Metrolinx, our former GTTA, released two "green papers" today. Both of them take an active interest in cycling as a commuting mode in the Greater Toronto Area.
The papers are available and the consultation is taking place through this website.
"Green Paper #2" looks at mobility hubs.
"Creating easier links between walking, cycling, auto use and public transit is a key element in improving people's ability to get around," MacIsaac said. "These hubs often foster vibrant employment and residential areas, and draw amenities such as entertainment, shopping and family services to their vicinity. This mix of land use and transportation can be mutually supportive and should be encouraged."
"Green Paper #3" is specifically interested in cycling and pedestrian issues.
"We have engineered walking and cycling out of many parts of our region
and it has had very negative consequences. Our environment and our health have suffered because we can't do as much as buy a cup of coffee without using our cars. Other cold climate cities do a much better job of encouraging - and enabling - people to walk or cycle. We're looking for ways to make active transportation a much more important part of the way we get around," MacIsaac said.
MacIsaac is open to "road diets" in the interest of adding bike lanes and wider sidewalks, although I'm not sure if it's within the jurisdiction of Metrolinx.
Bike sharing also gets mentioned as a possibility, referring to it as "self-service bicycle-rental stalls". Two weeks ago, I had the chance to talk to Adrian Heaps (Toronto Cycling Committee Chair). He said that the idea of bike sharing is being "rekindled" at city hall. Maybe we're on the cusp of seeing a large bike sharing program in the GTA. We can dream.
Note that the online consultation is not through the Metrolinx website. You'll find the documents and the feedback tools on this special consultation site.
Luke Siragusa (not verified)
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.Thu, 02/07/2008 - 19:18
For what its worth I took the time to add my .02 to metrolinx's Green Paper #3; I doubt anything will come of it. The above referenced Mr. MacIsaac is the signer to the Green Paper. Following are my comments....
Mr. MacIsaac and metrolinx, thank you for the opportunity to contribute.
As noted personal mobility is an essential element in the calculus of quality of life. It's increasingly evident that that which used to epitomize that mobility and freedom, the personal auto, is now principally responsible for constraining it. Gridlock, parking woes, smog, excessive space requirements and infrastructure costs -- all chronic conditions of autocentric cities -- are undermining the civility of our urban spaces. Definitely too much of a good thing!
It is well your challenging the conventional wisdom behind current development patterns; it's essential to creating more hospitable and enduring communities. But that can only do so much to rectify the present design deficiencies of the GTA, a legacy of 50+ years of satisfying the needs of the automobile before almost all else.
Considering how to best encourage walking and cycling, it quickly becomes evident how comprehensive is the strategy required. Zoning regulations and building codes, multi-modal and transjurisdictional coordination, cultural assumptions and misconceptions, all these provide their own unique obstacles to putting more feet on pedals and sidewalks.
But lack of political will in effecting a pedestrian and cycling friendly environment ranks among the MOST significant hurdles. The city of Toronto's operating budget for 2008 is just under $8 billion and the allocation for bicycle specific initiatives can be seen as an indicator of priorities. I'd be surprised if that amount comprises one tenth of one percent of the budget ($8 million). Until City Hall is prepared to pay more than lip service to advancing a pro-pedestrian and cycling agenda, the likes of MetroLinx will amount to nothing more than bureaucratic boondoggles.
Toronto already HAS a bike plan which is being (allegedly) implemented at a positively glacial pace. So there's no need to completely re-design the wheel; it's time to build it. Now! And there are no shortage of centers serving as templates for the more wide ranging aspirations of metrolinx: Portland, Oregon; Bogota, Columbia; Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London, etc...
The Green Paper did specifically solicit input on measures conducive to cyclists' and pedestrians' safety. This absolutely goes to the heart of discussion because, in my experience, this is the primary deterrent discouraging prospective cyclists. All other aspects of the issue are secondary: if cycling is perceived as, or actually is, dangerous it will be rejected as an option regardless of all other inducements and benefits.
By way of satisfying this request I'd like to challenge you, Mr. MacIsaac, to first directly acquaint yourself with the hazards facing the typical workaday cyclist. You'll gain a much greater appreciation of the scope and forms of solutions required by doing so. Accordingly I'd like you to embark on several rides.
One such ride, a commute, should be in morning rush hour, from the periphery of the city (Mississauga, Scarborough, Pickering, North York) to downtown. It should require you to traverse at least one 400 series highway and travel for 5 KM down arterial roads (they often afford the only route to the destination), i.e., Islington, Bayview, Kingston Rd, Eglinton Ave W/E, etc.. Another spin should retrace the first trip, the commute home so to speak, but at night. Do not ride on sidewalks at any time.
