work?
Lower Don Trail and new Pottery Road Bridge
If Toronto is to become a true Vision Zero city, it must stop putting the convenience of single occupancy vehicle drivers above the safety of everyone. Yes, rebalancing our streets will mean pain for such drivers, but they need to recognize it is unsustainable and there is no more room for roads in the Greater Toronto area. Amsterdam had their transportation reckoning in the 1970’s and it’s time Toronto experience theirs.

Fight back!
Rob Z


  1. Fight Back, yes!

    But do so strategically.

    I've never understood why priority isn't given to bike lanes that won't take away car travel lanes (Donlands) or are in the vicinity of a natural high-cycling group (Military Trail/UTSC; Humber College Blvd/Humber etc.

    This is not to suggest for one moment that lanes like Bloor and Woodbine shouldn't happen too; but why leave the easy ones for last?

    Why not help foster more cycling so that you have more advocates for those tougher-sell projects?

    Why hasn't the off-road trail through the Finch Hydro Corridor been finished in the east end? There are no natural objectors? Again, creating of allies, critical mass are important steps.

  2. James, those roads had excess lanes because that's where people want to go. If we want to make cycling a reasonable form of transportation for everyday people, infra needs to go where people go.

    No reason off-road trails cannot be maintained at the same time. They are peanuts in the context of infrastructure dollars -as Rob implies. We could be doing it all at once and it would *still* cost less than one of the big motor infra projects. No need to in-fight over scraps.