February 24, 2020

Dawdling Along on Danforth

The last week in January saw two public meetings for the Bloor bike lane extension to Runnymede and one for the Danforth Study. The feeling I got after pulling a double header on Monday, January 27 was the two meetings couldn’t have felt more different though turnout was high at both. The Bloor meeting felt very optimistic with many participants feeling the proposed design was very good, though the intersection at Bloor and Keele needs a rethink. Fellow Toronto bike blogger Jun provided an excellent breakdown of what is proposed for the Bloor extension.
Hundreds of people attended the second Danforth Study meeting
The Danforth Study meeting – the second in the process – was more respectful without the shouting from a few bike lane opponents and the lack of a presentation, though there was still more opposition to bike lanes compared to the Bloor meeting. Instead, a bunch of panels from the three different studies – planning, retail, and complete streets – were put up including the feedback collected from the first meeting held in November. The feedback cited strong support for complete streets and pilot bike lanes, but that’s where the good news stops.

Feedback from the first meeting - Note bike lanes were mentioned a lot in the middle panel
Instead of providing preliminary complete street design options on the large maps, the map and sticky note exercise was a repeat of the first meeting asking people what they liked about Danforth in green, what needed improvement in yellow, and other ideas or concerns in pink. Of course, participants covered the maps demanding protected bike lanes (again).
Participants placing sticky notes on a map of Danforth - Same as with the first meeting
While city staff were there to answer questions, the lack of focus made it less inviting to ask questions than with the Bloor meeting. However, the thing that should trigger alarm bells is that “consideration of a pilot project” would be completed by Q3 2020. Given the Bloor extension timeline was aggressive as is, that statement for the Danforth makes it very unlikely pilot bike lanes can be installed this year.
This panel discussing the timing of the pilot bike lanes triggered some alarm bells
Here is what the current timeline for the Bloor bike lane extension looks like.
  • Public Consultation – January 27 and 30 with comments due on February 14
  • Infrastructure & Environment Committee (IEC) and City Council Votes – May 2020
  • Bike Lane Installation – August 2020
Terms of reference and schedule for the Danforth Study
If the Danforth pilot were to be built this year, my gut tells me it would have to be installed in September given we are too late for August and an October installation would not see much use of the new bike lanes before winter comes and add fuel to opponents’ anger. If a September installation were to be possible, I speculate the following timeline would be needed based on the one followed for Bloor.
  • Public Consultation – March 2020 (or April 2020 at the latest)
  • IEC and City Council Votes – June 2020 (or July 2020 at the latest)
  • Bike Lane Installation – September 2020
If the July committee and council deadline gets missed, the next meetings would not happen until September which would certainly mean delaying the pilot installation until Spring 2021 at the earliest.
The Danforth Study includes planning which looked at things such as heritage and housing types
Regarding the planning and retail studies, the feedback collected cited support for preserving building heritage, allowing gentle density, providing affordable housing, and helping small businesses thrive. All of which sounds reasonable and could be found with other planning studies across Toronto. However, I feel the Danforth Study process would have been a lot more effective if the three studies were done separately.
As with the first meeting, participants covered the maps with notes demanding bike lanes on Danforth
In addition to needing to accelerate the complete streets component of the Danforth Study, I feel road safety advocates need to go on the offensive and organize meetups at businesses along the Danforth to remind business owners people who bike shop there too. It is something Cycle Toronto has had some success before when they organized a “love in” in 2013 at the Harbord Bakery – which opposed a bi-directional cycle track on Harbord – and did the Tour de Bloor Passport in 2017 to promote businesses along the (then pilot) Bloor bikes. These actions may not change minds overnight, but can help win over hearts and minds over the long run.

Go East!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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