Letter to Mayor John Tory

Albert Koehl has sent a letter to Mayor John Tory about the failure of the city’s ten year bike plan.

April 29, 2019

Dear Mayor Tory,

Re: Toronto’s bike plan is failing (again)

Toronto’s Ten-Year Cycling Network Plan is on a clear trajectory to failure. We believe that such a failure is a loss for the community, not just for people on bicycles.

The new ten-year plan, approved in principle by council in June 2016, set out 335 km of new bike lanes and sidewalk level bike paths to be in place by 2025. In the almost three years since then, a paltry 27.5 km of new bike lanes, including some of marginal value, have been built. (Montreal, by comparison has installed 90 km of bike lanes in the same period.) This dismal pace of action has occurred despite a $16 million annual cycling capital budget (of which only $11 million was spent last year — little of it on bike lanes) and millions in additional federal funding. At the current pace, City Hall will repeat the failure of the 2001 bike plan.

The numbers are not simply a matter of passing interest. While Toronto installed about eight km of bike lanes last year, five residents were killed (a toll not exceeded since 1998) and many others suffered life-altering injuries while engaged in the otherwise enjoyable activity of riding bicycles.

Polling information over recent years has shown majority support from across the city for bike lanes and other road safety measures. We know that far more people would cycle if safe infrastructure was in place, allowing them to take advantage of the health and affordability benefits of bicycling while the community is spared from unnecessary air pollution, noise, traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, and road danger.

Central to the new ten-year plan were eight corridor studies for specific arterial roads, including Bloor, Danforth, and Yonge Streets, to provide the vital connecting routes needed for a cycling network. We have known since the 1970s that utilitarian cyclists use the same arterial roads as motorists, simply because they are typically going to the same places (and at the same times of day). Although it is now 40 years since Toronto’s first bike lane was installed, we are still years away from seeing a useful cycling network in place.

On a motion by the chair of the public works committee on May 16, 2016 (PW 13.11), all but two of the corridor studies were deferred, subject to a two-year review. The rationale for these deferrals was to provide an opportunity to learn from the completed studies. The Yonge study did move forward, albeit driven by the road reconstruction schedule, but the Bloor study sits idle – despite being noted as “currently underway” in 2016. We have yet to receive a satisfactory explanation for the failure to move forward, especially in view of the crucial information the reports were to provide (and in the context of new staff resources contemplated under the ten-year plan and the significant available funding). The two-year review has also not taken place.

We therefore have three questions:

  1. Who is accountable and responsible to the community for implementation of the city’s bike plan? We note that the significant dedication of city resources to the preparation of the bike plan is squandered when the plan is not implemented;
  2. What strategy will be put in place to get the ten-year plan back on track? This will require significant political will, given that three years have already passed with little progress. Action during this term of council will determine success or failure; and
  3. Why has the Bloor Corridor Study not been commenced, given that its completion was a key determinant for future action on the remaining corridor studies, which were themselves necessary elements for a coherent bike network in Toronto.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Albert Koehl

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Westward Ho! What’s next for the Bloor bike lanes

Cycle Toronto has published a more extensive summary of last week’s meeting on the westward extension of the Bloor bike lane.

Action item:

They have updated their pledge on the Bloor bike lane specifically to call for a westward extension of the lanes to High Park. Sign, if you have not already done so!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Westward Ho! Bloor bike lane extension meeting

56252857_885427420568_3681480760214159360_n

(cross posted from Dandyhorse Magazine)

Tonight was Westward Ho!, a community meeting organized for the Bloordale neighbourhood to educate people about the issues surrounding a possible westward extension of the Bloor bike lane as far as High Park. It was organized by frequent Dandyhorse contributors Albert Koehl of Bells on Bloor and Rob Zaichkowski from Cycle Toronto. The meeting was held at Bloor Collegiate Institute, just a bit west of the Bloor and Dufferin intersection.

Albert kicked things off with a short historical presentation of bike lanes on Bloor.

