June 09, 2020

Toronto Needs an ActiveTO Phase 2

Toronto City Council approved 25 km of new bike lanes at their May 28 virtual meeting as part of ActiveTO, including the completion of a 15 km continuous bikeway across Bloor-Danforth from Runnymede to Dawes. It was a victory more than 40 years in the making with groups such as Take The Tooker, Bells on Bloor, Bells on Danforth, Cycle Toronto, and the David Suzuki Foundation all contributing to this moment. The aim is to install these bike lanes within weeks with some projects such as Dundas East from Broadview to Sackville already being recently completed. However, there are several reasons why Toronto needs an ActiveTO Phase 2 as soon as possible.
The recently installed Dundas East cycle tracks are part of the 25 km approved under ActiveTO

The Illusion of Cycling Progress

The 25 km of new bike lanes – plus 15 km previously approved including the recently installed Douro-Wellington bike lanes – have been declared as Toronto’s largest bike lane rollout in its history. While technically true, this still represents a sad state of affairs when we realize Toronto needed to install 35 km annually in order to complete the 335 km called for in the ten year bike plan approved in June 2016. The first four years of the bike plan saw only 21 km of new bike lanes including 2 km in 2019. Even installing the 40 km this year (including previously approved projects) would still leave Toronto more than 100 km behind where they needed to be at the halfway point of the bike plan.

For a comparison, Montréal has been installing 46 km of bike lanes annually from 2008 to 2017. Even though their installation cadence slowed down in recent years in favour of quality, they still put Toronto to shame big time. This year, Montréal plans to install 324 km of cycling and pedestrian facilities, including 112 km of temporary bike lanes over two phases as part of their COVID-19 response. The 61 km included in Phase 1 are currently under way. Again showing Toronto’s response as timid compared to other cities.
Map of ActiveTO installations (via City of Toronto)

Building On ActiveTO

There are a few things missing with the ActiveTO rollout. While it will include bike lanes along subway corridors such as Bloor, Danforth, and University, Yonge Street has been ignored despite it being home to Toronto’s busiest subway line. While I am not against bike lanes on University and hope they get extended to Eglinton, it’s worth repeating Yonge is one of the few streets that goes from the Waterfront to Steeles and beyond. Having a bike lane on Yonge Street would also help Midtown residents who will not be getting anything as part of this rollout.

The inclusion of suburban routes such as Brimley and Huntingwood in Scarborough, as well as Wilmington and Faywood in North York, will be helpful in expanding Toronto’s cycling network beyond the core. Brimley needs to be extended past Lawrence to connect with Huntingwood and the Finch Hydro Corridor, while bike lanes will be needed along Wilson, Dufferin, and Lawrence to connect the Wilmington-Faywood bike lanes with the Shaw-Winona-Marlee route. Not to mention, the Winona quiet street needs to be converted to a contraflow bike lane in order to establish a true north-south cycling route between the Don and Humber trails.

Last, but not least, the ActiveTO plan has nothing for Etobicoke. Aside from the Finch West LRT currently under construction, there are several opportunities which need to be considered to improve safety for people who bike. These include the following:
  • Bloor – Extend the bike lanes beyond Runnymede to connect with Kipling and the existing cycle tracks at Six Points. A further extension to Mississauga is also worth considering.
  • The Queensway – Fill the gap between the existing trail in Mississauga and bike lanes from Stephen Street to Claude Avenue. Some parts of The Queensway are six lanes wide!
  • Lake Shore – Bike lanes currently exist along parts of Lake Shore in Etobicoke and need to be made continuous. Especially considering Mississauga also has Lake Shore in their cycling master plan.
  • Kipling – To provide a north-south route and make use of the cycle tracks at Six Points.
The Queensway with its six traffic lanes would make a great ActiveTO addition for Etobicoke

Next Steps

With over 5,500 people and 110 organizations supporting bike lanes on Bloor, Danforth, and Yonge through a petition and open letter, it is essential to rally support for bike lanes on Yonge Street. Cycle Toronto launched the Yonge Loves Bikes pledge a few years back which I encourage you to sign and share widely. Another thing worth doing is to visit local businesses along Yonge by bike, bring your helmet in to remind owners people bike there, and share the business on social media to help build support.
Map of suggested suburban bike routes from my previous post

My previous post has some ideas for expanding cycling in the suburbs. However, people in Scarborough, Etobicoke, and North York need to not just let Mayor Tory and their councillors know which routes they want made safer for people who bike, but also organize to make these efforts a reality. Finally, downtown advocates also have an obligation to express support for suburban cycling and reach out to suburban advocates.

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