April 16, 2023

Reflection on Bloor West Consultations

Last week, the City of Toronto hosted two open houses for the Bloor West Complete Street Extension which would extend the Bloor bike lanes in two phases from Runnymede Road to Six Points. Jun N attended Wednesday’s meeting at Swansea Public School and has a great write-up about it, while I attended Thursday’s meeting at Etobicoke Collegiate Institute. Since I already covered the technical details in an earlier post, this post will focus on general observations and community feedback.

Existing conditions at Bloor and Royal York

Overall, there was a decent turnout with at least fifty people in at any given time including Councillor Amber Morley. As expected, there was more opposition at this consultation than at past ones for the original Bloor pilot from Shaw to Avenue and for the extension from Shaw to Runnymede, but also a fair number of supporters.

While reviewing the roll-out plans, I heard one woman make easily refutable claims that bike lanes would destroy businesses in The Kingsway, as well as how not many people cycling in the winter. Before I left, I heard another man yell at one of the advocates claiming he was insulted by his remarks. As far as primary opponents go, I was informed John Nunziata – brother of sitting Councillor Frances Nunziata – is one of them and attended Thursday’s meeting.

Back to the roll-out plans, I saw a fair number of sticky notes citing traffic concerns near the South Kingsway intersection. Some people wanted a traffic signal added at Riverside Drive; especially given access to Mossom Road at South Kingsway will be closed off and is something I would be open to. However, signal timings will need to be co-ordinated given three traffic signals already exist from Armadale Avenue to South Kingsway; a distance of 280 metres.

Several comments criticized the plan to reduce Bloor Street to two lanes across the Humber River Bridge; claiming it’s the only way to drive across the river. Using this argument to deny safe access for people biking is another false narrative given the Bloor-Danforth corridor from Runnymede to Victoria Park is only two lanes except near the Prince Edward Viaduct. Even before the 2020 extensions were put in, Bloor-Danforth was reduced to one lane per direction outside of rush hour through the presence of parked cars. Motorists looking for alternatives can take Dundas or The Queensway which are both about 2 km away.

As for the Humber River, crossing it on a bike via Bloor is relatively flat with a seven metre uphill climb. The next alternative of turning at Old Mill subway station would not only add almost 500 metres to the ride, but also lead to a higher elevation climb (22 metres) and a lack of signalized intersections after returning to Bloor Street. Unless you are on an e-bike or are reasonably fit, this is a real barrier for people biking. While there were options considered to widen that bridge when it was reconstructed in 2010 to accommodate bikes, the existing width was kept due to costs.

Within The Kingsway, I saw a couple of comments regarding TTC stops and banning left turns to improve traffic flow.

However, there were a few rude anti-bike remarks citing law breaking cyclists and calls for bicycle licensing. (Enough already!) Despite some of the opposition, I found Councillor Morley and the city staff present stood their ground well; whom I thank for supporting the project.

Before leaving the consultation, I spoke briefly with Jennifer Alexander who writes “The Etobicoke Voice” and is passionate about safe streets in Etobicoke. She prepared an excellent recap of her observations and raised an interesting point on needing access to discussions and host virtual town halls to bring more people on board.

While I agree there is merit of hosting additional town halls, there is a need to ensure the most vocal opponents don’t dominate the discussion – one advantage of holding them virtually – as well as not overdo the consultations to delay (or even kill) the project. Mississauga – whose General Committee is expected to debate their Bloor Street Integrated Project in May – held four public meetings due to stubborn resistance from the Applewood Hills & Heights Residents Association. One representative from Mississauga Cycling Now! (Glen) attended on Thursday whom I sincerely thank for doing so.

If you missed the consultations, please complete the survey by Thursday, April 27, as well as e-mail Councillors Amber Morley, Gord Perks, and Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie to voice your support. The project is expected to be debated at the June 5 Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting; an action alert for which will be issued closer to that date.

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