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

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