Cycle Toronto asks City to improve bicycle access in Union Station plan, else may take it to Province

The City had approved an EA report for a remake of Front Street in front of Union Station. It would improve pedestrian access, but in the end, provided nothing substantive for cycling access, and perhaps even made it worse in some respects. This for a major transportation hub in Canada. Cycle Toronto has expressed its concerns (pdf) about the project and has sent a letter to the City to see that its concerns are met. If not, Cycle Toronto may bring its concerns to the Province under the EA legislation. The approved EA, according to Cycle Toronto, is contrary to the City of Toronto Official Plan, Metrolinx's transportation policies, and fails to provide adequate lanes for bicycle transportation and fails to accommodate access by bicycle to Union Station, a concern that was also expressed by Metrolinx at an earlier date.

If Cycle Toronto's concerns can't be resolved with the City, they will "make an order under Part 11 of the Environmental Assessment Act that would require the Project to undergo an individual environmental assessment".

Previously Metrolinx had also expressed concerns that cyclists were being short-changed. Lesiië/ Woo, Vice President of Policy, Planning and Innovation at Metrolinx, said in February:

It is encouraging to see an emphasis in the EA on pedestrian priority and safety; however, I wouid encourage the City to consider this opportunity to concurrently improve access to Union Station for cyclists. In particular, the preferred concept identitìed through the EA provides minimal dedicated on-road space for cyclists. With the introduction of a greater number of taxi and loading zones, there may be a greater number of points of conflict between cyclists, pedestrians, and motorized vehicles. On Front Street, the consideration of on-street bike lanes or dedicated cycling facilities may help to reduce conflicts, especially in high activity areas, such as adjacent to taxi stands and loading zones.

The City's Public Works and Infrastructure Committee had previously asked City staff to consider changes to the plan, but staff came back with nothing, saying that they were unable to arrange a meeting with the appropriate people in time. So instead of delaying the approval until changes could be discussed, it was summarily accepted. Perhaps this time they'll find the time.

Ontario's chief coroner to review cycling deaths and wants to hear from you

The Chief Coroner of Ontario, Dr. Andrew McCallum, announced this morning that his office would be investigating cycling deaths over the last four years to determine ways to prevent them, reports the Star and CBC (read the announcement). Ten to twenty cyclists die every year in Ontario as a result of injuries on Ontario streets. A coalition of cycling and senior groups - Toronto Cyclists Union, Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists and the United Senior Citizens of Ontario - wrote to the coroner requesting the inquest, and an opinion piece was written in the Star in August by lawyers Albert Koehl and Patrick Brown, along with former president of the United Senior Citizens of Ontario, Marie Smith, explaining why they wanted the inquest.

A similar review of 38 cycling deaths in the city of Toronto over an 11-year period was completed in 1998. That review led to a number of cycling initiatives in the city, including the Bike Plan, the city-wide network of cycling lanes, and the establishment of the cycling advisory committee, which was disbanded earlier this year.

How to provide good feedback for the Official Plan to make it more bike-friendly

"Where the bike lane ends" by Tino

Toronto's Official Plan is a powerful policy instrument that can help improve a city wide bikeway network over time and deal with the gaps in the network. We still have until Oct. 17 to provide feedback and suggestions for the plan in the City's short survey. This is a good place for us to tell policy makers what is our priority for the city.

If you are wondering how you can provide useful suggestions for the Official Plan, one place to start would be to identify gaps in the Bikeway Network and think of how those gaps could be closed (hey, you could even suggest they put back in the recently-voted-to-be-removed Jarvis, Pharmacy and Birchmount!).

Some examples of suggestions for the Official Plan:

Provide bike-positive input on the City's Official Plan

The City is in the first stage of its new Official Plan Reviews and currently in the midst of the September Open Houses. Next week the Open Houses are at York Civic Centre on Sept 26 and at North York Civic Centre on Sept 27.

Open Houses run 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and include facilitated discussions. If you cycle regularly you may be interested in attending one of the open houses and provide some input on how the Official Plan can benefit active transportation and, in particular, cycling.

The Open House material (discussion guide, presentation and display boards) will be posted under the "Events and Meetings" tab on the Review website.

