If not now, when? If not here, where? Separated bike lanes in Vaughan's Ward

Most cyclists - and even non-cyclists - in Toronto want to see bicycle lanes separated from traffic. Most of them think that it should be the top priority for improving conditions for cyclists, even more important than adding more bike lanes. Councillor Vaughan, however, seems to disagree. At least, Vaughan has done little for cyclists in his ward and has been negative about the first real ambitious plan for separated bike lanes in his ward. Yet Vaughan considers himself to be a bike-friendly councillor. If that's true, I put it to Vaughan to explain: if not this plan, which one? If not now, when? We'd like to know.

The 2009 City survey of cyclists and non-cyclists, ten years after the first survey of the state of cycling in Toronto, added a new option to the question on the top priorities for cyclists and non-cyclists in improving conditions for cyclists. Regular ("utilitarian") cyclists stated that their top priority is to separate bike lanes from traffic (77% said it would improve matters a great deal), even more important than adding more bike lanes (59%). Even among non-cyclists 2/3 found separating bike lanes as the top priority for improving conditions for cyclists.

Sign petition for separated bike lanes in downtown Toronto

Sign the separated bike lanes petition if you are interested in seeing a leap forward in appropriate infrastructure for cyclists downtown. Councillor Minnan-Wong, head of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, had presented the idea to the media last month. It's not a done deal by any means since local Councillor Vaughan and residents need to be on side, and some public consultation is already going on to change some streets such as Richmond/Adelaide. The petition calls for pilot projects to being in 2011. If that is politically possible it would give us a good idea of the options and would be reversible if not a good idea.

The final plan might look sort of what is described here and here. There will be plenty of time and space for public consultation to figure out the exact details, so sign if you approve of this in principal.

To: All City Councillors and Mayor's Office

I support the immediate implementation of a connected separated bicycle lane infrastructure with pilot projects beginning in 2011. This single step can greatly enhance the safety and efficiency of Toronto streets at a very low cost.

The domain over planning separated bike lanes and the needs of downtown communities

Photoshopping of Richmond bike lanes by Mez.

A city councillor is often considered to be a lord over his (or her) own fiefdom aka ward. This is a fairly sturdy tradition in Toronto municipal politics. It's tit-for-tat: I won't interfere with your plans for your ward if you don't interfere with my plans. When Councillor Minnan-Wong announced his plan for a downtown network for separated bike lanes, he upset that unwritten rule.

Even though this tradition can lead to parochialism and a propensity for councillors to only worry about their own re-election instead of the good of the whole city, it also makes some sense as we can see in the following email from Councillor Vaughan to Rob C (props to Rob for forwarding this to me). Vaughan's reasons for opposing Minnan-Wong's plans are that Minnan-Wong is calling for "substantial plans" on these streets, and "completely overrides four years of community consultation and neighbourhood efforts to address the issues on these streets".

From: Councillor_Vaughan@toronto.ca
Sent: January 10, 2011 10:13 AM
To: Rob
Subject: re: Your opposition to separated bike lanes in Toronto

Dear Rob,

The origins and politics of Minnan-Wong's bike lane plan

Like me, perhaps you are wondering why a right-wing politician who had helped to push the "war on the car" meme on the public, had opposed separated bike lanes on University Ave and opposed the Jarvis bike lanes, is now supporting a separated bike lane network for downtown Toronto. It may help to get a bit more of the background.

Alan Heisey pointed out in my previous post that the Toronto Star map and information is incorrect. Heisey's original proposal, which looked like the map attached, also included separated bike lanes to Bathurst and Parliament on Harbord and on Richmond as well as bike lanes extended north of Bloor.