Note the hazards and honestly ask yourself this: Would my parents, wife or children feel secure cycling this route under these conditions? Would I want them riding at all here? While mulling over measures aimed at mitigating the confronted hazards, subject them to that same litmus test. All other considerations aside, you'll know your plans are at least adequate when those questions yield a positive answer.
Further, get a cycling map of Toronto or your immediate environs, plot a 10 KM course using exclusively bicycle lanes or recreational trails, and ride that course. Right now, in February. Keep in mind your assertion that weather is not a deterrent to cycling/walking while taking stock of the practicality of such a proposition when the facilities concerned lack winter servicing.
Lastly, undertake an errand by bicycle. Ride to the local supermarket for groceries. Observe if there any racks or secure areas for locking.
Accomplishing the preceding, much more than my regurgitating the same suggestions that you've no doubt heard ad nauseum, will benefit with you a first hand understanding of the challenges faced, and measures required, by Toronto's cyclists.
chephy (not verified)
The accompanying pictureSat, 02/09/2008 - 23:48
I don't know if what's pictured above was anything that Metrolinx specifically suggested, but I think it can be a close-to-an-ideal solution for cycling routes. The trouble with cycling routes today is that they're placed on quiet residential streets; i.e., precisely the kind of streets that discourage car traffic. Unfortunately, inconveniencing car drivers incidentally means inconveniencing cyclists as well, by making them stop at essentially all intersections, and by cutting off connections to discourage drivers to take shortcuts. However, making cyclist-only connections as above will not inconvenience cyclists much, but will still make the roads very unattractive to car drivers (so much so, that you don't need to discourage them further by all-way stop signs, which translates into another benefit for cyclists). That stuff is great.. as long as it's properly cleared of snow. One similar connection exists at Oriole Pkwy and Killbary Rd. (near UCC), and this winter it's been blocked by huge snowbanks.
Bicycle CorridorsSun, 02/10/2008 - 11:17
I picked the picture from their report, so maybe it means they're considering this kind of thing.
In the report, they talk about Bicycle Corridors, which might be another term for a Bicycle Boulevard. And I agree that this kind of thing is a great piece of bike infrastructure, especially in places where the city already expects cyclists to choose neighbourhood streets.
Luke (not verified)
That measure in the photo,Sun, 02/10/2008 - 12:26
That measure in the photo, a la Vancouver, merits consideration. That autos are restricted AND there's no bicycle lane on the connecting residential street is appealing. I often find bicycle lanes on secondary routes redundant: the pace of traffic is leisurely enough to obviate a designated cycling lane, and cyclists, intuitively understanding this, will ride these roads regardless. That is, IMO a cycling lane there doesn't conduce to greater safety or participation.
The greatest need for dedicated cycling amenities is on the major thoroughfares. It is only these corridors that allow passage across major barriers, i.e., 400 series highways and river valleys, and extend to the city's boundaries. They should act as the spines centering the velosphere's nervous system; as primary arteries gathering and channeling flow, maximizing efficiency and resources as they shuttle a community's lifeblood among its downtown towers, midtown neighborhoods and outlying suburbs.
THIS IS THE IDEA BEHIND MOTOR-VEHICLE NETWORKS. THIS IS THE IDEA BEHIND RAIL NETWORKS. THIS IS THE IDEA BEHIND OUR OWN BODIES' NERVOUS AND CIRCULATORY NETWORKS. (Excuse the shouting; felt good)
But the braintrust at 100 Queen either have no ideas or refuse to act on them. Consequently, our present aspect is akin to tangles of spider veins erupting spasmodically across the incoherent face of drunk midway through a 3 day bender. Here I deliberately refrain from alluding to the bloated visage of a certain Etobicoke councillor.
Bicycling lanes and recreational trails sprout out of nowhere and disappear there just as readily, and servicing is seasonal. The effect is not of an integrated network but of an archipelago where each oasis is surrounded by a no-mans land of highways and motorized madness. A network must be implemented in entirety in order to exist, leave alone succeed. What we have are disconnected bits and pieces of a network, which is to say we have no network at all.
I've a simple, unrealistic(?) wish: one east/west cycling corridor on a major thoroughfare stretching the breadth of Toronto (e.g.: Eglinton, Bloor/Danforth/Kingston) and another, again on a major artery, traversing its height up to Steeles (e.g.:Bayview, Yonge, Bathurst). I know. Keep on dreaming.