Councillor Vaughan will not support "bicycle highways," in and of themselves, on Richmond and Adelaide

Dunsmuir cycle track - Paul Krueger

No matter which way you look at it, Councillor Vaughan has never said "I unreservedly support separated bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide". Instead he has caveats and reservations. Vaughan is willing to sacrifice protected bike lanes, and the safety of cyclists, on Richmond and Adelaide if he doesn't get his beautification list. On their own, in and of themselves, protected bike lanes have little value to Vaughan. This much I have parsed from his words. (Photo: Dunsmuir bike lane. Credit: Paul Krueger.)

Councillor Vaughan told me he supports bike lanes. In an email, he replied "Separated bike lanes, integrated with a stronger pedestrian realm is a must." He was visiting Vancouver at the time, exclaiming "great bike lanes here!" But here's his qualifier: "If all we build is a bike lane then all we will have accomplished is building a by-pass." An "isolated gesture". Just "bicycle highways". So is that a maybe? Why is a well-informed politician, who has a strong opinion on almost every area of city building, caging his words on separated bike lanes?

By the way, Councillor McConnell didn't put any restrictions on her support for protected bike lanes on the portions of Richmond and Adelaide that run through her ward. She supports them. Period.

Isolated gestures

Vaughan celebrates Vancouver bike lanes, but does he know that the outstanding protected bike lanes on Dunsmuir and Hornby streets were done as "isolated gestures"? Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver took leadership in pushing for them even against some local opposition. The primary focus was bike lanes. Sure they put in planters but they weren't deal breakers. For free, Vancouver got even further separation of car traffic from traffic on the foot highway (like in the photo above).

The protected bike lanes, in fact, would be an isolated but major gesture for a ward where little has been done to install and advance protected cycling infrastructure. Politicians and traffic planners alike have mostly ignored cycling safety for so long that in order to get anything built, bike lanes are, by nature, "isolated". It seems as if bike lanes in downtown are constantly being pushed off the table, whether it be Yorkville, in front of Union Station, John Street and now the Annex. In each case the politicians and traffic planners have figured that people on bikes will just have to fight it out with cars.

Vaughan had a perfect opportunity to get protected bike lanes in Ward 20 when he was a close ally of former Mayor David Miller. During this administration's 6 years not one protected bike lane was built. The closest we came was a failed vote on a protected bike lane for University. People tend to focus on Councillor Paula Fletcher's mistaken vote, but the Mayor wasn't even present for the vote. It wasn't important enough for the mayor.

What does he want
Vaughan has described protected bike lanes at various times as "bicycle highways", "single use and isolated gestures", "barricaded", "by-passes". So why is he holding up progress on bicycle infrastructure? What are these other things he wants? From his comments I've gathered these requirements: "Stronger pedestrian realm" aka fancier "foot highways." Planters. Bike parking. "Connectivity". Two-way streets. "Complete streets"

Foot highways? Last I looked there were foot highways on both sides of the street. And they're bidirectional!

Planters? Well here you go:

But is he going to try to block the bike lanes if he can't get planters?

Bike Parking? Nope. Is he seriously considering this a requirement for his support?

Connectivity? Done. It already connects with Beverley bike lanes and Sherbourne! And can be extended to Eastern bike lanes and to the Railpath. (Richmond and Adelaide are certainly more connected than Vaughan's preference for Wellington).

Two-way streets? Come on, you can do better. New York is full of one-way vibrant streets as "destinations".

Complete streets Sorry, Vaughan's definition sucks: "accommodate choice in as safe and as beautiful a way as possible". So far as I can tell, no jurisdiction that has a complete streets policy has put "beauty" on par with safety. No one's going to say they hate beauty but who would sacrifice safety for it? (Other than an artist). Instead, Toronto's City Planning says complete streets is the "safe and adequate accommodation, in all phases of project planning and development, of all users of the transportation system." Let's use their definition.

Fast forward to now
We have a plan to build awesome, connected protected bike lanes across downtown. There are zero alternatives. So far, Councillor Vaughan is unwilling to lend his support. Is he just trying to squeeze some concessions, or his he willing to let the plan die if he doesn't get his way?

We'll see. This bike lanes will represent, I think, a turning point. Either we'll begin down the bicycle highway towards emulating cities like Chicago, Vancouver and New York, or we'll hit a deep pothole and stall safe cycling in this city.

Footnotes: quoting Vaughan on bike lanes
For those interested in the history of Vaughan's quotes on bicycle highways, read on.

Last year (2012) at a joint ward meeting that I attended with Cycle Toronto's representing wards 19, 20, 27, and 28 Councillor Vaughan had suggested that he was against "bicycle highways":

" create a bike highway through the downtown is as serious a piece of bad planning as a car highway."

He had also said at that meeting that "creating a single use capacity will not solve the problem".

Also last year (2012) at a meeting organized by the Harbord Village Residents Association on bike lanes for Harbord Vaughan had said:

When we build bike lanes they must be separated. Painted lanes are good but aren't safe enough. My son, who bikes, needs the separation to be safe.

People in this neighbourhood cycle but they don't do it safely. We don't accept it for drivers, nor for pedestrians, but we accept lack of safety for cyclists. We need to change that.

And in January of this year (2013) Councillor Vaughan had said to the Toronto Star that he remained undecided regarding bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide.

It’s crucial that any bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide be considered in the larger context of pedestrian traffic, cars and transit, said Councillor Adam Vaughan (Trinity-Spadina). Although he’s willing to consider bike lanes, he hasn’t made up his mind. The entertainment district needs to be considered as a destination, not just a series of thoroughfares, he said.

In 2011 in a letter to his residents Vaughan had called them "barricaded bike lanes".

From Vaughan's response from last week:

We have set aside funding for streetscape improvements. Bike lanes, bike parking, plantings and connectivity are all important components of a good plan.

I support exploring these issues specifically, and separated bike lanes generally. They are a critical component of the future for the street. But they must form part of a comprehensive re-thinking of the streets and not just a single use and isolated gesture.

If all we build is a bike lane then all we will have accomplished is building a by-pass. This is not good planning nor will it serve riders well. It should never be about getting from a to b. It should be about building complete streets that accommodate choice in as safe and as beautiful a way as possible. ...


This is truly fabulous dedicated work debunking with firm citations of the when and where of the true duplicitous and slippery nature of a progressive politiican - who's been excellent on some other issues in an intense urban core riding where he gets Fordked over on a near-daily basis - but is damned feeble when it actually comes to carving out real-time space and safety for bikes.

We've needed the east-west safety for decades. Richmond/Adelaide are in the Bike Plan, and these should have been the civic/bike union priority over some other projects. And sadly, the City just hasn't really been integrating them into what's been occurring either, the 401 Richmond north side work being the example to cite. Yes, to putting in the sidewalk, but given that there is scant room for bike lanes unless another car travel lane is removed, wise/responsive/competent planning would have said "No" to trees on the north side that will likely die, and somewhat of a "No" to Ms. Zeidler et all who may, or may not have been pushing for the trees, and said Yes, to half a lane of the old-style bike lane done with paint to at least get us through the area to Spadina.

Councillor Vaughan is also proving to be as slippery with Bloor St. biking in the Annex it seems.
Even though the Spadina to Bathurst segment has maybe over 300 off-street parking spaces in the area, rather than pushing forward the simple cheap repainting of Bloor with one side of parking, two bike lanes done with paint, and two travel lanes atop the subway, (which makes it one of the more logical places to squeeze car travel hmm?), we're seeing (though it's danged hard to get straight info) what smells like another sell-out of bike safety, this time for patios. if it's not a sell-out, then let's see what's proposed Mr. Vaughan. And meanwhile, the road is soo rough it's too dangerous in places to bike on, and is there piecemealing of a project going on, ie. splitting off a needed component of road repair from a larger work to evade an EA eg. there likely should be an EA on the Bloor paving work from Bathurst to Lansdowne, and is that work costing more than $2.2M?

At times Mr. Vaughan can feel like as much of a bully as Mr. Ford when opposed, and it really does help to have someone else that's willing to call him on contradictions etc., and do it in a public and factual way.

A huge help; and there's a Richmond/Adelaide bike ride tomorrow apparently, meeting at the St. James Park at noon.

Dear Herb,

Here is the complete email i sent to you. I'll let your readers decide for them selves whether your headline or opinion about my position are accurate or not.


email sent May 31st

Cycling in Toronto must become safer. It also needs to be about more than just getting from point a to point b. If done right, the addition of stronger cycling infrastructure can be a catalyst for better urban design and neighourhood revitalization.

In Ward 20 residents, institutions and businesses have come together to explore how to make riding a bike downtown safer and more beautiful. There is still detailed design work to be done on individual streets but there is generally strong support to build a comprehensive network of separated bike lanes along the lines of the upgraded lanes on Sherbourne.

  • Harbord,Hoskin ave
  • Simcoe st
  • Peter St
  • Wellington st
  • Fort York blvd, Bremner
  • Portland

Have all been green lighted by the community and city council. They are approved for separated lanes. We are only waiting for the Cycling Unit in transportation to act.

We are also waiting on the results of the downtown transportation study, started in the last term of council, abandoned and now restarted this term, to report out on the future of Adelaide and Richmond streets. There is a possibility for seperated lanes on both or either of these streets. The study will also examine whether these streets remain one-way or revert back to two-way between University and Bathurst.

These to streets are not great places to walk or ride currently. They are also streets designed as thoroughfares not places to be. We cannot continue tolerate the expressway like approach to using these anymore. The neighbourhood has changed and continues to transform. We need the roads to become complete streets. Destinations in their own right.

Cycling can, in fact, should play a role in this evolution. Separated bike lanes, integrated with a stronger pedestrian realm is a must.

We have set aside funding for streetscape improvements. Bike lanes, bike parking, plantings and connectivity are all important components of a good plan.

I support exploring these issues specifically, and separated bike lanes generally. They are a critical component of the future for the street. But they must form part of a comprehensive re-thinking of the streets and not just a single use and isolated gesture.

If all we build is a bike lane then all we will have accomplished is building a by-pass. This is not good planning nor will it serve riders well. It should never be about getting from a to b. It should be about building complete streets that accommodate choice in as safe and as beautiful a way as possible. Why would we pass by that option? I look forward to moving forward on the proposal. Completely!

(sent via blackberry)

Okay, where do I ride if I do want to get from A to B?

If all we build is a bike lane then all we will have accomplished is building a by-pass. This is not good planning nor will it serve riders well. It should never be about getting from a to b.

  1. It might not serve residents of downtown condos particularly well, but there are lots of riders who have to traverse the edges of downtown to get from point a (work) to point b (home). Saying that this would not serve cyclists well is simply dishonest.
  2. Actually, I do want to be able to bypass the grid-locked automobile traffic. No matter which way I go from work (Queen and Victoria), I wind up lane-splitting around cars and buses and trucks and streetcars queued up for left turns, right turns, and simply because straight ahead is an unmoving row of vehiclesl.
  3. I thought we wanted more people to use their bicycles to get around? What is that other than getting from A to B?
  4. Cars have, in fact, a "bypass" called the Gardiner Expressway, maintained at great cost, and prohibited to bicycles. Bicycles, on the other hand, have no reasonable way across the core of the city.
  5. Toronto is a city of 2.5 million in a greater urban area of 5+ million. Not every street can be a complete street. If Richmond and Adelaide are going to be complete streets, where do the through bike lanes go?

Thanks Councillor Vaughan. I had already linked to the full text of your response. The link is near the bottom of my blog.

I feel I was interpreting your statements accurately, though, perhaps you or a reader could respond where I misconstrued.

Or even better, prove me wrong. Come out and say publicly that you support separated bike lanes on Richmond and/or Adelaide, unreservedly and in and of themselves. Even if cyclists just use them as a by-pass or a bike highway or just to get from A to B. Even if we don't get planters.

I'm glad Councillor Vaughan replied, and I hope he gets a sense that we need some reality to the words and claims. In some places, like Richmond/Adelaide, we really do need to have something reasonably good go in ie. it makes sense to have separations given their width.

But we really do need to be cautious about demanding full separations everywhere, not just because of the cost, but the over-arching need to actually complete a linked network first and get into road repairs throughout the City. Sure, eventually when there's a really big growth in bike traffic in all parts of the City, and maybe no winters to speak of for easier maintenance, and we have a Front St. transitway, or a DRL that gives motorists a lot of transit options, but it may be like the Jarvis lanes sparking a pushback and maybe getting Ford elected - be careful about what you push for.

Like do we really need to rebuild the Harbord st. bike lanes? Aren't they comparatively the best in the old core? What about getting something going further west from Ossington first? Hmm, like maybe Bloor St.?

If Vaughan cripples this plan, then there ought to be a serious strategy to unseat him in 2014.

Adam Vaughan has been the ward 20 rep since 2006
During the period 2006-2010 he was a key player in Mayor Miller's government.
If Councillor Vaughan supported separated bicycle lanes for Toronto - Toronto would already have them.
Action , inaction? , speaks louder than words, or lengthy emails.

As a councillor I have never voted against a single bike lane. In fact I have worked hard to increase both the number and the quality of bike lanes in Ward 20.

In both terms of council I have advanced, supported, and fought for more and better bike lanes on Portland, Simcoe, Bremner/Fort York, Peter, Wellington, Harbord/Hoskin, Dennison and of course Richmond and Adelaide.

I also played in a significant role to revive the Bloor St E.A. Coming to works committee this month. Watch for it. It comes from work developed with the Annex cycling group

I have also worked very hard to build better infrastructure for cyclists. The city's first bike boxes are in Ward 20, Toronto's first continous bike lanes through intersections , the first bike parking corrals (replacing in street parking) have all happened in ward 20 since I was elected. I was also responsible for getting bike lanes built through Clarence Sq (linked to a cut thru for cyclists across Spadina's LRT), during my term the Portland/CityPlace bridge was built with bike ramps and on it.

I also worked with and moved through council provisions for more street bike parking as part or new developments as well as higher bike parking standards for new residential development.

AND I support seperated bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide. I voted for them.

I just also happen to believe that bike lanes are part of what makes a great street great, but good side walks, healthy retail, trees, seats and places for people to gather are also components of a great street.

I know why this upsets Rob Ford and DMW, what I don't understand why that upsets or confuses Herb and Hamish.


Dear Adam Vaughan,

I do not know about Herb and Hamish, but what upsets and confuses me is when I read things like "It should never be about getting from a to b."

Proper transportation policy is precisely about making walking, cycling and public transit the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting from A to B.

And what really, really upsets and confuses me the most is the way that you consistently ignore the recommendations of Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown. It has been over five years since Dr. McKeown and Toronto Public Health determined that, by way of their lethal air pollution:

*Car drivers poison and kill 440 people in Toronto every year.

*Car drivers poison and injure 1,700 people in Toronto so seriously that they have to be hospitalized, every year.

Children and the elderly are most susceptible to being poisoned, killed and injured by car drivers. In particular,

*Children in Toronto experience 1,200 acute bronchitis episodes every year due to being poisoned by car drivers.

*Children in Toronto experience 68,000 asthma symptom days every year due to being poisoned by car drivers.

Finally, the cost: $2.2 billion just in health-care costs. This excludes the costs of funerals, grief counselling, and forgone earnings and taxes because dead people don't earn much money or pay a lot of taxes.

Here is the Toronto Public Health Report:

One of the people poisoned and killed by car drivers was my father. Every day I miss him and grieve his death at the hands of car drivers.

Mr. Vaughan, I have never once heard you referring to this Report by Toronto Public Health and Toronto's Medical Officer of Health. Why are you ignoring this immense pile of 440 dead bodies every year? Why are you ignoring the children poisoned, killed and injured by car drivers? Why are you not loudly proclaiming that you have Zero Tolerance of car drivers administering lethal poisons to innocent children? What possible higher priority could you have than saving from death 440 people every year, particularly the deaths of innocent children?

One of the most lethal cancer-causing elements of car pollution is the fine particulates with which car drivers poison and kill. The "Death Zone" of greatest danger is within 2 km of each car.

Mr. Vaughan, why are you not telling everyone within 2 km of each bicycle project that their lethal poisoning is going down with every car taken off the road?

Mr. Vaughan, this is what upsets and confuses me the most: Your callous indifference to human life, particularly the lives of innocent children.

Kevin Love

I think Councillor Vaughan is right to be concerned about creating an attractive, vibrant and balanced streetscape that serves all users.

What I don't understand is why Councillor Vaughan isn't using his leadership position to promote his own vision for separated bike lanes in the Richmond-Adelaide corridor that would complement these goals.

We have a rare opportunity to get some much-needed cycling infrastructure in this area. Let's not squander it waiting for a comprehensive ("complete streets") design that may never materialize.

I continue to be concerned that Councillor Vaughan isn't saying that he agrees the separated bike lanes are a must, even if the other things can't happen.

Vaughan has his own definition of "complete streets" that seems to put safety and attractiveness on the same level. Vaughan has still not said that he will support the separated bike lanes even if he does not get a more attractive street. Vaughan knows as well as anyone involved in politics that it's always a matter of negotiation and that often one must be flexible that they won't get everything they want. We ask that he be flexible, by first agreeing that the separated bike lanes are an absolute requirement and that everything else can happen if it doesn't delay the bike lanes.

Like Raj, I like to have a more attractive streetscape but we can't sacrifice cyclist safety for it.

Is A Adelaide and B Beverley? If so, a nicer connection from A to B would be lovely.

Hopping over to John going South is fine but I don't like being forced to choose between salmoning or riding through the park when heading North. Both are 100% dick moves!

Generally speaking I will always salmon in that situation. It's easier than dodging dodgy pedestrians in the grange park.

And everyone who reads this site should know quite well by now that Adam Vaughn is not a supporter of cycling. It's always pretty low on his list of priorities.

No need to ride through the park
Contra flow lane on Stephanie would solve the John Street northbound issue But ,,,, Vaughan opposes bicycle lanes on John Street and wants to relocate us fish from John Street (our ancestral stream) to Simcoe or Peter to cross Queen Street, where there are lots of grizzlies

There used to be a fish ladder laneway just south of Urbane Cyclist to provide an alternate route for Stephanie St. Salmon, but a recent condo development has closed that. So we go west on Stephanie, where parking is prohibited on both sides of the street, the Grange Park apartment tower has a U-driveway for pickups, and there's plenty of room... but less than zero political will.

Rationality and Priorities:

What concerns me is the attention paid to revenue generating priorities of the councillor to gain more section 37 funding from more development approvals and redistribute it to the ward in politically gainful ways to secure votes. Unfortunately it seems that cycling infrastructure does not mesh with this priority. With this new and expanded development happening all over the ward, pressures will be placed on all modes of transportation.

I feel that the Province's transportation hierarchy is being ignored with respect to active transportation, by placing motorised modes above all else. You can see it in the rezoning applications where there is a traffic impact study that analyses car patterns and impacts on parking and traffic flow, but nothing of cycling traffic that would be impacted by the increase in citizens, or the future infrastructure that must be implemented now to accommodate the increased cycling ridership.

A road gets a pothole, it's fixed almost immediately. A bike lane marking fades, it takes two years to re-mark. I agree that there are roads in ward 20 that just can't accommodate sep-lanes, however according to the official plan, there are roadway widths that can accommodate a complete street scenario (specifically those on TOP Map #3, those streets more than a 20m ROW width.)

I also do not understand the need for an environmental assessment on something that has been empirically proven to improve the existing condition, its like the asinine EA on St. Clair - to have a 5 year EA for the streetcar ROW that was raised 10cm above the pre-existing condition, and the EA for an electrified corridor for an existing diesel fueled GO Train route...

Rationality must prevail. Separated lanes are the most cost effective, immediately implementable (depending on the ease of installation, such as the Dunsmuir Lanes), and immediately impactful intervention that can be made that improves the conditions and protection for all road and sidewalk users at once.

Its not brain surgery and they just have to get done. Its been proven that everyone is safer, businesses make more money, and these are the quick wins that achieve the 50 year goals of both the City and the Province. This is with respect to accommodating a growing city while maintaining a cost effective and efficient transportation network. We can't build any more roads down town, nonetheless we sure can make them better right now.

Vaughan may not have voted against bike lanes, but it doesn't mean he hasn't tried to stop any bike lanes. It's only recently that it seems he's stopped calling them "barricaded".

Whether there is a bike lane, shared bike/car lanes, dedicated bike "highways" or nothing at all, bikes are using downtown roads.. by not placing bike lanes on John Street or any other street will not mean bikers will not use the street. Bike Lanes just make biking in the city safer both for bikers and drivers.

Dedicated bike lanes are not "highways", they are a safe way to get people into and around the downtown core, and would actually benefit the business community. A healthy and dynamic street has to include bikes.

Its not just bike "highways" that we need its a whole network of safe bike lanes. You want to know why Bixi is failing, because the majority of people are still afraid of biking the streets of Toronto.

I'm shocked that Counciller Vaughan does not see the necessity and potential of dedicated bike lanes in downtown Toronto.

It's fascinating news that apparently there's going to be something at Works soon about Bloor - wow!

But is that all the public process? Has it been designed up by the BIA and RAs to give a nod to cycling but basically sell us out? The devil is in the details, and I'd like to see a range of plans for a reworking of Bloor ahead of it going to PWIC as there are maybe 6 different options with paint.

Somewhat secretive process with private prioirities is part of the problem.

Apologies are due to Councillor Vaughan to some extent in my previous semi-swipe in his direction over the Annex (Spadina to Bathurst) segment, which is being held back from repaving it seems, and is piecemealing to avoid an EA for the other repaving this summer from Bathurst to Lansdowne.

It's very welcome news that PWIC 24.10 is bringing Bloor bike lanes in the core up onto the agenda again on June 19 next week, with good core support. But in NYC they can do maybe 50 miles of bike lane each year and we seem capably only of 5 cm of studies about painting lines on a road whilst other larger works can escape scrutiny.

Yes, we need to provide some study (and thankfully Bloor St. is straight since the City can't handle curves well), but there's been 30 years of knowing that Bloor St. W. especially west of Ossington is extra-dangerous for biking. This needs to be done now, this summer with the repaving.

I hope everyone can email and their own councillors, and hey, maybe even Cycle Toronto can get aboard...

To answer Councillor Vaughan: both the left and the right in this city have ideas about the importance of this city that I consider sheer illusion. The right, as epitomized by Mayor and Councillor Ford, envision a large footprint, low density city dominated by the suburbs and suburban ideas of large space and automobile dominance. The Escalade Rob Ford drive sums up this vision in a single vehicle. Needless to say, this vision would remain largely unworkable even if we could afford the gas to power it; cars simply take up too much room. The Toronto left imagines a dense and urban but high-leisure city, a city of cafes, boulevards and planters, all financed by the output of knowledge workers in highly technical industries built around the web. Really? High tech industries have to compete with the whole world. If Toronto to thrive in the next generation as a world city, we'll have to compete against the best, and win; we'll have to learn to do more with fewer resources, and we'll have to give up on some frills. I don't see any way this city can afford to make every street a "destination". We can debate the best streets for bicycle highways, but make no mistake: for bicycle culture to succeed in this city, for our children to have a viable low-consumption high-productivity future, we will need to have bicycle transportation corridors that simply provide cyclists with the means to travel through the city in a reasonable amount of time. Treating cycling as an accessory for the leisure class risks pricing Toronto out of the global economy.

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

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