2010: a year of extremes for cycling

The city has saved me some trouble from having to do my own research by compiling all the things that they've done this last year. Before I reveal it all, let me list the things that I can remember about 2010:

  • Ten years later survey by the City - The survey found that cycling has become more popular, confirming many of our thoughts. What we didn't realize was the bigger increase in the suburbs.
  • bike corral at 215 Spadina - I made a point of parking my bike in the corral. It was a good feeling that I was respected enough to be given roomy parking in a space previously occupied by a private automobile.
  • Big bike chain sign in Kensington. It's a nice touch that combines utility and branding for this entrance to Kensington Market. My gripe still remains that it is too far away from all the action. Most cyclists don't use it because it's not right in front of the places they frequent.
  • Re-launch of the Ward Advocacy Program of the Toronto Cyclists Union. This was a defining moment - the room at the Brickworks was packed with 80+ people. It was not just a social event like other bike union events, but rather the energy of the room was focused on getting things done locally. We got lots of good ideas from the speakers, city planner Al Rezoski, Dale Duncan former assistant to Councillor Adam Vaughan, bike union founder Dave Meslin. Since then a few ward groups have formed, in particular Wards 18,19, and 20 have met and are now well on the way of making things happen locally.

Downtown separated bike lanes plan: Minnan-Wong makes it his own

Courtesy of Toronto StarCourtesy of Toronto Star

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who only recently learned how to ride a bike through CAN-Bike, has sprung on the public a plan to build a small network of separated bike lane downtown.

Minnan-Wong's plan, however, didn't appear in a vision to him. Last winter the Toronto Cycling Advisory Committee advised that Lower Sherbourne get separated bike lanes to coincide with the road resurfacing, as recommended by lawyer Alan Heisey and the Toronto Cyclists Union. The two then presented in August a petition calling for a plan to the public works committee, the same committee of which Minnan-Wong is now chair. In the petition the request was for filling in the gaps and separating a number of these lanes (see full petition):

  1. Connect the Simcoe Street bicycle lanes to the St George Beverley Street bicycle lanes via John Street and Richmond Street West so there is a continuous north-south bicycle lane route west of the core connecting Bloor Street to the Lake.

A dramatic reading: Don "Pinko" Cherry's "Speech"

Thanks Tino!

Best quote:

Actually I'm wearing pink for all the pinkos out there riding bicycles and everything. I thought I'd get it in. What'd ya expect, Ron McLean, here? To come here?

You know, I'm befuddled, because I thought I was doing a good thing, coming down with Ron - Rob - and I was gonna do this hear, and it was going to be nice and the whole deal.

Everybody has been so focused on the "pinkos on bicycles" part that they forgot that Dan - I mean Don - Cherry also has a problem with pinkos riding "everything". Just stay at home pinkos and you won't piss Don off - he doesn't even want to see you in a car.

Pink bike peace offering for Cherry's pinko comment

Courtesy of Globe and MailCourtesy of Globe and Mail

This week "pit bull" Don Cherry was invited to Mayor Ford's swearing-in ceremony and made a speech that went like this "blah, blah... wearing pinko for all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything ...blah blah". Ford later claimed not to know what Cherry was going to say. All the same you could see that Ford wanted to give Cherry a big hug.

In response people started producing pinko buttons and t-shirts. And now Toronto bike shop Curbside is offering a custom painted pink Pashley bicycle to Don Cherry - an ironic slight wrapped up in a peace offering package. Velocolour will be doing the custom painting. Cherry will have to come in person to pick up the bicycle so the Curbside crew can have a latte with the brain-addled celebrity.

Pink Pashley as imaginedPink Pashley as imagined

So we’d like to take a little egg off your face and allow you to (literally) do a bit of backpedalling. We’d like to give you a bicycle. In a blushing shade of ironic pink, this bike will be customized to your own remarkable style. The bike will be a Pashley from the United Kingdom, a company that has been producing real city bikes for 80 years, and the details will be custom painted by Noah Rosen of Velocolour. We’re asking the city to choose their favorite Don Cherry pattern (below) whether it be be a Plaid, a floral, or what-have-you.

Go to Curbside's blog to vote for a pattern!

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