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E-BLAST: Making Sheppard Avenue a Complete Street

One of my good friends, Margaret, lives close to the waterfront in a condo. She has access to something that keeps her healthy and makes me jealous: Bike Share. When she moved downtown, she took her car with her but it spends most days in its underground parking spot. Margaret takes the TTC to work and hops on a Bike Share rental bike for short trips in her neighbourhood. She's able to find docking stations pretty close to wherever she's going.

Earlier this week, the CEO of the Toronto Parking Authority, which runs Bike Share for us, presented an expansion plan that will finally bring Bike Share stations north of the 401. Right now, Don Valley North has no stations. By 2025, we could have as many as 16. The timing of this couldn't be better because our cycling infrastructure is about to increase as well.

A map showing new Bike Share stations that will be installed by 2025. This coming Tuesday, Transportation Services staff will return to Don Valley North to hold another consultation on the Sheppard Avenue Reconstruction. I wrote about this project at length in my E-Blast back in November 2021, just before the first community consultation held in December 2021. As I mentioned then, this project will completely reconstruct Sheppard Avenue East from Bayview Avenue to Leslie Street. Major road reconstructions like this only happen once every 75 to 100 years, so it's essential that we build our new road with both our current and future communities in mind.

Since that first meeting, staff have been hard at work refining their design to incorporate community feedback. At this Tuesday's meeting, they will show us their updated design to turn this section of Sheppard Avenue into what is called a Complete Street. Complete Streets are a concept that has been around for over 20 years. Today, it is common policy in many major cities across Europe, North America, and Australia to introduce Complete Street designs whenever major road repairs are due.

This is the accepted definition of a Complete Street:

"Complete Streets are streets that are safe for all users, regardless of age, ability, income, race, ethnicity, or mode of travel. By using a Complete Streets approach to designing road networks, cities can create spaces that allow all users to thrive—not only motorists."

A video explaining the concept of Complete Streets. Given that definition, the only question is: "Who would want to build an incomplete street?" Here in Don Valley North, we have every kind of road user described above, all living in a densely populated space. I know that you and I can agree that all of us deserve to be accommodated on our streets. On Sheppard Avenue, this means making some changes that will take some adjusting to. I really want to encourage everyone who is able to come out to the community meeting this Tuesday. Staff have had over a year to physically be out on this section of Sheppard studying the road and to consider every piece of input they heard from you at our first meeting or through the first survey. They also heard from me and my team after we spent a couple of months working out of a storefront office at Sheppard and Greenbriar during the election period. All of this has given staff an enriched perspective, and it will make the presentation at this second meeting well worth listening to. It includes your input and some real improvements.

I also want to be absolutely upfront about what hasn't changed since the first design was shown. The reconstruction still includes separate bike lanes and pedestrian enhancements at intersections. I am solidly in favour of these. Too often in community consultations, politicians stay neutral. That is required at certain stages of the process, but in this instance we are talking about a very important road in our community. I want to be genuine and clear about how I feel.

The current intersection at Sheppard Ave E & Rean Dr.

The planned intersection at Sheppard Ave E & Rean Dr. I've spent a lot of time over the past few months talking about radical Provincial policy changes on planning and development that require the City to approve more density around subway stations. We have a housing supply and affordability crisis, so it is hard for us to reject all of those Provincial changes. Here at the municipal level, it is still my duty to find ways to make our neighbourhoods liveable for everyone within whatever framework the Province sets. I firmly believe that increasing mobility options around subway stations is one of the best ways to achieve that.

As a neighbourhood becomes more densely populated, it is very important to make it easier to do short trips without the car. These trips are what tend to jam up our major roads—people turning left and right, parallel parking to pop into a shop, etc. Imagine you could take a safe, pleasant walk to the nail salon. Imagine hopping on a Bike Share e-bike to meet a friend for coffee at Bayview Village Mall. Most importantly, imagine that all of these mobility options attracted more car-free residents in the towers going up along Sheppard Avenue. This will not only stop our traffic problem from getting worse, it will also make our street more vibrant and our neighbourhood more liveable. On top of all of that, it will help us meet our climate goals.

An illustration of a Complete Street. I like having multiple consultations on a project. I always want the community to see the impact they can have when they engage. But stretching the consultation process out over time can have its risks. Sometimes, people form a strong opinion at the first meeting and forget that there are more steps in the process. Word can get around that a design was shown and disliked but it's a done deal. People can forget than another consultation is coming, and that there were real reasons for looking at this kind of change in the first place. In the time between community meetings, it's up to me and my team to remind callers that there will be changes and design improvements deserving of everyone's consideration at a follow-up meeting to come.

When we meet on Tuesday, I sincerely hope that people will come with open minds, ready to hear the principles behind this project and learn the facts. Our ward has many residents who want and need bike lanes. More and more folks are moving to Don Valley North without cars. They deserve to be able to walk safely to the subway station to get to work. Transportation staff have worked very hard to design the road in a way that not only lets these residents happily co-exist with their neighbours who drive cars, they've designed it in a way that will give everyone more options to get around. Let's see the new design, share our feedback once more, and keep moving forward to build not only a Complete Street, but a complete community along Sheppard Avenue East.


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