[Update: PWIC accepted the Front Street EA Report with an amendment: "The Public Works and Infrastructure Committee requested the Downtown Design Review Panel to meet with the Acting General Manager, Transportation Services, the Director, Community Planning, Toronto and East York District, and the Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee to review the report on the Front Street West Reconfiguration - Environmental Assessment Study and provide comments to be forwarded to the March 5, 2012, meeting of City Council."
PWIC basically recognized there were some strong concerns about the lack of cycling infrastructure. Hopefully something improved can be figured out in time for the City Council meeting.]
Union Station is the busiest transportation hub in the country. For some time it's been known that something needed to be improved for the stream of people walking in and out of the station across Front Street. Today there is a meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee to look at the Front Street Environmental Assessment Report. It looks like a big improvement for pedestrians and as someone who occasionally uses Union, I will appreciate that cars will have more deference to me walking across. I continue to be flummoxed why cyclists' safety is being sacrificed to get there while motor vehicles will still get plenty of room. I ask the planners to imagine an 8 year old or an 80 year old on a bike navigate this section of Front.
Union Station would constitute a ”mobility hub” under Metrolinx’s mobility hub guidelines, which calls for "Balanced Access to and from Transit Stations":
- Create safe and direct pedestrian and cycling routes to rapid transit stations from major destinations and regional cycling and pedestrian networks.
- Provide secure and plentiful bicycle parking at station entrances with additional cycling amenities at high volume locations.
- Provide clearly marked and protected access for pedestrians and cyclists at station areas to minimize conflicts, particularly at passenger pick-up and drop-offs (PPUDO), bus facilities, and parking access points.
The Toronto Official Plan also states that an effort must be made to make all streets more bicycle friendly. The City has a responsibility to provide infrastructure for all road users, including cyclists.
This report is not meeting any of these guidelines meant to provide balanced access for cyclists. It is outrageous that this plan may actually make conditions worse for cyclists than what we currently have on Front. The roads will be narrowed to make it harder for cyclists to fit side by side with motor vehicles; all the bike stands have been moved off of Union Station entirely; all Bixi stands have been moved elsewhere; and no bike lane is planned to provide a measure of safety for cyclists of all ability and age.
Recommendations in the report include the existing two travel lanes in each direction being reduced to one wider travel lane in each direction, marked with sharrows; expanded sidewalks, with lay-by parking for taxis, buses, etc.; new mid-block pedestrian crossing; and bike parking rings on the north side of Front Street (moved from the south side of street). The report also recommends that BIXI docking stations be placed immediately east of Bay Street and west of York Street on newly expanded sidewalks.
As great as the pedestrian realm is going to be, this plan is not a Complete Street. The planners have virtually shoved cyclists aside left us to our own devices. Unlike European train stations where it's officially acknowledged that people of all ages and abilities will want to arrive by bike and are accommodated (such as all the train stations I visited in the Netherlands), here it's not taken seriously. Rather it seems to be actively discouraged despite official noises otherwise.