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Riding in tandem: why cycling matters in transit planning

There are two kinds of votes where Council is almost always unanimous: when we are voting to direct city staff to develop a Strategy, and then again when we adopt that Strategy. The debate usually comes when it's time to actually implement it. A great case in point is Toronto's Cycling Network Plan. The plan It’s been a Plan, a 10-Year Map, a 3-Year Map and a Strategy. We just can't seem to make progress in creating great cycling infrastructure in Toronto. At the most recent meeting of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee, members were given an update on the current Cycling Network Plan. What the Committee learned shouldn't come as a surprise: that creating cycling infrastructure inspires more people to use their bikes more often.

Cyclists on Richmond and Adelaide

For example, the large swaths of separated bike lanes along Richmond and Adelaide Streets have been incredibly successful. In September 2013, the average daily cyclist count on Richmond St. W and Adelaide St. W was 400. In September 2018, the average daily count was 4,780 – an increase of 1,095 per cent. That represents 4,780 travelers who would have otherwise crowded onto transit or their cars, increasing your commute time. In the downtown core, the Cycling Plan is focused on connecting the dots, like on Bloor St. W and Sherbourne. The number of car-less downtown dwellers using their bikes and PRESTO cards is growing rapidly, and providing well-connected bike routes will keep cyclists safe while improving the flow of cars.

Major city-wide cycling routes

What about the suburbs? The Cycling Network Plan is moving a bit more slowly in the suburbs. The map above shows you what is possible in regions like Don Valley North. The plan shares a goal with both the city’s environmental strategy, TransformTO, and the safe pedestrian strategy, Vision Zero. All three plans imagine a city where 75 per cent of all trips under five kilometres are traveled safely by walking or cycling. That requires a lot of work in the suburbs. When I look at the committee members’ motions from Infrastructure and Environment Committee, I see a keen interest and focus on improving downtown routes. But in the same meeting, I see a suburban Councillor (in this case, Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong) slowing things down for the suburbs.

Some cyclists in Toronto have taken to attaching pool noodles to their bikes to create a safe distance between themselves and drivers.

I don’t mean to personally single out Councillor Minnan-Wong – his motions might have been moved by any of my suburban colleagues. The Councillor wants a warrant system that requires a high number of cyclists on a route before a bike lane can be considered. For cyclists, this means "Risk your life and frustrate car drivers – then we’ll consider a bike lane.” Worse still, Councillor Minnan-Wong is proposing we conduct a pilot project that puts cyclists back on the sidewalk – out of the way of cars but creating open season on pedestrians. Rather than face the controversial meeting that is a feature of each new bike lane implementation, the Councillor’s motions may ensure that no meeting or implementation ever happens.

Toronto's cycling bylaw stipulates that no person age 14 and older may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk.

Calling DVN cyclists At DVN Connects, our local transit roundtable, the Cycling Network Plan must be part of the conversation. We don't know when or how the provincial government will proceed with building transit on Sheppard Avenue East, but we do know the demand is here. With the growing number of condo and apartment-dwellers, making cycling and walking safe for short trips may be the only way to get through transit limbo. If you have a strong opinion you want to share with me and your community before I am in City Council voting on the future of our Cycling Plan, you are in luck – our Transit Town Hall is this Monday evening, July 8th, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the Fairview Library Theatre. Please consider coming by to join the conversation. There will be lots of opportunity to listen, learn and discuss. I want to hear your unique perspectives on cycling, walking, TTC-ing and moving in general.


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