September 07, 2020

yongeTOmorrow September 2020 Update

Originally, the third and final phase of consultations for yongeTOmorrow was to be held during the spring. However, the COVID-19 lockdowns at the time delayed lead to this round being postponed until last week’s virtual launch. After reviewing the consultation materials, it’s time to give a proper assessment of the recommended design.

Rendering of Yonge Dundas Square (via City of Toronto)

Huge Improvement for Cyclists

During the Phase 2 series of consultations, the City had proposed alternatives that did not provide any bike lanes; instead moving them to University Avenue which has since gotten temporary bike lanes installed as part of ActiveTO. This shortcoming was something many local cycling advocates have cited when providing feedback to the City.

Phase 2 street design options did not include any bike lanes (via City of Toronto)
The recommended design is a huge improvement since then and one that’s worth commending the yongeTOmorrow team for. Cycle tracks have been included on Yonge from College to Gerrard which has a wider right of way and lower pedestrian volumes. Left turn boxes have been added at all four corners of Yonge and Gerrard; something which has become the new standard across the City as seen with new bike lane installations across Bloor and Danforth. At least until it can get some experience putting in protected intersections.
Rendering of cycle tracks on Yonge Street (via City of Toronto)
Two pedestrian priority areas – which received strong support during past consultations – will be included between Walton and Elm Streets, as well as from Edward Street to Dundas Square to accommodate high pedestrian volumes while still allowing people to bike through them. In other parts between Gerrard and Shuter Streets, one-way local driving access will be maintained while the other lane acts as a super-wide contraflow bike lane. Gates will be closed along Yonge Street from 6 AM to 1 AM to enforce these traffic restrictions while still allowing cycling access. The gates would then be opened overnight to allow for TTC bus service and thru motor vehicle traffic.
Recommended design concept for Yonge Street (via City of Toronto)

One Major Weakness

While the plan is very good overall, there is one stretch which needs to be called out; that being from Shuter to Queen Streets. Two traffic lanes will be maintained there with no consideration for people who bike; something which would kill the idea of having a continuous north-south bike route along Yonge. It’s even more disappointing this was not changed from Phase 2 despite that stretch receiving the lowest rating of 2.61 out of 5.

Design rankings from Phase 2 consultations (via City of Toronto)

Since the top priority for yongeTOmorrow is to improve the pedestrian experience and adding protected bike lanes on that stretch would lead to minimal added space for pedestrians, one possible solution would be to make that part of Yonge one-way with contraflow bike access. Victoria Street could then be made one way in the opposite direction to accommodate motorists.

Beyond yongeTOmorrow

Study area for Phase 1 (blue) and Phase 2 (pink) for yongeTOmorrow (via City of Toronto)

With construction along Yonge Street not expected to start before 2023 and detailed design expected in 2021-2022, Toronto should consider implementing pilot bike lanes and pedestrian zones along Yonge next year as an expansion to ActiveTO. Toronto should also launch public consultations for Phase 2 of yongeTOmorrow from College to Davenport as soon as possible to ensure walking and cycling are factored in from the start. Especially considering a renewed push for bike lanes on Yonge in midtown Toronto from Davenport to Highway 401 is under way with the Bike Fridays campaign, while REimaginingYonge in North York Centre is still awaiting a final decision by Toronto City Council.

How Can You Help?

For those of you who support bike lanes on Yonge Street, there are several actions you can do.

  1. Go to www.toronto.ca/yongetomorrow to review the consultation materials. The deadline to fill the online questionnaire and submit other feedback is Wednesday, September 30.
  2. Register for the virtual public event happening on Wednesday, September 16 at 6:30 PM.
  3. Sign the Yonge Tomorrow petition at www.yongetomorrow.ca which Cycle Toronto, Walk Toronto, Ryerson CBI, and 8 80 Cities have launched.

While the design of yongeTOmorrow may have its flaws, it is critical that those of us who want to see Yonge Street that puts people first – including pedestrian zones and protected bike lanes – voice our support. Especially considering there are some powerful opponents who want to see the status quo maintained on Yonge Street which puts cars above people. A report is expected to go to Toronto City Council by the end of this year, so stay tuned for next steps.

No comments:

Post a comment