Tonight was the first of six public meetings on a major study of the Danforth launched by the city. It was also promoted by Cycle Toronto as an opportunity to get cyclists’ voices heard to push for bike lanes on Danforth. Attendees were greeted at the door by a face familiar to the cycling advocacy community.
There was a considerable line getting into the venue.
We were invited to place push pins to mark where we came from. It was obvious that the majority of attendees were from the vicinity of the study area, which was the Danforth from Broadview to Victoria Park.
I was somewhat amused to see that I was the west most pin for the wider area map.
People were greeted by signs and posters outlining the nature of the study.
There were also three activities to do before and after the formal presentation. The first was to solicit comments on the scope of the study to ensure that the city was not missing an important issue.
The second was an invitation to comment on specific points on the study area, using post it notes on a map.
The third was an exercise in priorities. Different issues were on a poster, and participants were asked to vote by placing two marbles into the relevant jars.
The two most relevant to cycling were “safety and complete streets” and “getting around”.
Once we go settled down, there was a formal presentation. There were over 300 people present, showing the intense level of interest. From a show of hands, the majority of people in the area were from the study area, and almost everyone in the room shopped on the Danforth.
The presentation was kicked off by a facilitator from a consulting company, and she introduced the two local councillors.
Next Jacquelyn Hayward was introduced as the overall project manager.
She said that this was just the first of six public meetings, and that the objective of this meeting was to get public input, particularly on scoping the entire project. She said that this project involved a collaboration between three city departments: transportation, planning, and economic development. She said that in the past it was unusual for different departments to be working together in parallel, but that that the King Street Pilot was a recent example of a successful collaboration between the same three departments.
Stated goals (not in any particular priority)
- Enhance mobility and safety
- Shape future growth
- Strengthen business community
- A Community based vision for change
She mentioned several other studies that were ongoing or recently completed in the relevant area. One was a citywide study of Main Street retail that would be complete and provided to council in 2020. The concern was the continued success of local, small retailers on main shopping streets, versus the significant shifts in the overall retail landscape.
There were three brief presentations on the three main areas of study.
Transportation and safety: a few slides on safety and the theme of complete streets.
Economic Development: who shops on the Danforth, and how to they get there. What makes the Danforth an attractive destination?
Avenue study component: zoning, land use, managing growth, the public realm, affordable housing, community services, heritage considerations, sustainability.
In terms of timeline, the next meeting would be early in 2020, and at that meeting, a summary of public input would be presented, along with some results of traffic and economic studies. A preliminary complete streets design would be presented in summer 2020 for further public input. An outline framework would be presented to council in the fall, and then an implementation plan would be presented in 2021.
At this point there was an opportunity for a few questions from the crowd:
- Have you already decided to put in a bike lane? No, this is not decided yet. One of the outcomes of the study will be a complete streets design, but with appropriate analysis of things like potential economic impact, etc.
- Why can’t we put in a bike lane pilot in 2020? The city wants to move this project forward with comprehensive community consultation, and the hope that there will be a consensus on any changes to be made. There will be a design brought forward in 2020.
- There was some discussion of a stakeholders advisory committee. Who chooses who is going to be on the committee? This will be done in consultation with the councillors. As a follow up, how will this group fully represent the diversity of the community. It was pointed out that the people at the front of the room did not look very diverse.
- In this time of climate crisis, and given the fact that the city has declared a climate emergency, can’t this process be expedited? Once again, it is important to take into account community and stakeholder input, so we will stick to the stated timeline.
At the close of questioning there were some loud objections about the lack of concern for the prosperity of the neighbourhood, i.e. the success of local merchants. Eventually things were settled down to the point that the audience was invited to go through a visioning exercise while seated around tables.
After the meeting I rode back west, and I was struck by how much more road width there was available along the Danforth when compared to Bloor. I had the pleasure of cycling back with Hamish Wilson, and I thought that it would appropriate to bookend this post with another picture of him.
Update: all of the materials from the meeting have been posted: