July 11, 2018

Forwards (and Backwards) on Bloor-Danforth

Last week, the Toronto and East York Community Council approved the recommendations of a planning study done for Danforth Avenue from Coxwell to Victoria Park Avenues, as well as supported expanding the study to cover the section from Broadview to Coxwell Avenues. The Danforth planning study was widely consulted which saw strong support for 7-8 storey mid-rise buildings, heritage conservation, and complete streets including wider sidewalks and protected bike lanes. All four speakers present expressed support for improved cycling facilities and the motion will go to City Council on July 23; the last meeting before October’s election. If approved, we will be one step closer to getting bike lanes on “The Danny”.
2018 Bells on Danforth
This news is a timely follow up to two events regarding Danforth Avenue. On June 16, hundreds of people rode their bikes during Bells on Danforth – inspired by Bells on Bloor – to show support for extending the bike lanes on that corridor and bring some positive vibes over a deadly week which saw three people get killed while riding their bikes. Councillors McMahon and Janet Davis – neither of whom will be seeking re-election – announced at the ride they would bring a motion to start the major corridor study on Danforth Avenue, which would be separate from the planning study and focus more on transportation. Also in June, east end advocates and Bells on Bloor did a bike count on Danforth Avenue which saw over 3000 people riding their bikes that day with mode share exceeding 20% at the peak! Those are similar numbers to what Bloor Street experienced before the bike lanes were installed in 2016.
Danforth Bike Count (via Ward 30 Bikes)
However, that recent motion lead to a disturbing discovery thanks to a deputation made by Hamish Wilson; a long-time advocate who frequently speaks at city hall on cycling items. In addition to his remarks on Danforth, Hamish expressed frustration over the slow pace of getting bike lanes on a section of Bloor Street from Sherbourne to Church Streets. Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam then asked a question to city staff on the status of that section of Bloor Street, which lead to Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati – Director of Transportation Infrastructure – saying it would not be completed until 2021.
Community council meeting video. JHG's remarks on Bloor are 1 hour
48 minutes in while deputations start at 1 hour 25 minutes in.
The Sherbourne to Church section of Bloor Street was originally supposed to be done in 2017 but was then delayed to 2019 to co-ordinate with the reconstruction of the Bloor and Parliament intersection. This latest delay was triggered due to other capital works such as resurfacing and improving Bloor Street from Bathurst Street to Avenue Road, as well as the Glen Road pedestrian bridge.
Memorial ride for Dalia Chako at Bloor and St. George
With Toronto experiencing record deaths due to road violence – 93 happened during the first two years of what should be called Zero Vision – we road safety advocates CANNOT afford any more delays to much needed protected bike lanes along major corridors such as Bloor-Danforth. Especially when bike lanes on Bloor from Shaw Street to Avenue Road were installed three years before planned construction, while those on Lansdowne Avenue from Dundas to Rideau Streets were done in 2014 with resurfacing done in 2016. We don't need any more excuses to worsen what is already a slow pace of implementing the bike plan!
With the municipal election only three months away, let’s ask our city council and mayoral candidates to #BuildTheGrid (sign the pledge here) including protected bike lanes along the major corridors. Finally, we must keep the pressure after the election to remind council of the urgent need to build safe streets across the city.

Ding! Ding!
Rob Z (e-mail)

UPDATE (2018/07/12) - The Toronto Star has picked up on the story about the delay involving Bloor from Sherbourne to Church which you can read here.

July 04, 2018

Cycling Connections at St. Clair and Old Weston

A lot of the Toronto cycling community’s attention on Monday, June 25 was focused on the public meeting debating whether to move the Adelaide protected bike lanes to the left (north) side. However, there was another meeting the same day which has significant potential outside of downtown; that being the St. Clair West Transportation Master Plan (TMP). I had a chance to stop by that meeting on my way home from work to learn more about the transportation issues in that area.
The Lowdown