People can also take the fast feedback survey which runs to October 17. It can be good alternative if you can't make one of the open houses. I completed the survey and found that they are already aware that cycling is important to take account of in planning our cities and would like to know more of how we think the official plan can reflect that.

Bike parking takes over at 215 Spadina

Source: Toronto Cyclists Union

Toronto's taken a small but big step into catching up to cities like Portland and Montreal by installing 16 bike parking spots in a "bike corral", taking over 2 car parking spots in front of the 215 Spadina building, workplace to many cyclists. A lot of credit goes to the tenants at 215 Spadina, including Matt Blackett of Spacing Magazine and Yvonne Bambrick of the Toronto Cyclists Union. Their nagging and pushing Councillor Adam Vaughan and city staff helped to push this into reality. Instead of only 2 people having the privilege of parking their vehicle, now 16 people have it.

Over 75% of 215 tenants bike to work in the summer, according to Matt at Spacing. Many of them being forced to lock up to any sign, tree or gas metre in the vicinity. The extra post and rings installed this spring are already overloaded. It appears as if even the bike corral is full most of the time. Time to install even more!

How to pass a cyclist

Here we go with another You-Tube video. This one may stir up a bit more controversy, because unlike my previous efforts, I haven't shown what my rides look like; I've shown what motorists' driving looks like. In this case, I've tried to show what passing a cyclist looks, and feels like. I have a few very close passes in two rides, both into the outer suburbs of Toronto.

This video doesn't do justice to the cycling experience, since I just wanted to talk about passing here. I actually left out a lot of really beautiful riding footage from some lovely roads because it didn't make my point. I'll try to put together another video to show the beauty and the pleasure of riding -- soon, I hope.

Bike Train Grows again

[Editors: We'd like to welcome the Bike Train staff who'll be updating us on what's new with this unique service.]

The Bike Train has come along way since its inception as a idea in founder Justin Lafontaine's head. The Bike Train now works with 3 rail companies and has routes that criss-cross the province.

Toronto Niagara GO Transit Bike Coaches

The service that began as four weekends of service to Niagara with volunteer staff and a baggage car commandeered for the occasion has now blossomed into a regular service. After 3 years of working with VIA Rail on the Toronto-Niagara route, the Bike Train is now partnering with GO Transit to service cyclists looking for transportation to the Niagara peninsula.

The expanded 2010 schedule now includes Friday evening, weekend and holiday service every weekend between May 21 and September 26. Perhaps more exciting still is the addition of 'bike coaches'. The well marked bike coaches mark a significant shift for GO Transit from a purely commuter rail service, to a holiday and outting service for those looking to escape the city by bike. Each weekend and holiday departure will feature two of the new 'bike coaches', in which the bottom row of seats on the bi-level cars have been removed and racks for 18 bikes have been installed. The Bike coaches bring the number of space for bicycles to 64 per departures, a boon for cyclists and advocates of intermodal transportation.

The Globe: City to complete West Toronto Railpath extension

West Toronto Railpath: Bridge over Dupont St., and Art Starts muralWest Toronto Railpath: Bridge over Dupont St., and Art Starts mural

Today's Globe & Mail has an article about the possible future extension of the West Toronto Railpath.

A few quotes from the article:

A completed trail “would be amazing,” said Daniel Egan, manager of the city’s cycling infrastructure and programs. “What’s in place now doesn’t really go anywhere, but you can get a sense of what’s possible. ... You don’t need much imagination to understand how important it could be.”

But the completion of the trail into downtown is likely several years off, and still faces significant design and construction hurdles.

But if it is to become more than just a recreational trail, and open up a new commuting route for cyclists, the southern portion of the trail down to King and Strachan needs to be completed. That depends on whether room can be carved out alongside the rail corridor that is being expanded to provide more frequent GO train service and a rail link to the airport.

Metrolinx, the government agency planning the GO expansion, says it will try to make room for the railpath alongside its tracks. The city is willing to pick up the tab for construction costs, and will accommodate the trail on adjacent land or streets in the sections where it can’t be accommodated on rail land. And the grassroots group Friends of West Toronto Railpath, which pushed for years to get the path under way, is lobbying hard and helping with the design of the extended path.

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