A public consultation for a new cycling infrastructure showed a long-discussed plan is wheeling closer to reality.
The long-awaited plan for bike lanes on Bloor is slowly pedaling itself into reality. Last night was the first public drop-in event for Bloor Street bike lanes pilot project, where the plans were visually displayed for attendees to evaluate, comment on, and discuss with any of the other 200 people in attendance including local councillors and the planners themselves.
“What we’re seeking input on today is on our process. What we present is sort of the existing conditions, our opportunities, we want to make sure we’ve got that part of it right,” said Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, Manager of Cycling Infrastructure and Programs, Transportation Service. “Most importantly we want to get people’s feedback on the design options.”
Poster-sized print outs were set up of the pilot project’s plans [PDF] along the edges of the gym at Trinity-St.Paul’s United Church in the Annex. Initially the plan started with three options, but Plan A would require no on-street parking, something business owners were concerned with. On the print-out, it was marked with a red “FAIL” stamp.
So people followed the two remaining plans—Plan B, which would offer curbside parking, and Plan C, which would put cyclists beside the curb—in the centre of the room. Two diagrams of each separate plan were printed out and laid across a long table, inviting people to walk along path from its westernmost start point, Shaw Street, to its end, Avenue Road. Than plan outlined the impact on the whole community—vehicular traffic, cycling traffic, pedestrians, and businesses.
“Bike lanes on Bloor, it’s not a divisive issue,” said Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina). “In fact it makes it safer for bicycles and cars, it alleviates congestion, and it’s good for business, we have to get back to focusing on the good things instead of treating it as divisive politics.”
The idea of putting bike lanes on this major Toronto artery road has been around for decades, and this year garnered a lot of excitement after Gulati took over the role.
The public meeting was different from the usual ‘town hall’ style. It was deliberately interactive: people could drop in, discuss with the planning staff, and scribble with questions and criticisms on Post-It notes such as, “Why parking here? There is a huge lot behind Metro.” (Above that particular note was another that read “Preach” in response.)
“The ‘town hall’ meeting tends to force people to a yes or a no,” said Councillor Mike Layton, (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina). “People start talking to one another, and when people have one-on-one conversations they tend to see each others perspective a little bit better.”
Bloor is one of the most used cycling routes in the city, and also the highest frequency of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions. The Annex has undergone various studies to determine how bike lanes would affect the community. One study from 2009 showed that 75 per cent of business owners thought adding a bike lane or widened sidewalk would increase or have no effect on businesses. Pedestrians preferred a bike lane rather than sidewalks at a ratio of four to one, and 46 per cent of drivers supported the idea of bike lanes and less on street parking. At 12 per cent, there are 10 per cent more cyclists biking to the Annex than in the rest of the city use a bicycle city wide.
The plan for next year’s pilot project is among many other cycling infrastructure changes Toronto could see in 2016, as part of Toronto’s Ten Year Cycling Network Plan. The Bloor Street bike lanes pilot, if successful, could be kept in the growing network of bike lanes in the city.
“I don’t live in the area and I rarely ever use Bloor. To be honest I don’t see it impacting my routes at all. I see it more as a step in the positive direction to building a better infrastructure for bikes,” said Paul Xavier, who’s been cycling in Toronto for 18 months.
Although there isn’t a specific deadline, the chosen plan will be brought to council early next year with the pilot being implemented sometime in the summer of 2016.