The City’s display boards cited the Kitchener GO Transit corridor has been a barrier for east-west travel in the St. Clair and Old Weston area with significant congestion issues. This study is concurrent with Metrolinx’s plans to electrify the Kitchener GO Transit corridor, add a SmartTrack station in the area, and build the Davenport Diamond bridge. The City is planning to improve the Dundas-Scarlett-St. Clair area, which will include bike lanes. For the St. Clair West TMP, the City is proposing to do the following along with the necessary building tear downs.
  1. Widen St. Clair from Keele Street to Weston Road
  2. Extend Davenport Road from Old Weston Road to meet Union Street (north of St. Clair)
  3. Extend Gunns Road from Weston Road under the Kitchener line to meet Turnberry Avenue
  4. Extend Keele Street to Gunns Road
Recommended alternatives per the City of Toronto's presentation boards
Benefits for Cyclists

From a cyclist’s standpoint, the St. Clair West TMP proposes will provide bi-directional protected bike lanes on the south side of Gunns which will connect with the existing Lavender Creek Trail. The bi-directional bike lanes will then be added to the west side of Union and Davenport. While not in the proposed documents, a city staff member informed me they are considering the possibility of extending the bi-directional bike lanes east from Old Weston to Osler Street; effectively acting as the first step in extending the West Toronto Railpath north.
Davenport and Old Weston - Similar design used for Union and Gunns
Some painted bike lanes are also called for on Keele Street. Unfortunately, I am concerned about having the bike lane placed between the two turning lanes at Gunns. From what I understand, this was done because that intersection will be controlled by a stop sign instead of by traffic signals. 
The design of the Keele and Gunns intersection leaves much to be desired
Overlooked Drawbacks

Given Toronto’s bike plan had called for bike lanes to be built on Dundas from Royal York to Scarlett – as well as on St. Clair from Scarlett to Runnymede – I was disappointed with the lack of consideration for extending the proposed St. Clair bike lanes from Runnymede to Davenport/Union. This would have helped provide a more direct connection to the existing Davenport bike lanes. Not to mention, the City could have considering extending the Dundas bike lanes from Royal York to the Mississauga border with that city seriously considering protected bike lanes as part of their Dundas Connects study.
Red lines on bike plan map show missing Dundas and St. Clair gaps
with the St. Clair West TMP study area circled in yellow
Some other advocates I spoke with also suggested using West Toronto Street to extend the Davenport bike lanes; something which was ruled out due to the lack of ability to address congestion on St. Clair. Even with the recommended plan, there remains a concern on how to fill the small gap from the Lavender Creek Trail to the St. Clair – Runnymede intersection.

Final Thoughts

While not without its faults, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the St. Clair West TMP from a cyclist’s perspective. With bi-directional protected bike lanes on Davenport, Union, and Gunns, they will contribute in filling a key gap in Toronto’s cycling network and help boost cycling in York-South Weston. The TMP will also help set the wheels in motion for the northern West Toronto Railpath extension as the southern extension gets under way.

For those who missed the public meeting, I urge you to go to http://toronto.ca/stclairwesttmp and submit your comments in support of this project no later than Sunday, July 8. Every small project can go a long way in helping build the grid that is needed to give cyclists a connected bikeway network both inside and outside of downtown.

#BuildTheGrid!
Rob Z (e-mail)

June 11, 2018

Toronto to Brampton (via Eglinton and Etobicoke Creek)

The first time I biked in Brampton was during last year’s “Bike the Creek” event. Since both Mississauga and Brampton have their own trails along Etobicoke Creek, I was curious to find out how cyclists from Toronto could get to Brampton. With Friday being a day off and a need to lose some steam from Thursday’s Fordian slip of an election, I found out by biking the Humber River, Eglinton West, and Etobicoke Creek Trails; a roughly 90-kilometre round trip!

May 14, 2018

Your 2018 Ontario Election Cycling Primer

With the Ontario election 23 days away, transportation has once again become an election issue for many voters. While political party platforms are increasingly featuring cycling and other forms of active transportation, it remains overshadowed by public transit and other issues. Let’s look at what Ontario’s political parties have in store for people who bike.
Liberal

The Wynne government’s commitment to cycling started when they unveiled #CycleON in 2013; the first cycling strategy update in over 20 years. Their most recent budget called for over $90 million in cycling funding for 2017-2018 , while Metrolinx’s next Regional Transportation Plan will be the first to propose a regional cycling network. As part of the recently unveiled Action Plan 2.0, the Ontario government is currently updating Ontario Traffic Manual Book 18 with the help of WSP and the Ontario Traffic Council. Advocates are encouraged to complete this survey to help guide the Book 18 update process with more consultation opportunities to follow.
A more recent Ontario Liberal initiative is Bill 174, which increases the maximum careless driving fine from $2000 to $50 000. However, it falls short of true vulnerable road user legislation.

