In the ongoing saga in asking for safe, comfortable cycling on downtown's John Street, Trinity-Spadina MPP Han Dong cancelled a planned meeting with constituents, community representatives and cycling advocates on less than a day’s notice and didn't respond to correspondence from Trinity Spadina residents and voters for months.
In his email to the cycling advocates in November of last year, Dong’s Senior Chief of Staff, Ted Lojko replied after a delay:
After discussing the issue of conducting another Environmental Assessment for John Street which was already conducted in 2014, neither the local city councillor, nor the City of Toronto Planning Department feel there is a need to conduct another Environmental Assessment. Therefore we have cancelled the Meeting with Han Dong. He has no intent to work against the local councillor and feels the previously conducted Environmental Assessment sufficiently addressed local conditions. If the local councillor or City of Toronto Planning staff wish to request an additional Environmental Assessment Han would be happy to discuss this. But until that time, there is no need to discuss the matter further with our office.
A group of private citizens paid for their own professional traffic bicycle count at the John and Queen intersection last fall which demonstrated there have been material changes to the facts on which that Assessment was based. Their count last year revealed that an average of 65% of all traffic are bicycles. From Brian Iler's February 21 letter to Councillor Cressy, who has also refused to change the plans:
Our study revealed that, in the six morning and evening rush hours,
- 60.1% of 1013 vehicles southbound are bicycles, and 69.4 % of 867 northbound
- southbound pedestrians numbered 4168, and northbound, 4459.
In the three midday hours,
- 45.8% of 193 vehicles southbound are cyclists, and 30.6% of 205 northbound
- southbound pedestrians numbered 4634, and northbound 3215.
They sought Dong’s help, as their elected representative, to advocate on their behalves to the Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Their original request was to simply ask the Minister to decide on an application for reconsideration of the 2012 Environmental Assessment for the John Street Revitalization project. The application was made by well known Queen Street West restauranteur David Stearn in February 2017, relying on their traffic count. The response by Brian Iler, a year-round cyclist whose law office is on John Street, and a member of the group asking for the meeting: “Joe Cressy’s refusal to consider the facts is distressing enough. For our MPP to refuse to even meet with us to consider the facts is just appalling.”
David Stearn lost his original request in a letter from the Minister on November 30. But he has asked the minister to reconsider (pdf). I'm no lawyer, but it appeared that the Minister said that the Act doesn't allow him to reconsider this type of EA, and Stearn is arguing that he indeed does.
The 2012 Assessment assumed that cyclists constituted 2% of the vehicles using John Street which was easily proven at that time to be completely incorrect, and likely fudged. The report even included a graph that was very suspicious where the bike traffic never wavered at any point of day. The City later posted a correction. It boggles the mind.
John Street is the key link between the St. George/Beverly bike lanes and Richmond/Adelaide bike lanes, funnelling cyclists from the north and west into downtown Toronto. Revitalization is planned to expand pedestrian areas, but maintain two lanes of motor vehicle traffic, leaving no room for bicycles. We would likely see similar conditions to the top photo with cyclists stuck behind single passenger cars; prioritizing the few over the many.
John provides a safe, direct crossing over the busy Queen Street. Whereas the City-chosen alternative of Peter provides a still-unplanned, unsafe crossing of Queen requiring cyclists to make an awkward jog over streetcar tracks. Go there in person and observe people on bikes, cars and foot trying to figure out who has the right of way in a constant, awkward dance.
4 downtown resident groups have voiced their support for bicycle lanes on John Street, York Quay Neighbourhood Association, the St Lawrence Neighbourhood Association, the Toronto Island Community Association and the Palmerston Area Residents Association. Sadly, the Minister of Environment has made no response nor decision on the residents' application made last February. And even sadder, City Councillor Joe Cressy, normally a steadfast ally of the cycling community, has refused to reconsider the design in light of the facts revealed by the Fall 2016 or 2011 traffic counts.