How a Bike Lane is Born #2: A Community is Consulted

How a Bike Lane is Born 2: A Community is Consulted

Welcome back to How a Bike Lane is Born, the investigative series where we try to understand, and then explain, how new bike infrastructure comes to be. From the earliest line on a map to the final flexpost, no stone will be left unturned.

Our first edition was all about getting to know our main character, Portland Street, by understanding its past. You can read that article here.

In this second edition of How a Bike Lane is Born, we explore the community consultation process and more specifically, the consultations that took place regarding the Portland / Dan Leckie bikeways.

(A map of the Portland project. Image: City of Toronto)


Consulting a Community

The City of Toronto hosts community consultations to inform residents, allow them to ask questions, and obtain feedback on projects they’re working on. These events are advertised online and even by snail mail. Almost 20,000 people received info on the consultation in their mailbox in the weeks leading up to the event.

(A map of who received information on the community consultation in the mail. Image: City of Toronto)


The Portland Project’s 1st Consultation

On October 16, 2023, the City of Toronto hosted their public “drop-in” to discuss the project with interested community members. The city uses a variety of names for events like these in order to signal slight differences in format - in this article we will call it a “community consultation” for consistency.

The event took place at the Canoe Landing Community Centre, steps away from Dan Leckie Way and the southern segment of the future bikeway. Visitors to the community centre that night were greeted with large placards displaying comprehensively compiled data, renderings, and maps outlining the project.

(Attendees of the community consultation.)

The posters explained that these new protected cycle tracks would offer a safer and more comfortable alternative to the ever-chaotic Spadina and Bathurst routes, and form a convenient connection between well-used, east-west bike infrastructure on Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, Fort York, and the Martin Goodman Trail on the waterfront.

The cycle tracks would be bidirectional (that is, northbound and southbound cyclists would both be on the same side of the street), and protected by flexposts and concrete curbs.

(Dan Leckie south of the Puente de Luz. Image: CIty of Toronto)

On Portland north of the Puente de Luz bridge, cyclists would be on the west side, whereas south of the bridge they would be on the east side beside Canoe Landing Park. Most of Portland Street would become segmented into one-way blocks for cars, with an interesting diagonal diverter traffic calming design at Wellington and Portland that is rarely used in Toronto.

(The proposed diagonal diverter at Wellington and Portland. Image: City of Toronto)

The project would also aim to improve the safety of vulnerable road users. According to one placard, 1500 traffic collisions have occurred on Portland and Dan Leckie over the last 10 years. 6 people walking or cycling have been tragically killed or seriously injured. Unsurprisingly, 59% of cyclists that ride on Portland reported feeling unsafe to do so.

The 2-hour event saw city staff receive plenty of feedback, answer plenty of questions, and head home with a better idea of what kind of changes the community would like to see to the project. At many public consultations, community members are encouraged to note their thoughts on the project with pen and paper.

(Community members are encouraged to note their thoughts on the project with pen and paper. Some comments are insightful, some are passionate.)

In November of 2023, a report was released that summarized feedback from the consultation and an online survey that received over 1300 responses. Seemingly the most controversial aspects of the project were the changes to the directionality of different segments of the street. Some were also concerned about pedestrian safety on the Puente de Luz bridge which would see increased cycling traffic after the implementation of the cycling tracks to the north and south.

(A question from the survey. Most cyclists were supportive of the project. Image: City of Toronto)


In terms of the bikeway design, some called for unidirectional lanes on each side of the street. Portland Street is, however, too narrow to accommodate such a design according to the City’s report.

With all of this in mind, city staff decided that it would be best to make changes and announced that a second community consultation would take place virtually in the winter of 2024.


The Second Consulation

On a chilly night in January, interested citizens logged on to a webinar to find out what changes had been made to their community’s future bikeway.

(A computer screen displaying the webinar.)

The directionality of segments of Portland had been altered, and greater attention was paid to cyclist / pedestrian interactions on the Puente de Luz Bridge.

(A proposed waiting area near the Puente de Luz. Image: City of Toronto)

It was also announced that the bidirectional cycle tracks south of the bridge in City Place would be placed on the street instead of the multi-use trail in the adjacent Canoe Landing Park.

(A cross section of Dan Leckie Way. Image: City of Toronto)

Viewers of the meeting had the chance to hear from members of the project team on these relatively minor design changes. Ward 10 Councillor and Deputy Mayor Ausma Malik also addressed the virtual crowd and spoke about her full support of the project and the transformative power of cycling infrastructure.

(Members of the project team and Deputy Mayor Malik as they appeared on a computer screen during the virtual public meeting.)

After a pair of consultations, the potential Portland bike lanes were growing more powerful. Can they be stopped? The stage was now set for our project to head to Toronto City Hall. There, it will face the intimidating Infrastructure and Environment Committee (IEC). Who is the IEC? And what do they have to do with all of this?

Stay tuned for our next article on How a Bike Lane is Born.

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