NDP

Former NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo was instrumental in securing the one metre passing rule – approved via Bill 31 – and has expressed support for a complete streets policy. Page 62 of the Ontario NDP’s “Change for the Better” platform calls for requiring all municipalities to have cycling (or active transportation) plans by 2021, as well as adding ridership targets when updating the cycling strategy (which originated with the NDP under Bob Rae). While #CycleON Action Plan 2.0 also calls for municipal plans, the key item which makes the NDP stand out is a vulnerable road user law.
DiNovo introduced this bill in Fall 2017 under Bill 158 and was later re-introduced by Catherine Fife as Bill 37. Unfortunately, Bill 37 died before the writs were drawn up for the election. The vulnerable road user law would impose additional penalties when a pedestrian or cyclist gets hit including mandatory license suspensions, community service work relating to road safety, driver retraining, and the requirement to attend court for victim impact statements. TCAT drafted a chart comparing the Liberals’ Bill 174 with the vulnerable road user law.

Green Party

The Green Party of Ontario expressed support for cycling matters in the past. Per a press release from December 2013, they expressed support for a bill Norm Miller introduced which would have required paved shoulders on rural roads. They supported the establishment of a complete streets policy and called for 1% of transportation funding to be dedicated for cycling infrastructure and another 1% for pedestrian infrastructure.
A specific amount was given yesterday when the Greens released their platform. They committed $2.17 billion over four years for walking and cycling ; considerably exceeding the mainstream party offerings. Unfortunately, the Greens have yet to have their first MPP elected and would not be in a position to implement this bold move for the foreseeable future.

Progressive Conservative (PC)

While the Ontario PC’s did have the “People’s Guarantee” platform when Patrick Brown was leader – which supported a carbon tax – Doug Ford effectively scrapped it when he succeeded Brown due to a sexual harassment scandal. The PC’s still haven’t released a fully costed platform, but there are some clues on what a Ford government would do.

Doug Ford's REimagining Yonge deputation is 20 minutes in

Doug Ford called for the scrapping of Ontario’s cap-and-trade program and refused to implement a carbon tax; meaning Ottawa would impose one instead. Ford called for finding $6 billion in “efficiencies”, which could put Ontario’s cycling programs at risk. His REimagining Yonge deputation on January 19, 2018 confirmed his lack of support for bike lanes on arterial roads; instead calling for them to be placed on side streets. However, not even Ford could deny the fact protected bike lanes feel safer when federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh took him on a bike ride during TVO’s Political Blind Date series. One final thing Ford should consider is there are conservative folks such as PC MPP Norm Miller who strongly supports cycling.

Final Remarks

At this point, the Ontario PC’s remain the only major party which doesn’t have a plan for cycling nor has it expressed support for such a plan. With the momentum Ontario has gained on cycling over the past five years, it would be a shame to see it wasted in the event Ford wins a majority and scraps the cycling funding programs. It is why we advocates must call on MPP’s and candidates of all political stripes to ensure active transportation interests are at the table; both during and after the election campaign.

Vote for bikes!
Rob Z (e-mail)

April 27, 2018

Meet Toronto's Bike Riding Mayoral Candidate-To-Be

With Doug Ford focused on becoming Ontario’s Premier and no high-profile progressives planning to run for mayor (yet), it seems Mayor John Tory is unopposed for this October’s election. His record leaves much to be desired given he supported wasting billions on the one-stop Scarborough subway extension and rebuilding the Gardiner Expressway, as well as opposed Transform Yonge (deferral notwithstanding). Fortunately, road safety advocates and progressives will have at least one candidate they can support – Sarah Climenhaga – whom I spoke with about road safety and other issues.

