How a Bike Lane is Born #3: The Infrastructure and Environment Committee

How a Bike Lane is Born #3: The Infrastructure and Environment Committee

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 two edition focused on the future Portland Street bikeways’ historical context and its community consultations.

In this third edition of How a Bike Lane is Born, our project heads to City Hall for the first time and is discussed at the Infrastructure and Environment Committee (IEC).

After community consultations are completed and designs are finalized, cycling infrastructure is packaged together with any other projects ready for City Council consideration. In this case, the Portland Street bikeway made it into a report alongside five other projects that were part of the aforementioned 2022 - 2024 Cycling Network Plan.

(A map of the six cycling infrastructure projects that passed at IEC on March 27th. Image: City of Toronto)


The staff report, which spares no detail, is posted online about a week before the Infrastructure and Environment Committee meets. This gives councillors a chance to read about the proposed projects in their final form before the meeting and form an opinion on them in advance. It also prepares members of the public who might wish to speak in favour of or in opposition to the item at the IEC (these are called “deputations”).

But first: what is the IEC?

The Infrastructure and Environment Committee

The IEC is one of the five committees that fall under the umbrella of City Council. Each of these committees make recommendations on city-wide issues like parks, the budget, roads and bridges, garbage and recycling, housing, and licensing systems.

According to the City of Toronto, the IEC’s primary focus is “infrastructure and the natural environment, with a mandate to monitor and make recommendations on Toronto's infrastructure needs and services, parks and forestry and the sustainable use of Toronto's environment”.

Committees make recommendations to City Council on what to support, and Council usually follows these recommendations. But not always.

The March 27th, 2024 IEC Meeting

On a cloudy Wednesday in March, the Portland project finally made its first appearance at City Hall to be discussed by IEC members. Around noon, discussions on the Cycling Network Plan second quarter projects began. IEC chair Jennifer McKelvie announced that several speakers had signed up to depute, so things were to get at least a little bit interesting.

(Alison Stewart of Cycle Toronto deputes in favour of the second quarter 2024 Cycling Network Plan projects.)

The first speakers praised the projects for their potential transformative impacts on their respective neighbourhoods, citing the City of Toronto’s climate goals and local safety concerns for those who travel on foot and by bike.

(Another deputant speaks in favour of the cycling projects.)

It was seeming like the Portland bikeway may exit City Hall unscathed, but suddenly a villain emerged: a community member’s deputation quickly revealed that they were dead set on stopping our hero in its tracks. In a sprawling and impassioned speech, the man managed to cite the following concerns in just 5 minutes:

  • Certain community members have not been listened to
  • King and Portland is being “bulldozed”
  • The cycle tracks will be bad for the environment because of car detours
  • The plan is not at all cooperative
  • Toronto has the 7th worst traffic in the world
  • Drivers are being punished unfairly
  • The diverter is inconvenient for driving
  • Cyclists don’t follow the rules of the road
  • The streets in the area are not wide enough
  • Only 20% of cyclists follow the rules of the road
  • Food delivery e-bike riders are not policed enough
  • Car drivers are demonized
  • Walking down sidewalks is anxiety-inducing nowadays
  • Cyclists do not promote the economy
  • Drivers cannot access The Well because of bike lanes
  • There are other ways to be a green society

With the deputation finished, silence fell on the Committee Meeting Room #1. “Any questions for the deputant?”, asked Councillor McKelvie. There were none.

The deputations continued, with one other individual, although supportive of the project, mentioning the its potential disruption to traffic flow in the neighbourhood. Deputy Mayor Ausma Malik responded by noting that staff should closely monitor the project’s impacts to local traffic circulation.

The list of speakers reached its end and a vote was held. It passed.

And just like that, the Portland / Dan Leckie bikeway would carry on and get to see its day at City Council on April 17th. How will it fare? Only time will tell.

Stay tuned for our next edition of How a Bike Lane is Born.

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