If city cycling staff get their way, downtown will be transformed by cycling projects in 2010. Partly to accommodate the planned launch of the public bike program and partly to address concerns over the way the Bikeway Network has been assembled piece by disconnected piece over the years, staff are concentrating this year’s efforts on a comprehensive and dense network of cycling infrastructure south of Dupont between High Park and the Don Valley.
More than 150 cyclists packed a meeting room at Metro Hall last night to learn what goodies (and battles) the year ahead will bring. Considerable applause greeted city engineer Lukasz Pawlowski’s announcement of proposed separated bike lanes on University Avenue, including buffer zones and bollards or other physical barriers separating them from automotive traffic. Other significant projects include installing previously approved lanes (including those on Jarvis Street), filling the Harbord Street bike lane gap between Spadina and Borden, adding bike boxes at several intersections, and possibly replacing the uselessly narrow curb lines on Spadina with properly placed sharrows.
Staff will also be concentrating on projects that don’t require council approval: continuing bike lane markings straight through intersections on existing and new routes (which will be the standard design for all new bike lanes) and adding sharrows on many downtown streets. Sharrows will also be added to the middle of the curb lanes on streetcar routes, encouraging cyclists to take the lane on roads where there just isn’t enough room to share safely. Additionally, the city has recently posted a Request for Proposals to conduct an Environmental Assessment of a bikeway along entire Bloor–Danforth corridor from Kipling Avenue in the west to Kingston Road in the east, to be awarded in April and completed in 2011, largely preventing it from becoming an election issue.
After the formal presentation, Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s) told the room that “staff should be complimented on a very bold and ambitious plan,” adding that the comprehensive vision “makes it pretty politically challenging” and urging cyclists to sell the plan to their councillors, at committee meetings, at public consultations, and even in coffee shops.
Staff’s plan will go to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in April and City Council in May, with work slated to start in June. Reflecting on the proposals, one jaded member of the public asked the obvious question: “Is there really political will,” for all of these changes downtown? Nervous laughter from both staff and the public said it all.