advocacy

If councillors are supporting the separated bike lanes proposal, what next?

It's taken a bit of community pressure from the Bike Union, business and residents associations as well as pressure from above with Chair of Public Works and Infrastructure (PWIC), Councillor Minnan-Wong as a born-again cyclist. Things are looking up for the separated bike lanes aka cycle tracks when they go to PWIC in June. The proposal has support from the left as well as the right. Even though PWIC is packed with some suburban councillors, I'm guessing they are unlikely to try to oppose the Chair's pet project. PWIC member and environmentalist Councillor Perks has mostly sided with Vaughan and opposed this particular plan. PWIC member Councillor Layton has made some noises of supporting it in some form.

In City Council as a whole, more councillors are lining up to support the separated bike lanes. Some are more reticent than others in going against the strong-willed Adam Vaughan, in whose ward some of the proposed bike lanes will be placed. Councillors on the left and middle, McConnell, Mihevc, Lee and deBaeremaker are now supportive of the proposal. Councillors Wong-Tam supports it in principle. Even right-leaning Palacio supports the proposal. It looks more likely that it will pass the Public Works committee and hopefully City Council.

New Bike Union membership card provides discounts at Toronto businesses

I got the new Bike Union membership card in the mail. Membership now provides discounts at various Toronto businesses: Curbside Cycle, Cycle Solutions, Hoopdriver Bicycles, Urbane Cyclist, Autoshare, Spokes and Sports, Sweet Pete's, Mod Robes, Bikes on Wheels, Mari Cla Ro, and more coming.

Charlie's Bike Shop: new bike shop run by youth

Tino captured the opening celebration of Charlie's Bike Shop (as part of the organization Charlie's Freewheels, which opened recently just a few doors east of Sherbourne on Queen. Charlie's works with youth from Regent Park to provide training in bicycle mechanics and now running a business.

Charlie's Freewheels was named in honour of Charlie Prinsep, a Torontonian who was hit and killed by a car on the Trans-Canada near Brooks, Alberta while on a cross-country bike tour. Charlie loved everything about cycling: riding, fixing, going on long tours. (The site is not far from my parents home. I visited the site in 2007 where Charlie was hit; the wide, flat, straight, isolated Trans-Canada has plenty of room to avoid hitting anyone, but the driver was most likely falling asleep at the wheel.)


Click on the photo to see Tino's whole gallery.


Some of the organizers help launch the shop, including Emma McIlveen Brown, Derek Chadbourne, Joshua Farr, unknown and Aaron Marques.

See also the first award ceremony at Critical Mass;

Bike lane network is just a right-wing conspiracy? Strange times

Councillors Adam Vaughan and Gord Perks are both downtown progressive politicians who are interested in livable communities and pedestrian-friendly streets. Both are white men still in their prime, who, I believe, are occasional cyclists. Like many in this category they feel that they know enough about cycling on Toronto streets, and they are just cocksure enough, that they feel that they can make judgements on the needs of the diversity of regular cyclists, without needing to consult them. There are still a number of people in power who can't see beyond their own cycling experiences to consider what it might mean to cycle in this city if you're not quite as able, young (or too young), white, and masculine.

Turns out even progressive councillors like Adam Vaughan and Gord Perks give little thought to how they would improve cycling in Toronto's core. Perks has shown his support for Vaughan's wish to turn Richmond Street from one-way to two-way traffic. In a letter I've obtained from Councillor Perks to a constituent, Perks says:

[the bike union's] endorsement of this project concerns me. The project has its origins in the previous term when it was used as an excuse by some traditionally anti-bike lane Councillors to oppose the separated lane proposed for University Avenue. Instead of supporting a proposal which would have been in place last summer they argued for looking at other routes in the future. The proposal creates some specific problems for local plans in the area such as making Richmond St. into a two-way more pedestrian friendly street.

Additionally it is part of the ongoing effort supported by the mayor to push cyclists off the main streets in the City and onto side streets.

We haven't heard a peep from either of Perks or Vaughan if they have any plans to follow through with the official Bike Plan, which calls for bike lanes on Richmond and/or Adelaide. It's not only from Ford Nation that we have to worry about killing the Bike Plan, it seems like these two are helping it along by quietly ignoring it. If Vaughan and Perks don't want to provide for safer bike traffic on Richmond, just where would they like to put them all? Where will the cyclists get their long-promised safe bike routes? There is no other politically feasible route in the downtown, which is clearly shown in the work that the transportation planners did for the Bike Plan.

Annex residents support separated bike lanes

Via BlogTO (which got it from the Annex Gleaner), I found out that the Annex Residents Association has published their Cycling Policy, calling for improved cycling infrastructure in their neighbourhood - bike lanes on Bloor from Avenue to Bathurst, separation of bike lanes from car traffic, contra-flow bike lanes on one-way streets, bike boxes, 30km/h zones, "Idaho rolling stops", and and so on (adopting many things from the Ward 20 bike advocacy report).

Albert Koehl, lawyer and Bells on Bloor founder, says:

“One of the big complaints that people have is that cyclists don’t obey the rules of the road. Our view in the policy is that if cyclists feel that they are being accepted and valued in their community, than they will start to feel a part of the community and obey its rules,”

The ARA policy complements the proposal by Minnan-Wong and the bike union for separated bike lanes, though along Bloor or Harbord it isn't without political opposition:

Rob Ford not so anti-cycling as advocates make him out to be

Dave Meslin makes a pitch on why Mayor Rob Ford may not be so anti-bike. Ford made headlines with his quotes about cyclists "swimming with the sharks" and in this video which was distributed before last fall's election, Ford is quoted as saying "Cyclists are a pain in the ass". Meslin's point is that if we had listened through the entire video (a rambling 7 minutes long) that we would have heard something more supportive coming from the mouth of the then-councillor.

Ford says “cyclists are putting their lives at risk every time they go on the road,” and his solution is both simple and practical: “We have to widen our sidewalks, split them basically in half, pedestrians on one side, closest to the stores, and the cyclists on the other side. It will work in this city.”

This might not be the right solution for every street, but the idea of physically separating cyclists from motor traffic, where possible, is a good one. It encourages more people to try cycling. The concept is not new, nor radical. It’s just common sense, and that’s why separated lanes are being used in cities all across the world, from Berlin to Manhattan to Montreal.

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.

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