December 03, 2020

A Case of the Toronto COVID-19 Blues

This week has been a depressing one in the City of Toronto as Ontario continues to set new records for daily COVID-19 cases. A bike lane has been removed, winter conditions have caused traffic chaos, and another person biking was killed. It’s time to do a round up of these events.

Bike lane symbols scrubbed off Brimley - via Scarborough Cycles

Brimley Bike Lanes Gone

On Monday, November 30, Councillors Crawford and Thompson hosted a town hall about the Brimley bike lanes billed as “improving Toronto’s cycling network”. The meeting was anything but this with the meeting revealing the bike lanes would be removed over minor increases in driver commute times. It’s scandalous not only for the fact the bike lanes were only there for four months, but also how this was done without holding a council vote, without waiting until Fall 2021 for a full evaluation as for other ActiveTO projects, and without providing a safe alternative route. Worse still, this removal is already under way.

The Brimley bike lane town hall flyer did not give the message about the bike lanes being removed
The Brimley bike lanes – along with those on Huntingwood – were among the first significant bike lanes installed in Scarborough since the ones on Birchmount and Pharmacy were removed almost a decade ago. (Talk about déjà vu.) I had a chance to bike on Brimley during the summer and found it to be an opportunity for a north-south cycling spine for Scarborough. It connected the Bluffs to The Meadoway, while further extensions could have served the Scarborough Town Centre, the Huntingwood bike lanes, and the Finch Hydro Corridor.

While bike lanes may be considered on Brimley again in 2022-2024 when the road gets rebuilt, Toronto needs a new process where bike lanes cannot be removed without residents (and affected councillors) providing a safe alternate route so people who bike can continue to do so.

UPDATE (2020/12/11) - My letter discussing these concerns was published on Toronto.com.

A New Meaning for the 29 Sufferin’

The winter like conditions this week made it unsafe to bike to the office on Tuesday and prompted me to take the TTC. Part of my commute involved taking the 29 Dufferin bus (a.k.a. The Sufferin’) which is among the city’s busiest bus routes. Even during the pandemic, it was still busy with physical distancing being difficult. The bus went out of service at Rogers Road due to the roads resembling skating rinks.

Buses stranded on Dufferin Street in skating like conditions on December 1, 2020
Since I wasn’t sure when the bus would resume after waiting for a few minutes, I walked the rest of the way to my office near Dufferin and Lawrence. The weirdest thing about the more than 45-minute walk was I didn’t see the first bus go by until I passed Wenderley Drive; a few minutes' walk from where I would have gotten off at Lawrence! Had I gotten off right away, I probably would have beat that bus at Lawrence. Not every day when it’s faster to walk than to take the bus. 😉 I even saw a person braving it on the bike – no thank you – while the sidewalks themselves weren’t plowed at that time.

Tragedy near Dufferin Mall

While on the subject of Dufferin Street, tragedy struck last night when a 23-year-old woman biking was hit and killed by the drivers of two vehicles in front of Dufferin Mall at Sylvan Avenue. This marks the fourth cycling death of this year and the second within the past two weeks. Having biked past Dufferin and Sylvan before, I can confirm how treacherous that area is and prefer to use Brock to avoid Dufferin. That street is among six streets prioritized for bus-bike priority lanes within the next few years, but no firm timelines have been provided for Dufferin at this time.

Police investigating the scene of a cyclist death at Dufferin Mall - via Joey Schwartz
A memorial ride will be organized on Wednesday, December 9 to mark one week after the cyclist’s death. Meet 6 PM at Bloor and Spadina while the ride will leave at 6:30 PM. Don’t forget your masks and physical distancing measures, while Jun N will likely have a blog post put up shortly after that ride.

But It’s Not All Bad

Despite these depressing signs of early winter, there was some good news to celebrate with the Infrastructure and Environment Committee approving Transform Yonge on Tuesday which would reduce Yonge Street in North York Centre from six lanes to four to accommodate protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks. That item will go to City Council on December 16, though it's unknown whether Mayor Tory will support it this time around.

Until then, let’s not try to let the bad news get us down and keep fighting the good fight.

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