DSC07658

Next up: Nancy Lea Smith from TCAT, who talked about several studies they had done over the years to measure the economic impact of bike lane installation.DSC07663

The next speaker was local merchant Jennifer Klein of “Secrets From Your Sister“. She has been supportive of the bike lanes, but understood the apprehension of some of her fellow merchants, as well as her own customers. She said that adjustments made during the pilot phase of the Bloor bike lanes was helpful: in particular the addition of dedicated loading zones on side streets.

DSC07666

Sharon Zikman (Doctors for Safe Cycling) talked about the health aspects of cycling. She is a psychiatrist, and made an analogy between anti-depressants and commuting by bike. She said that when she prescibed anti-depressants, she knew upfront that the they would be 35% effective on average, with some small probability of serious side effects. On the other hand, she cited studies from the UK that benefits from commuting by bike could have a larger impact, such as a 50% decrease in cardiac disease. She noted the hazards of cycling as a side effect, but this was a side effect that could be avoided by prescribing safer cycling infrastructure.

DSC07668

Next up: Nahum Mann from the Bloordale Community Improvement Association (CIA). He said that they were supportive of the westward extension of the bike lanes. On a personal note, he said that he both he and his fiancée had been doored recently.

DSC07672

At this point, Councillors Layton and Bailao joined in, just having rushed over from City Council after having voted to make the King Street transit pilot permanent.

Mike was somewhat circumspect about the prospects of the westward extension in the near term. He spoke from his experience in the long process of getting the Bloor bike lanes installed up to Shaw. He said that it took a big tent to get it through. At the same time, one can’t wait for the community building to be perfect before moving forward.

DSC07684

Ana Bailao sounded generally supportive. She acknowledged that a network of bike lanes will be one piece of the solution to moving goods and people across an increasingly crowded city. She said that there will be a need for difficult conversations, and that support comes from packing rooms with people, not just dedicated cycles.

DSC07694

Next, Gideon Forman from the David Suzuki Foundation presented some data from an EKOS poll that showed surprisingly broad support across the city for bike lanes.

DSC07695

Finally, Jared Kolb from Cycle Toronto said that City Council will have a key decision to make in May to consider accelerating the extension of the Bloor bike lanes. If they turn it down, there is little prospect of anything happening until at least 2023. He reiterated the success of the Richmond/Adelaide bike lanes, and stated that their polls consistently show that people want to ride, and they want to ride more often.

DSC07697

DSC07699

The speakers then took a series of questions from the audience.

DSC07700

There were a few people who were brave enough to speak up strongly against the bike lanes, and against the behaviour of cyclists in general. This lead to one of the difficult conversations that was alluded to earlier in the evening.

One of the last questions was from the head of the local BIA who said that her members were undecided about the bike lanes, and that they were not aware of the information that had been presented at this meeting. I saw both Jared and Ana huddled with her as the meeting adjourned.

Out in the lobby, there were a few researchers from the University of Copenhagen who were running a survey on bike infrastructure. They are been here for a while. Here, longtime advocate Hamish Wilson is briefing them.

DSC07703

One of the european visitors said he was impressed with all of the bike advocacy that was going on, but couldn’t understand the glacial pace of getting new things built.  Why indeed….

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bloor bike lane extension meeting

56252857_885427420568_3681480760214159360_n

(graphic by Peter)

Mark your calendars for this coming Tuesday evening for a public meeting about the timeline for a westward extension of the Bloor Bike Lanes at Bloor Collegiate Institute.

The speakers include:

  • Albert Koehl (Bells on Bloor) – History of Bloor and the bicycle
  • Nancy Smith Lea (TCAT) – Bloor pilot study & what we learned
  • Jennifer Klein (Secrets from Your Sister) – The business perspective
  • Councillors Layton and/or Bailao – The view from council
  • Sharon Zikman (Doctors for Safe Cycling) – The health perspective
  • Gideon Forman (David Suzuki Foundation) – The environmental perspective
  • Jared Kolb (Cycle Toronto) – Next Steps

Toronto.com just published an article about the upcoming meeting.

