June 24, 2019

Back to the Bike Plan Drawing Board

This Thursday, Toronto’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee will review an update to the bike plan along with this year’s proposed cycling projects. The update effectively throws the bike plan approved in 2016 out the window; instead opting for more flexible three-year plans and a city-wide cycling network to be developed over the long term. What a slap in the face! Especially when you consider Toronto had a $16 million annual cycling budget (excluding federal and provincial funding) and five cycling fatalities in 2018, yet they built only 25 kilometres of on-street cycling infrastructure since 2016?!?!
The Bloor bike lanes need to be extended west from Shaw Street (pictured) to High Park
The City has come up with several lame/dubious excuses for only building 7% of the bike plan in the first three years. First, they claim poor capital works co-ordination in which capital works projects are planned up to three years in advance. With the 2016 bike plan development starting in 2014 (or even earlier), this was not a valid excuse to miss 2017 and 2018 capital works projects including Donlands Avenue which ended up being resurfaced without bike lanes. Second, the City blames the prioritization of federal public transit funding. This in itself is dubious/questionable with the City having experienced difficulties fully utilizing their cycling budgets in the past; very little of which goes to building on-street bike lanes. Finally, the City claims it’s unattainable to accelerate the bike plan for completion by 2022. With other cities around the world building bike lanes faster than Toronto – almost 90 kilometres in Montréal from 2016 to 2018 or over 120 kilometres in New York in 2017 alone – it’s absolute bullshit! The only things that would make this goal unattainable are a lack of political will and the slow pace of change within the city bureaucracy.
Proposed major city-wide cycling network (via City of Toronto)
Regarding the major corridor studies previously put on hold, the update does not provide any mention of specific timelines aside for Bloor and Danforth. Instead, the update called for a major city-wide network which included previously identified east-west corridors such as Lake Shore / Waterfront Trail, Bloor, Danforth, Kingston, Eglinton, and Finch. A couple of new additions were made including Sheppard (not just the light rail line the Ford government wants scrapped) and Lawrence. Several north-south options are provided including Kipling (or Martin Grove), Jane (or Keele), Yonge (or several different options), and Midland (or Brimley). The Don and Humber River Trails are largely completed with a few gaps to fill, while Winona is expected in the short term to fill the gap between Shaw and Marlee with further extensions north of the 401 along Wilmington later on. The update calls for this network to be completed by 2041 with 60% to be completed by 2030.

Within this city-wide network, the most immediate focus is on Bloor and Danforth. Consultations for the westward extension of the Bloor bike lanes to High Park Avenue are expected to launch this year with implementation by 2020 or 2021, though supporters are increasingly calling on Mayor John Tory and City Council for a 2020 installation. A community letter of support drafted by Bells on Bloor has gotten over sixty signatories representing businesses, community groups, institutions, and elected representatives.

Doctors for Safe Cycling recently held a press conference calling for bike lanes to be installed on Danforth for 2020. The City is planning to launch the Danforth complete streets study from Broadview to Victoria Park Avenues this year, though they are aiming for a 2021 installation date. The Sherbourne to Church section of Bloor – originally due for 2017 – is now scheduled for reconstruction in 2022, which leaves the Yorkville stretch from Church to Avenue with no reference of installation timing. Any further extensions into Scarborough and Etobicoke – except for the Six Points intersection at Kipling – would have to wait until after the 2022 election.

The north-south routes aren’t expected to be built before 2022, but there is reason to be concerned about Yonge Street. From Bloor to the Waterfront, some councillors are keen on getting protected bike lanes on University Avenue, while the yongeTOmorrow study is considering installing protected bike lanes on Bay instead of Yonge to connect with those on Davenport and fill existing gaps. The Midtown in Focus study is looking at three different arterials – Avenue, Yonge, and Mount Pleasant for the Bloor to Lawrence stretch. Finally, there will be a decision later this year on whether to pursue Transform Yonge in North York (Sheppard to Finch) or move the bike lanes onto Beecroft. While University can be justified with its eight traffic lanes and higher cycling demand downtown, any decision to focus on Bay would effectively kill any hope for Yonge. Advocates are encouraged to push for a continuous north-south bike route on Yonge with the possibility of a car free section from College to Queen.
Map of proposed 2019 cycling projects (via City of Toronto)
For those complaining about the lack of progress over the past few years, 2019 is not shaping up to be much better. The motion for 2019 projects includes only six kilometres of bike lanes on Argyle Street, Blue Jays Way, Scarlett Road, Vaughan Road, Lawrence Avenue East, and Willowdale Avenue. Including projects deferred from 2018, the most we can anticipate for 2019 is 11 kilometres per this table below.
The deadline to register to speak or provide comments to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee (iec@toronto.ca) and your city councillor is 4:30 PM on Wednesday, June 26. Cycle Toronto issued this press release, though those wishing to provide submissions (reference Motion IE6.11) should focus on the following key items:
  1. Extend the Bloor bike lanes west to High Park Avenue by 2020
  2. Implement a pilot bike lane on Danforth Avenue by 2020
  3. Require bike lanes and protected intersections by default as roads are due for reconstruction
Ride safe!
Rob Z (e-mail)

2 comments:

  1. The author hit the bullseye: the chief obstacle is lack of political will. Always has been.

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