Guest Editorial from Hamish Wilson

As we finally turn the page on the Ford administration and look forward to working with a new mayor and a city council that is mostly the same (although a bare majority of councillors support a minimum grid of bike routes) it is a perfect time for this guest editorial from Hamish Wilson:


The east-west bike safety issue has bothered me for a Long Time, and yet there really hasn’t been that much done, though it’s better. When there was the West End bikeways consult, the City produced a very nice coloured map reflecting what cyclists (not me) wanted to see done, and here’s an image of it courtesy of someone more sophisticated technologically than I (yes, I should try blogging myself sometime).
West End Bikeways 2008 northup

This is especially important to show that what we were looking for were mostly improvements to the on-road east-west travellings; but the north-south not that much. (Interestingly nobody pushed for changes to Harbord as it had a bike lane vs….)

There’s been some welcome movement and on-street change, but it’s tending to be north-south, and/or badly done.

I’m thinking this needs broader sharing in the context of the pending Railpath extension on Monday night. It’s a hard thing to articulate why this may be less-wise to get into because in a better City/situation, absolutely a nice project, and let’s go! However, I see it as more of the same Fordist ploy of putting in the big bucks into off-road while neglecting or even removing urban facilities, and overall just giving us a bit of change on existing facilities vs. really providing safety in broad swaths of the City for sensible transport that competes with the TTC, oops, I meant to say relieves the TTC.

The Rail Trail extension may well be a wonderful thing, but how much is it going to cost? $8M?? We could paint a LOT of bike lanes for that sum, including Bloor. $200,000 gives us Sherbourne to High Park, 8kms worth. Paint is a great place to start, yup! Inadequate, but so is the City’s snow clearance and it’s better to have an easier escape route from a snowed painted bike lane than a separated one maybe. Again, the indented parking bays are a Real Problem…. years of not having them well-plowed out and dangerous constrictions/occupations….

We should also contrast the good that the Rail Trail may well do, to the crash stats, which seem to show a consistent pattern of east-west harms, and these don’t include track tossings and harms, which are quite substantial at times (another plus for doing Bloor now). While yes, the Rail Trail may well alleviate some of the problems, and save a life, as we tend to gravitate towards safety, yes, but hmm, what would happen if we had Bloor, College, and King/Queen far safer with painted symbols/signage and in the case of Bloor, bike lanes? (It’s really quite tricky to figger out what to do with the streetcar-tracked streets btw, since the lane positions are dictated by the tracks).

In broader politricks, the highest, best use of the corridor may well be for transit, and the politicis of Mr. Tory and his Smart Trick may come to roost on the same alignment of the Rail Trail. He’s committed to doing things in this corridor; it may be less easy to get all things aligned to use the same tracks as the GO now uses. So if there’s a hitch with more use of the GO tracks, the politricks and logistics perhaps of repurposing the Pearson Excess rail to Airport to the transit it should have been may not be at all easy, eg. nobody in power would likely be OK with admitting to another waste of $500M or whatever??? and further costs to readjust. So, I think it within the realm of possibility that the entire Rail Trail could be up in the air perhaps, so it’d be less wise to be so accepting and supportive of a Rail Trail extension vs. on-road change and done far far sooner ie. get going now please and in ways that reflect what cyclists have expressed, and what’s shown in the 30 years of crash stats, the larger circles indicating more crashes.
RSCN6610 2

I’m unsure if there is anything newer online; presumably police are still collecting data. That’d be a good quest for someone please: a newer imaging of crash data, and I’d be willing to bet the same-ish pattern would emerge.

Just on Friday afternoon we seem to have another confirmation of the need for east-west safety, though at times some cyclists do dumb things and motorists aren’t at fault. I’m hoping it’s not another fatality; at times when there’s a death, it’s later- eg. Peter Cram, so it’s less “news”, and that’s still unsolved (relatively). So if we really are taking cycling safety seriously, how much value will this Rail Trail really be for us all, and how much of a continuation of the Fordist priorities for cyclists is it? Off-road trails tend to be less safe for women by their very nature; so it makes excessive spending even more inequitable.

At times the local Councillors are very good on bike issues, but at other times, there’s bad stink and neglect, and I won’t go into it all now as I have issues with overlong emails and being negative right? One real issue we have all over the City though is letting the local Councillor have a final say, or so it seems, on whether bike lanes go in to that Councillor’s ward or not. So it’s a mywardopic view, and even though a lot of adjacent Councillors citizens traverse through that ward, there won’t be an over-ruling/out-voting for fear of alienating one Councillor for some other votes. We don’t put in sidewalks on that basis; nor are taxes done ward-by-ward, nor a batch of other safety standards, tho at times, yes, some bendings are OK and necessary.

But a quick paragraph: While I think Ms. Bailao has the most negatives against her in several instances, in Ward 14/Gord’s area, the Sorarsen northbound on a suggested bike route is horrible, and where are the on-road cheaply done bike symbols to actually prioritize the bikes on a too-tight street. If Brock can be done, why not Sorarsen with its very rough pavement? And the top as it gets to Dundas, has the same road geometry as where Ms. Morrison was killed, and that remains as a rankling thing for me: the City having dodged the clearest case of civic neglect and contribution to tragedy that I’ve seen, and it remains less-good/could happen again. Councillor Layton deserves shots for over-investment in Harbord; and the failure to really make it better on Ossington including smoother pavement instead of Harbord. Also, I’d note that the southbound Strachan bike lane at the new work south of King, as it approaches Liberty St. is now ALL dashed lines, indicating that cars can drive in it and this is a clear dilution and degrading of the rare safer access to the Lakefront, so geez, another erosion, how did that happen? And for all the good work he’s done and the blah-blah he’ll do about it, Liberty St. is supposed to have/be a suggested bike route, in the 2001 Bike Plan, but there’s absolutely nothing on it – either signs or pavement markings – and it’s an east-west route from Dufferin to Strachan – and it could be part of a linkage to R/A. But….

It’s really tricky to be expressing worries about maybe having warped priorities when yes, the Rail Trail is a delight, and it’d be great to have it run into the core, and it would be a useful thing for many of us. But if it costs a Big Whack of money, compared to getting on-road safety in what’s been evident for 30 years, isn’t that a deflection and continued irresponsibility of expenditure and political will?

How much would it cost to put the Share the Road signs on College with the sharrows, to bring it up to the standard of Pottery Road vs. Rail Trail? Bloor bike lanes from Ossington to Dundas St. W. might be $75,000 – which may not even be the cost of the wonderful consultants for the Rail Trail.

Thanks; hope that the image of desired changes gets online somewheres; and the pattern of crash/harm as well as I think folks deserve both. At least we’ve realized that Fordwards was backwards, and if we pitch biking as transit relief, Mr. Tory is likely more amenable to fact.

Safe trips

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