Posted in Advocacy | Leave a comment

The Great Bike Lane Turtle Derby

There were some strange goings on near Bloor and Dufferin this morning.

DSC03716

DSC03715

DSC03717

Video linked below:

Afterwards, it was a brief stroll down Bloor to get a snack.

DSC03718

DSC03720

Of course you can guess who represented Bloor in the race.

DSC03719

Arriving at Home Baking for freshly baked treats.  Support your local businesses!

DSC03721

DSC03722

Ever been in line when the customers ahead of you are soooo slow?  😉

DSC03728

Turtles need nourishment too!

DSC03730

Thanks to all who participated!

Posted in Advocacy | Leave a comment

Nearly one million cyclists a year on the Bloor bike lanes

Our friends at CycleTO recently posted an analysis of city data on the number of cyclists that use the Bloor bike lanes, and came up with the fact that almost one million cyclists use them a year. This makes them one of the most heavily used pieces of bike infrastructure in Canada, despite the fact that they are only 2.4 km long.

Westbound on Bloor, approaching Shaw, do you ever get a sinking feeling when you know that the bike lane is about to end?

IMG_0779

After the bike lane ends, you have no choice but to mix it up with traffic.

IMG_0783

In the same blog post, CycleTO makes a strong argument to extend the bike lanes westward, all the way to High Park.

They also cite a bike count that was done in September of last year by Bells on Bloor volunteers. That data shows that between the hours of midnight and 9 pm on Sept 28, 2018, about 2200 cyclists cycled by Sweet Pete’s bike shop, just west of Bloor and Dufferin, a section with no bike lanes.

Here’s a closer look at the data.

Screen Shot 2019-03-13 at 9.09.51 PM

Both lines show the number of cyclists per hour, westbound (blue) and eastbound (orange). It is interesting that the morning rush hour has a very distinct peak between 8-9 am, whereas the outbound evening rush hour is much more spread out. The data show a total of 1060 westbound cyclists and 1134 eastbound cyclists, totals that are roughly balanced.

There were also automobile counts done over the rush hour periods. During the morning rush between 8-9 am, the cyclist total was about 13% of the motorist total. During the evening rush, the number of cyclists was about 17% between the hours of 4-7 pm. These are significant numbers for a section of Bloor that is not bike friendly.

Let’s continue the push to get the Bloor bike lanes extended, and for bike lanes to be put on the Danforth as well!

 

 

 

Posted in Advocacy, infrastructure | 1 Comment

two articles on the Dandyhorse blog

50502892_2061064967309033_6013425982197727232_oDandyhorse published two recent articles on the bike plan.

In the first, Robert Zaichkowski and Albert Koehl talk about how real progress on building new bicycle infrastructure is falling far behind the official bike plan.

In the second, Tammy Thorne outlines how unambitious the city’s plans are for 2019.

Tomorrow morning (Jan 17), the newly constituted infrastructure and environment committee will vote on whether or not to recommend that the Richmond and Adelaide bike lanes be made permanent, as recommended by city staff. The city’s own studies show that bike traffic along this corridor has increased by a factor or ten, and the number of bike/car collisions as decreased at the same time. This will be the first indication of how receptive the new city council is towards bicycle infrastructure.

Fingers crossed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Making Bloor safe for cyclists is not as easy as you might think

 

DSC02604An article by Albert has just been posted in Dandyhorse Magazine about the long history of fighting for bike lanes on Bloor.

(Note that the photo above was taken this past summer during the group commute, the one day when bicycles can take over Bloor in the downtown bound direction).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The small step that paved the way for Toronto’s waterfront trail

An article in the Globe and Mail about Winona Gallop, a cycling activist who started with getting the bike path along the Beach waterfront done, and then worked to extend it. The last broken link in the Waterfront Trail, at the foot of Leslie St. along Unwin Avenue, will be finished this year.

“Long before Bloor Street had a bike lane, before council approved its first bike plan, and even before the city had a mayor who was maligned for riding his bike to work, Toronto had Winona Gallop.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bloor bike lanes: one year anniversary

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 7.10.43 PM

Image source.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment