Public works chair pushing Complete Streets policy, integrating walking, cycling, trees, urban design

A mockup of Danforth

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong has gotten the ball rolling on an official Complete Streets policy for Toronto, by recommending that a policy be developed that integrates a variety of by-laws and strategies such as the Walking Strategy, Bike Plan, Urban Design Guidelines, Toronto Street Trees Guide and current best practices for urban street design guidelines. The recommendation will go to the public works committee next week, then staff will report back with their guidelines. If the report from staff is accepted by City Council we'll see a more coherent policy for livable streets for all road users, and one step closer to more comprehensive improvements. Image of redesigned Danforth from TCAT.

"Complete streets" is a relatively new term that quite simply describes streets that have been designed with all users in mind; the motorists, street car and bus riders, cyclists, pedestrians and those with disabilities. A complete street is therefore, one where a variety of policies, bylaws and infrastructure have come together to make the public right-of-way fully multi-modal wherever possible. While it may not be possible to accommodate every type of user on every street, the goal should be to build a city where every user group has a well-functioning network so that people can travel easily and safely.

It's interesting and exciting to see this come forward. There are a bunch of actors behind the scenes working on a Complete Streets policy for Toronto, including the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, the new Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat, and the new Transportation Services Manager Stephen Buckley. But advocates and bureaucrats need political champions as well and this is where the chair of the public works committee comes in.

As we're all well aware, this is the same Minnan-Wong who pushed the removal of bike lanes on Jarvis. The Jarvis bike lanes removal was a calculated move and so is this complete streets policy proposal. This will surely help him to regain a bit of downtown political capital. Jarvis may have pleased some of the Rosedale driving crowd but it generated a lot of negative press for Minnan-Wong. There are people who are more interested in punishing someone for past misdeeds, but it may be more interesting and useful to see where this goes. Besides, unless Minnan-Wong runs for mayor, it would be hard to punish him. He is pretty safe in his North York ward. Positions on promoting active transportation don't always break according to party line. While Minnan-Wong was rightfully pilloried over Jarvis, when he does something right to move the ball forward on safer, more livable streets he should be congratulated.

I can't help but wonder what a Complete Streets policy would recommend for Jarvis?


Pardon me, but I can't help but wonder what a Complete Streets policy would do for Bloor St. W. now proposed for repaving this year, but with zilch change to improve the safety for cyclists, even though it's been 30 years of charting the hazards to cyclists.

And if one digs into varied Official Plan statements etc. etc., there's usually been some form of lip service done to the principles of the Complete Streets - but there's this uh, gap?, between the theory and the practice, usually big enough for a cyclist to fall through, though we see sidewalks on pretty much every street.

I also find it curious that to maybe get around to figgering out a different way of putting a few lines on a street, like Bloor, it requires an EA study. Yet this large repaving project - scope unknown tho it goes from Bathurst to Lansdowne - it seems to be soo routine and status quo, despite the many tons of materials throughputs, the many difficulties it presents to the local areas, the true loss and waste of opportunities for a smarter and greener street, the benefits to a crowded and rare subway in the right place through the load-shedding that would occur with a good, safe, straight, and maintained bikeway, well that's so normal to squander opportunities and ignore climate, energy and safety realities that we'll just carry on doing the dumb things.

So there's good headlines for Minnan-Wong and the Fordists for the TCAT confab/sustain-the-bull; and a study gets underway!! But because it gets to be summer, and gee, planning is a bit short-staffed, and it takes time to coordinate the different departments, well, gee, sorry, but it's a bit late, and so there goes at least 2013. And then 2014 arrives, and well, maybe we'll see some bold plans approved, but it's an election year, and if it is like what happened to the bike lanes - and a signed contract EA study for Bloor/Danforth btw - approved in the last months of the Miller Council - well, have we seen any of those bike lanes on Lansdowne, or Bay St. yet? And they're just a bit of paint, approved by Council over two years ago!

Along with a new campaign "Wheelchair lanes on Bloor!", we should also be thinking of doing a Bike Lanes on Bayview campaign, just to return some favours and explore the potential for dialogue in the good Councillor's own turf, tho I'm still kinda focussed on Bloor, including a bit of pushing at the provincial level as there are requirements in the Places to Grow Act for doing things for bikes, and we're removing bike lanes.

Also, the Environmental Assessment Act says there should be a Clas B EA if the total of the work is over $2.2M, but I'm finding it hard to get info, and there's a tendency to piecemeal, and this includes a chunk of Bloor between Spadina and Bathurst where I suspect Mr. Vaughan may not be as totally supportive of better biking as he says that he is.

Sorry for length and cynicism; the first study for Bloor in the core was approved in 2005....then I found the 1992 study a few years in with Dan Egan's name on the cover. Maybe it survived the move of the Urban Affairs library; maybe not...

I call bullshit.

The computer generated photo is of really crappy infrastructure. Such a large arterial road should have Dutch-style fully protected cycle lanes.

When we can't even IMAGINE doing things properly, then we are in really big trouble.

Kevin Love

The suburban arterial roads are so w-i-d-e that putting in separated bike lanes as part of "Complete Streets" should be easy. Haven't seen it, yet. They tried to put in simple bike lanes in Scarborough (Birchmount, Pharmacy), and what happened? They were removed.

With the wide right-of-ways the city has in the suburbs, there was plenty of serve as examples for everyone. Instead, they show that the car is still king of the road.

Agreed. Right now it looks like the city's approach to even thinking about complete streets is about putting a bit of paint here and there. I hope that's not the case.

But wait, isn't downtown meant to be a parking lot for 905ers?

Yes many suburban roads are wide and there is definitely space to put in bike lanes in many of them. Much of this is on the bike plan.

A good example of this is the West Mall in Etobicoke. It is major arterial with extra wide sidewalks that are sparsely used, and a strip of green on the side. Extra wide road, on the bike plan. Connects Sherway Gardens to areas to the north.

There is absolutely no political will to do it. This Ford country. Councillors are at best neutral on cycling at worst agree with Mayor Ford that cyclists deserve to die. No political will from Cycle Toronto either. Their main focus is downtown. Ward 6 has an advocacy group, the other 5 wards in Etobicoke do not.

We need to get suburban politicians to be more onside with cyclists. Its hard with car-oriented members on council heading up the works or roads departments or continue to believe that bicycles are recreational only and not a form of transportation.

There was no political will during the Miller Administration in power for 8 years either. Until Sherbourne we had not one Metre of on road separated lanes in Toronto. This is not a left right issue. Mayor Bloomberg of New York is a right wing billionaire. He has done more for cycling than any of his left wing predecessors. Boris Johnson is the Tory Mayor of London from a privileged background. He has just unveiled the biggest expansion of cycling infrastructure in London's history. His predecessor, left winger Red Ken Livingstone, did squat. Forget the left right labels on cycling; they mean nothing.

I'd like to think that this wasn't just a non-committal delay tactic to take focus off the fact that this administration's legacy will be removing bike lanes. I understand that there is a mandate to PWIC not to build any bike lanes, and the Chair of said committee has plainly demonstrated his practice of deception and avoidance, so if it sounds too good to be true......

For the works/road department to show that it is committed to building bike lanes and paths, they should redesign the wide roads (starting in the suburbs) so that there are no sewer grates in the bike lanes/paths. Those sewer grates get most of the potholes, providing a hazardous ride for cyclists. Shifting the sewer grates into the heavier traffic lanes would be one step to show that bicycles could be taken as a form of transportation.

If you want a good view on how onside the suburban politicians are, tonight is the meeting of the Etobicoke York Community Council. This is the most powerful group in Etobicoke and York. Councillors from Wards 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,11,12,13,17 will be in attendance. They will all be at the Etobicoke Civic Center.

If you bring up cycling issues you will be dismissed. If they are in a good mood, it will be done politely. They have important things to do. To them cyclists are a frivilous fringe not worth talking to.

Again, feel free to try. It is a great opportunity.

I sent an e-mail to my councillor showing my favour for the bike station under City Hall. Others better as well, to show what we want.

I wrote to mine stating the opposite. Explained how most commercial buildings already have bike parking for employes and none of them spend $1.2M doing it.

Perhaps you'd be interested in sharing those facts of yours, detailing how much commercial buildings spend on bike parking. I'm willing to bet you don't have them since they're not readily available as far as I know. Instead I think you're just taking wild stabs in the dark. All the while trying to drive up moral outrage over a project that costs a pittance especially in comparison to the vast sums spent early on maintaining our roads and freeways.

The bike station is quite the opposite of a waste of money, it is a valuable addition to the downtown business district. The nearby Simpson Tower is even willing to provide a donation to Cycle Toronto because its pushing to get the bike station built.

Soon after the story spread, we received a call from Simpson Tower, a 32-storey office building situated at Queen & Bay, located very close to Nathan Phillips Square. Each year, tenants and individuals tell them that they need secure bike parking in order to ride to work; however, Simpson Tower cannot make this type of parking available. They’re excited about the prospect of a bicycle station at Nathan Phillips Square to help enable their tenants to bike to work.

Most commercial/office buildings actually DON'T have bike parking for employees. I became a member of one of the city's existing bike parking stations (no showers, just a washroom that may one day be functional) in part because the two building garages I was using before started restricting access and I didn't feel that locking up in a Green P parking garage was secure.

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