March 26, 2018

Stopping Toronto's Kindermoord (Child Murder)

Toronto city council will be debating REimagining Yonge tomorrow and the latest turn of events has left me outraged. Mayor John Tory – along with the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) – have gone against staff which recommended the “Transform Yonge” option reducing Yonge Street in North York from six lanes to four while adding protected bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and an improved public realm. Instead, he is calling for bike lanes to be moved to Beecroft Road which would cost an additional $20 million and do nothing to improve the safety of Yonge Street which people will still use regardless of transportation mode. His main reason – of course – is his foolish refusal to accept anything that would make traffic congestion worse. A repeat of the Gardiner East fiasco?

Let’s go back to road safety. Since 2010, there have been over 80 collisions involving vulnerable road users on Yonge Street from Sheppard to Finch Avenues, while Toronto has seen an alarming spike in traffic deaths with 16 people – including 13 pedestrians and one cyclist – killed during the first three months of 2018 alone. One of those deaths was that of eleven-year-old Duncan Xu who was killed while walking home from a Scarborough school on February 27; the same day as the PWIC vote on Yonge. Mayor Tory responded to that incident claiming that “we cannot allow this carnage to continue”. If that wasn’t insulting enough, the staff report on REimagining Yonge stated commuter times would increase by only 30 seconds with “Transform Yonge” compared to the current six-lane highway and that almost three quarters of motorists on Yonge come from York Region! For Mayor Tory and other councillors to put saving (mostly) York Region drivers 30 seconds over saving lives in their own city is completely unacceptable!
You know what else is unacceptable for Toronto? Being left in the dust by our 905 neighbours which are building cycling facilities on their arterial roads! Having biked in several of these municipalities, here is a recap on what they have been doing.

  • Ajax – Arguably the gold standard for suburban cycling thanks in part to their bike-riding Mayor Steve Parish. Aside from a couple of missing connections (e.g. Church Street North, lack of a safe eastern Highway 401 crossing), their cycling network is a minimum grid in the making with several arterials having safe cycling facilities.
  • Whitby/Oshawa – These two communities have some decent routes such as Garden and Mary Streets for north-south, as well as Taunton Road for east-west. However, route connectivity gaps and the use of urban shoulders – which allow parking – leave a lot of work to do to catch up.
  • Pickering – Except for Kingston Road along the bus rapid transit (BRT) route and a recently installed concrete trail on Bayly Street to fill in an unsafe Waterfront Trail gap, they are Durham Region’s laggard.
  • Hamilton – The combination of the Hamilton Beach Trail, Woodward Avenue bike lanes, and the Cannon Street cycle tracks make for a good loop around the city. They have the GTA’s only other bike share program called SoBi which has 750 bikes.
  • Mississauga – Their part of the Waterfront Trail exclusively uses quiet streets and in-boulevard paths on Lakeshore and Southdown Roads. Several other arterial roads use in-boulevard paths (e.g. Queensway, Burnamthorpe) while Mississauga plans to install bike lanes on Hurontario with the future LRT. Dundas and Lakeshore are also being considered for bike lanes. (more on Mississauga's plans in Dandyhorse)
  • Brampton – Aside from an east-west route along Bovaird Drive and the Etobicoke Creek Trail, Brampton’s cycling network wasn’t very robust aside from a few scattered painted bike lanes.
  • Vaughan/York Region – York Region’s most notable recent bike lane addition is Highway 7 along the BRT route. Vaughan Metropolitan Centre is working on installing a dense network of raised cycle tracks, while York Region plans to install cycling facilities on arterials such as Jane and Yonge Streets.

Wait a minute! York Region is planning to install bike lanes on Yonge Street? Yonge subway extension woes aside, that street is in York Region’s ten-year cycling plan.
Given this progress being made by the 905 suburbs and Toronto’s so-called commitment to Vision Zero, Mayor Tory has NO EXCUSE not to support Transform Yonge. Toronto won’t have another opportunity to reimagine Yonge Street for another 50 years, so it is essential City Council either gets this right or defer the decision until after the election with a more progressive council. This point was made clear earlier today when over 200 Vision Zero supporters took part in a die in outside of Toronto city hall. A similar message was sent in Amsterdam in the 1970’s in which they called on their leaders to “Stop de Kindermoord” or stop the child murder.

UPDATE (2018/03/27) - Yesterday's die in made the cover in Metro Toronto, while City Council voted to defer the decision on REimagining Yonge until possibly after this October's election.

Enough is enough!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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