For those who hold that the terms "great expectations" and "TCAC" (Toronto Cycling Advisory Committee) have long since proven themselves mutually exclusive, the rumblings and ramblings emanating from Committee Room 2 of City Hall last Monday may give cause to reconsider. The regular bureaucratic tedium -- accountants' conventions are Roman orgies by contrast -- belied the significance and scope of the schemes underway. There is truly cause for (cautious?) excitement.
Three parties presented at Monday's affair. Donald Wiedman of bikesandtransit.com outlined the plans and current state of his (bike and GO train centered) intermodal initiatives. (Apologies for the curt mention, I stumbled late into the meeting and only caught the last few minutes.)
Geoff Kettel of Cycle 26, as per his and colleagues' report, Rolling Forward 26, spoke to the absolutely abysmal implementation of the Toronto Bike Plan in his ward. Cycle 26 epitomizes what I believe the TCU hopes -- or hoped -- would flourish in every Toronto ward: capable, coherent local advocates liaising with bureaucrats, politicians and the greater community to determine deficiencies, priorities and opportunities. Squeaky wheels get the grease folks; when the clamor is as well reasoned, organized and presented as that of Cycle 26, results follow.
Daniel Egan, (Manager of Pedestrian and Cycling Infrastructure) was the final speaker on the bill. For approximately 45 minutes he addressed, for lack of a better phrase, the state of cycling in Toronto: what's being done, what's not being done, what's on the drawing board and where we're heading. Even tempered by skepticism it was an impressive presentation.
We've all had the experience of how an innocuous commonplace event, in retrospect, can prove quite a revelation. Following the TCAC meeting I couldn't completely shake the sense that lurking in the minutiae of Dan's program was a real harbinger of changing mores at the Queen St. clamshell. Dan Egan's presentation, especially in light of the continuing Bloor/Yorkville makeover, the recently approved Jarvis St. rehab and the Transit City program signals that King Car's formerly uncontested prerogatives are at long last being challenged.
Though some of these projects don't specifically allocate resources for cyclists, they collectively deny or curtail the entitlements of motorists which, in of itself, makes for more inclusive roadways and civil cityscapes. There are sure signs of cracks in the dam: is a torrent poised to break through the breach?
Without further adieu, the key points of Dan's presentation (in his own words):
- In order to "better accelerate the bikeway network program...[three recommendations were put forth]...increasing the capital budget, increasing staff resources...and streamlining the approval process. I'm happy to say those were all essentially accomplished..." Staffing, budgeting and duties have been consolidated and reassigned to the effect that Dan et al get to "focus full time on the bike plan".
- The Bike Station (@ Union station) will open May 26; "We're also working on another [bike station] for Nathan Phillips Square that will be targeted for 2011...[and] working quite closely with the TTC for bike parking strategy. There's a report...later this month..."
- "The other big piece we've been working on...is the public bike program. Our request for expressions of interest closes this Thursday [May 14]...We are in a difficult, er, interesting position with our public bike program...Astral Media has first right of refusal for any program that involves street advertising [like Velib in Paris]...There was a feeling among staff and politicians that there wasn't a big appetite for more street advertising so we'd like to make sure we look at all the potential options for public bikes...The intent is to launch in the Spring of 2010."
- "...[considering the preceding] How do we strategically shift the bike plan to take advantage of those things?... With the launch of the public bike program there's a need to expand the bike network downtown...We need to significantly expand the bike network downtown...in order to support the extra two to three thousands bikes as a part of the bike plan. We need to go well beyond what was originally anticipated in the original Bike Plan for the downtown area... We're looking at are some high profile downtown bikeways...something like this [New York City's 9th Avenue] for University Ave./Queens Park Circle..." Also mentioned were sharrows, conflict zone markings and bikeboxes and experimenting with a "lot of things we haven't done in the past".
- In the suburbs, "We are putting more emphasis on the hydro corridors...and starting negotiations with the Province for access...[the corridors] provide a tremendous opportunity to link to existing bikeways and trails." Also touched upon, in reference to the burbs but not necessarily limited to them, were "time of day" bike lanes, i.e., a bike lane that functions as such during the day but reverts to curbside parking spaces during off hours.
- "The other piece we're doing...is expanding our research and analysis capabilities...We did a pretty comprehensive cycling survey as part of the Bike Plan in 1999 and 10 years later we're going to replicate that survey in June." Everyone ride your bike in June!!!!
- "The Bike Plan was conceived as a 10 year plan...Every few years the Plan should be refreshed." Dan proposed that the Plan be revisited in 4 year cycles, synchronizing implementation and revision with Toronto Council terms to provide specific, short term targets.
- A full 15 minutes was exclusively devoted to Staff's ongoing study of a bikeway on Bloor Street/Danforth Ave. Broken down into a half dozen segments the analysis ranged from Kipling in the west to Victoria Park in the east. Dan touched upon bike lane configurations, i.e., bi-directional a la Montreal, road widths, and the challenges posed by high motor vehicle volume and, of course, parking. Note: What Dan was outlining was a preliminary study, not a formal proposal.
- Other items touched upon: discussions with the TCU, West End and Cycle 26 bike groups to determine projects and priorities; a bikeway on the Bayview Extension from Moore Ave to Queen St.; options for integrating bike lanes into the bumpouts integral to Ronscevalles Ave. makeover; and options for improving(among them, possibly eliminating a westbound auto lane) the Bloor St. Viaduct bike lanes in response to the Bloor St. Viaduct report.
There was more but I've rambled on long enough.
Following Dan's presentation, Hamish Wilson, in the opening remarks of his deputation, accurately observed "It's exciting to see all this activity...it's a vast amount of information to absorb." Indeed, those were my sentiments as well.
How or if all these activities end in action is, of course, to be seen. Initiative -- and Monday had no shortage of that on display -- being the precursor of action, I don't think it's too unrealistic to expect some significant results in the near future.