November 05, 2022

Keeping the 2022 Election Momentum Going

While John Tory’s re-election as Mayor was widely expected during last month’s municipal election, there were still some positive changes. Amber Morley defeated five-term councillor Mark Grimes in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, while the unfortunate death of Councillor Cynthia Lai (RIP) lead to Jamaal Myers getting elected in Scarborough North. On the road safety front, 12 candidates who signed onto the Toronto Community Bikeways Coalition’s road safety calls to action were elected, while mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa presented lots of good policy platforms covering various sectors.

To help keep the 2022 election momentum going, I will discuss five of Penalosa’s policy platforms which road safety advocates are encouraged to keep fighting for.

The Gardiner Expressway ramps east of the Don Valley Parkway were removed last year

Revisiting the Gardiner Expressway

One thing which got brought up during the final days of the campaign was the idea of revisiting the Gardiner East decision from 2015; something which Penalosa argued would lead to savings (and new revenue) of almost $1 billion. Personally, I’m skeptical about whether there is enough support at City Council for this move. However, the escalating climate crisis and the looming 2023 budget shortfall approaching $1 billion makes it worth exploring; especially considering construction from Cherry Street to the Don Valley Parkway is not expected until at least 2026. Of course, another environmental assessment and years of public consultation would be needed, but highway projects have been stopped before such as the Spadina (a.k.a. Allen) Expressway south of Eglinton Avenue (among others in Toronto).

Overhauling Open Streets

A more realistic policy proposal is to overhaul Toronto’s open streets program; something I argued for in this Toronto Star op-ed from September. Toronto never managed to host Open Streets TO more than two Sundays annually since it started in 2014, while ActiveTO on Lake Shore West was a big hit during the pandemic (until it was scrapped in June). Penalosa’s original proposal called for open streets to happen every Sunday during the summer along Yonge (Queens Quay to Yonge Boulevard) and Bloor (Humber to Don Rivers). This was later revised to include Lake Shore West and Danforth (to Kingston Road) which would provide access to those living in Toronto’s east end and Scarborough. A well coordinated campaign is needed to make Open Streets a weekly event; something which never materialized.

Priority Bus Lanes

The pandemic saw the introduction of RapidTO bus/bike lanes along Eglinton Avenue East, Kingston Road, and Morningside Avenue. Five other routes were proposed along Jane Street, Dufferin Street, Steeles Avenue, Finch Avenue, and Lawrence Avenue. Only one of these – Jane Street – is expected to start public consultation next year. Gil’s FastLane transit proposal (see below) is loosely based on this RapidTO plan, but has some route differences with Sheppard Avenue and Bathurst Street added, while Lawrence Avenue and Steeles Avenue were dropped.

Fortunately, TTC Riders already has a campaign to expand bus and streetcar priority lanes on as many as 20 different routes across the city. Those interested in transit advocacy are encouraged to look up TTC Riders to help make priority transit lanes a reality in more parts of the city.

Building Recreational Loops

Back in January 2020, Mayor John Tory announced a proposed 81-kilometre Loop Trail which used the Martin Goodman, Humber River, Don River, and Finch Hydro Corridor trails. I had a chance to ride parts of it in April – eventually doing the entire loop in August – and write an op-ed in support of the Loop Trail in June. In late July, I did a 90 kilometre ride around Scarborough calling for another loop to be added there which was missing from Tory’s plan. Penalosa took both loops a step further by including Etobicoke with the Etobicoke Greenway and the Milton GO corridor; all forming a 100-kilometre Green Loop

Speaking of the Etobicoke Greenway, Hydro One will be hosting public consultations on November 16th (1:00 PM) and 17th (5:30 PM) at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church near Six Points. Those who are able to should attend to show their support, while materials will be available online on the 16th. In Scarborough, a UTSC report proposed multiple trails including the Scarborough Waterfront, the Warden Hydro Corridor, West Highland Creek, and East Highland Creek.

Revamping Toronto’s Bike Plan

Last, but not least, a few road safety advocates and I were asked by Penalosa to help provide input for a bike plan; a first for any mayoral candidate (that I know of). As part of these efforts, I prepared a map for this plan which builds on Toronto’s major city-wide cycling network and has a goal of placing virtually every Torontonian within one kilometre of a protected bike lane. The proposed network would be approximately 870 kilometres including the following:

  • 146 kilometres of existing trails (in green)
  • 72 kilometres of protected bike lanes and neighbourhood connections (in blue)
  • 166 kilometres of approved bikeways and painted bike lanes requiring upgrades (in yellow)
  • 484 kilometres of new bikeways to be added to the plan (in red)

Such a network would be critical to meet TransformTO’s goal of having 75% of trips under 5 kilometres done by foot, bike, and transit by 2030 while it would come close to Cycle Toronto’s ask of having bikeways on 20% of Toronto’s roads (or over 1000 kilometres). With the next near-term cycling plan not due until late 2024, advocates need to start planning now on which routes they should campaign for next.

If there are certain key routes you feel are missing from the map, by all means let me know.

Moving Forward

While some proposals such as revisiting the Gardiner Expressway may be a long shot, it’s still worth pursuing given the looming budget shortfall and escalating climate crisis. Other more realistic measures such as expanding open streets, bus priority lanes, recreational loop trails, and further accelerating Toronto’s cycling infrastructure will require concerted efforts from all of us to make these bold proposals a reality. Let’s warmly encourage the new council to follow through in creating a Toronto for everyone!

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