April 11, 2018

A Pedal Powered Time Capsule

Back in July 2015, Bikes vs Cars launched in Toronto which highlighted the removal of the Jarvis bike lanes, memorial rides, and the late Rob Ford. However, it wasn’t the first film that discussed cycling in Toronto. During last month’s library book sale, I found a copy of Pedal Power from 2009 which served as a time capsule of cycling ten years ago.
Unlike Bikes vs Cars, Pedal Power is more uniquely focused on bikes and covered some themes other films may have overlooked. The film starts with a focus on bike theft and “Planet Igor”; Igor Kenk’s second-hand bike shop on Queen Street West near Trinity Bellwoods Park. The Toronto Police arrested Kenk in 2008 and seized almost 3000 bikes; making him one of the world’s most infamous bike thieves. The film discussed a case of a Toronto woman who had her bike stolen and was told to go to Planet Igor; something other victims of bike theft did at the time to try to recover their bikes … for a price. Despite this reputation, Kenk kept detailed records of bikes brought to his shop for three weeks prior to resale and a New York Times article cited his tendency to give jobs to street people and to those with mental health problems.

Critical mass rides – which take place on the last Friday of the month – are virtually non-existent in Toronto today, but attracted large crowds back then. There was even a Halloween themed ride; something not done since Cycle Toronto’s Ward 14 and 18 groups organized the Lansdowne Phantom Bike Lane Ride back in 2013. (Time for a revival, folks?) The Critical Mass segment featured Geoffrey Bercarich of Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists, while the fight for bike lanes on Bloor led by Angela Bischoff and Hamish Wilson at the time also got a shout out. For a publicity stunt, Bischoff and Wilson rolled out a bike lane in front of City Hall with 5,800 signatures in support of the bike lanes.

The film gave a reminder how certain issues back then such as collisions, frustrated drivers, and business resistance to bike lanes – including Annette at the time – still haunt Toronto’s road safety advocates today. One of the frustrated drivers interviewed accurately captured the hypocrisy they express. He used the tired excuse of cyclists disobeying the laws such as sidewalk riding on Dupont which has bike lanes as justification for opposing them, yet claimed cyclists need to be on separate roads from drivers.

Outside of Toronto, the film discussed Vancouver’s bike to work day and cargo bike riding, protected bike lanes in New York City and Montréal, bike share programs in Paris and Montréal, and Amsterdam’s white bike program. Toronto didn’t get bike share nor “protected” bike lanes until 2011 and 2012, respectively, while New York’s Transportation Alternatives held a transportation challenge which saw a bicycle rider get around faster than subway and taxi riders. I was disappointed the New York segments didn’t give credit to Janette Sadik-Khan who spearheaded that city’s rapid installation of 600 kilometres of bike lanes from 2007 to 2013. As for Amsterdam, the film didn’t note the “Stop de Kindermoord” movement.

Official trailer for Pedal Power

The film ended full circle with the female bike theft victim successfully recovering her bike when the police invited the public to review the seized bicycles, as well as a cheesy song about two wheels being better than four. While the film covered several key issues including bike theft, road safety, and best practices around the world, there was no mention of do-it-yourself bicycle clinics (e.g. Bike Pirates, Bike Sauce) nor the perennial problem of motor vehicles parked in bike lanes. Even so, Pedal Power gave a good throwback to Toronto’s cycling scene ten years ago and provided a reminder of how far we have come today, while many challenges still lie ahead.

Pedal away!
Rob Z (e-mail)

March 26, 2018

Stopping Toronto's Kindermoord (Child Murder)

Toronto city council will be debating REimagining Yonge tomorrow and the latest turn of events has left me outraged. Mayor John Tory – along with the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) – have gone against staff which recommended the “Transform Yonge” option reducing Yonge Street in North York from six lanes to four while adding protected bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and an improved public realm. Instead, he is calling for bike lanes to be moved to Beecroft Road which would cost an additional $20 million and do nothing to improve the safety of Yonge Street which people will still use regardless of transportation mode. His main reason – of course – is his foolish refusal to accept anything that would make traffic congestion worse. A repeat of the Gardiner East fiasco?