January 23, 2023

Here We Go Again (on Yonge Street)

On April 6, 2022, Toronto City Council voted to extend the Midtown Yonge Complete Street Pilot until January 2023. Nine months and a municipal election later which saw nine new councillors elected, the pilot has been confirmed for debate at the January 30, 2023 Infrastructure & Environment Committee meeting (and at City Council on February 7, 2023). A petition from Yonge4All got almost 7,000 signatures at the time of writing in support of making the pilot permanent, while a counter-petition calling for the pilot’s removal has over 5,000 signatures.

Even by foot, the Midtown Yonge pilot is safer for Mozzie to walk! 😊

The City of Toronto's final report showed increases in cycling and pedestrian volumes by as much as 180% and 132% respectively as of October 2022. The highest was at Rowanwood Avenue with almost 2,000 cyclists per day, while pedestrian activity was highest near Bloor Street. Yonge at Davisville had less bike traffic than the pre-pilot count at Bloor – 710 and 860 daily respectively – but it’s still a 152% increase. I anticipate the real boost will happen should the Midtown Yonge bike lanes get extended north to at least Eglinton Avenue and the eglintonTOday complete street project gets built; the latter of which – including existing bike lanes and trails – would lead to a 30 kilometre continuous bikeway from Kennedy Station to Mississauga!

Midtown Yonge Traffic Counts (via City of Toronto)

Southbound commute times were within one minute of Fall 2019 trends while northbound traffic took about one minute longer; likely caused by the ongoing Eglinton Crosstown LRT construction. Traffic impacts on adjacent streets such as Avenue and Mount Pleasant Roads were negligible if not better. Emergency response times were minimally affected with fire services being only eight seconds worse compared to city-wide trends and ambulances being 36 seconds better.

A brief version of the Midtown Yonge pilot data from August 2022 (via Yonge4All)

Helen and I felt safer bringing Mozzie along Yonge since the pilot was installed whether it be walking him or having him in the cargo bike. Before we moved to Rosedale last June, we would use Yonge to get to David Balfour Park a few times to hike the Rosedale ravine. This feeling of safety would also apply to those with young children. As with Destination Danforth, the Midtown Yonge pilot also had CafeTO patios during the summer months which were proven to generate 49 times more revenue than parking. I also did a few group rides along Yonge since the pilot began including Cycling Good Cheer (twice) and a ride with Mayor John Bauters of Emeryville, California.

Mozzie enjoying the ride with John Bauters in July 2022 (via Albert Koehl)

Some of the opponents have come up with ridiculous arguments to justify removing the bike lanes. One that came up from the South Rosedale Residents Association involved impacts to those with disabilities, including tripping over the barriers between the bike lane and parking lane. Accessibility concerns can be addressed with additional accessible loading platforms in the short term and replacing the quick build setup with raised cycle tracks during road reconstruction. The claim about “landlocked streets” can be easily dismissed given residents chose to live on those streets with dead ends and the problems of turning on and off Yonge Street would have still existed before the pilot’s installation. A third argument opponents used is the 27 planned residential developments with over 10,000 new units; something refuted by the planned Ontario Line to relieve capacity on the Line 1 subway and the greater capacity bike lanes have of moving people. Moving more people with the space we have inevitably means reducing space for cars.

Signs opposing the Midtown Yonge pilot were spotted in Summerhill (via Ally MacLellan)

Given the economic benefits of CaféTO and improved safety of the Midtown Yonge pilot have helped contribute to increased walking and cycling – modes of transport which help fight climate change – the green and rational solution is to make it permanent. Not remove it as the opponents would like to claim via easily refutable arguments.

If you support making the Midtown Yonge pilot permanent, I encourage you to do the following:

  1. If you haven’t signed the Yonge4All petition yet, DO IT NOW! And make sure you share it widely on social media and everyone you know even if you already signed.
  2. E-mail iec@toronto.ca, as well as CC mayor_tory@toronto.ca and your city councillor to show your support. You should reference Motion IE1.4.
  3. If you are able, you can request to depute at the January 30 meeting either at City Hall or virtually. You can e-mail iec@toronto.ca by Friday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while you should aim to keep your remarks limited to three minutes in case a large number of speakers sign up.
  4. You can join Yonge4All at City Hall on Monday, January 30 (9:00 AM) to deliver the petition.

The Midtown part of Yonge Street is not the only one to keep on our radar. The Korean Canadian Business Association and Councillor Lily Cheng in Ward 18 (Willowdale) have been calling for REimagining Yonge in North York Centre to be reopened despite it being approved by City Council in December 2020. Cheng’s election platform called for a pilot to be installed there; an idea which was already rejected by City Council. When I spoke with her opponent Markus O’Brien Fehr – who served as John Filion’s chief of staff – he explained extending Doris and Beecroft – which act as alternates to Yonge – needed to be done first to gain Mayor John Tory’s support.

With seven days until the IEC vote, let’s pull all the stops to make the Midtown Yonge pilot permanent (and extended to Eglinton)!

UPDATE (2023/01/26) - Cycle Toronto issued their own action alert, while Jun N also covered it on his blog. Both posts highlight Motion IE1.4 also includes a recommendation to make the Bayview trail from River to Front Streets permanent.

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