May 03, 2023

RANT – Consequences of Neglecting Safe Streets

In August 2021, Miguel Joshua Escanan was killed while riding northbound at Avenue and Bloor. A death which could have been prevented had the City followed through with implementing ActiveTO bike lanes on that stretch. Unfortunately, the same thing almost happened again two years later.

The removed Brimley bike lanes near this week's fatal collision

On Monday, CBC Toronto initially reported that a cyclist was killed in Scarborough at Lawrence Avenue and Brimley Road. They later corrected the article to say a driver was killed and that the cyclist was instead near the scene and not killed or injured. Even though the cyclist death didn’t happen, a serious call out needs to be made for it would only be a matter of time before the same thing happens again.

For those who weren’t already aware, Brimley Road from Kingston Road to Lawrence Avenue East was part of a series of temporary bike lanes installed in July 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only four months later, Councillors Gary Crawford and Michael Thompson announced the Brimley bike lanes would be removed at a town hall aimed at “improving cycling infrastructure”. Both councillors need to be questioned on why they had those bike lanes removed, while two others in Scarborough on Birchmount and Pharmacy were removed in 2011.

In the latest Near-Term Cycling Implementation Plan, parallel studies were called for on both Brimley and Midland which adds another layer of confusion regarding why the bike lanes were removed. Not to mention, a trail is planned to be installed on Brimley to connect with the Scarborough Bluffs. A bikeway on Brimley had the potential to act as a north-south spine for Scarborough connecting people from the Scarborough Bluffs to The Meadoway to the Scarborough Town Centre.

2022-24 Near-Term Cycling Plan for Scarborough (via City of Toronto)

On the other side of Toronto, a pedestrian was recently killed at Bloor and Aberfoyle; the end of Phase 1 of the Bloor West Complete Street Extension which is planned to be installed this year. Despite this tragedy, mayoral candidates Mark Saunders, Anthony Furey, and Rob Davis specifically called for the scrapping of this Bloor bike lane extension while three others also opposed bike lanes on one way or another. These candidates also need to be questioned on why they would be willing to continue putting Torontonians who bike into jeopardy by leaving Bloor Street in its current unsafe condition.

If that wasn’t bad enough, both Saunders and Furey have recently called for the scrapping of the King Street Transit Corridor and the Richmond-Adelaide bikeway given the recently started closures on Queen Street which are expected to last four to five years to accommodate the Ontario Line construction. While I can understand the frustration regarding long-term construction projects such as this, making things worse for those who take transit or bike is not the answer. Especially considering the 504 King streetcar line and the Richmond-Adelaide bikeway are both Toronto’s busiest in their respective categories.

What opponents such as Saunders and Furey don’t realize is people who bike have far fewer options to detour than those who drive with the nearest continuous east-west cycling corridors being one kilometre away on Queens Quay and College-Gerrard per the below Google Maps screenshot. Any form of bikeway closure needs to ensure proper accommodation given the fewer options available.

These examples on Brimley Road, Bloor Street, and the Richmond-Adelaide bikeway serve as reminders that neglecting safety for people who bike – including the removal of bike lanes – can have deadly consequences. Road safety is something that cannot be debated and instead requires all hands on deck to ensure we eliminate traffic deaths. Something Josh Matlow recently acknowledged with his Vision Zero platform that calls for a 150% increase in capital funding to $56 million annually, as well as the replacement of “request based” processes with automatic ones.

As Toronto voters, we need to encourage other candidates to reveal their road safety platforms as soon as possible which I will share as they come up.

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