A step backwards as City fails to make Union Station at Front Street safer for cyclists
City Council on March 5th adopted the plan for Front Street with a more pedestrian friendly design that reduces the width to two wider lanes. Yet in the process they ignored the needs of cyclists by not including bike lanes, and even made access to Union Station worse by moving bike parking and BIXI stations away. What it did keep intact is loading and taxi zones and even places for cars to do u-turns, all of which meant something had to be compromised, namely bike lanes.
At the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) meeting on February 15th cyclists got a brief reprieve from a plan that was more or less excluding cyclists. PWIC agreed to get more input to see how the Front Street in front of Union Station Plan could be made safer and more convenient for cyclists. The Acting General Manager of Transportation Services was to report directly to City Council on comments from the Design Review Panel with respect to the recommended reconfiguration. The main concern was the exclusion of cycling-specific infrastructure - no bike lanes and less bike parking were to be the rule - so the comments were to address this concern. However and perhaps conveniently, the Acting General Manager was unable to meet with the Design Review Panel to discuss these concerns. The Panel calendar was just full booked up. So instead of delaying the decision until the panel could meet, full steam ahead with a token response to cyclists:
The Design Review Panel (DRP) did not have any scheduled meetings between the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting on February 15, 2012 and this Council meeting. Therefore, there was no opportunity to present this proposal to the full Panel. Staff attempted to arrange a meeting with the Chair and the Vice-Chair of the DRP as an alternate plan but, unfortunately, they were unavailable to meet during this time.
The process for improving Front Street in front of Union Station started under Mayor Miller. It appears that not even for Miller was cycling a priority enough to insist that the City planners take the Bike Plan and Metrolinx guidelines for cycling access seriously. It seems that cyclists were mostly in a blindspot during Miller's tenure at City Hall, as they are under Ford as well.
Much was done under Miller to improve transit but the implementation of the Bike Plan and the incorporation of cycling into all new infrastructure has suffered. We can't just call out our Mayor and suburban councillors who are vocally against bike lanes. Downtown councillors have also done little - and some have actively obstructed bike lanes - compared to councillors in other North American cities. Toronto will soon fall further behind and we will continue to struggle to get councillors to even consider separated bike lanes as necessary while cities like Chicago and New York go full speed ahead. If you want to feel sad for Toronto, just read Chicago's 2012 plan for separated bike lanes in this year alone.