Cycle Toronto takes on City Hall: Recap of the April 26th IEC Meeting

On Wednesday April 26th, the Infrastructure and Environment Committee met and discussed three important items that we are following: the TransformTO 2022 Annual Report, the High Park Movement Strategy, and an update on the Cycling Network Plan.

Our Acting Co-Executive Directors Alison Stewart and Michael Longfield were there to depute alongside other advocates, including a family advocating on behalf of Car Free High Park Coalition. We are very thankful for those that respond to our calls to action and who take the time out of their busy days to join us at city hall. 

IE3.3: TOTransformTO 2022 Annual Report: Laying the Foundation for Net Zero 

Group of people standing in a Toronto conference room, smiling at the cameraThe Climate Crew of deputants who spoke on the TransformTO item. Special shout out to Lyn Adamson and other volunteers from Climate Fast, How Sen Chong from the Toronto Environmental Alliance, Councillor Amber Morley, and “our” Alison Stewart.

The TransformTO climate action strategy was approved in 2017 with the goal of reducing local greenhouse gas emissions and improving health, growing our economy, and improving social equity in Toronto. Transportation currently accounts for 33% of Toronto’s GHG emissions, and for this reason, the city set a target of having 75% of trips under 5 km be taken on foot, transit, or bike by 2030. Achieving this  hinges on implementing policies, programs and infrastructure that make it easier, safer, more accessible, and more equitable for people to bike, walk and take transit.

If the city has any hope of meeting its targets, the City must systematically invest in expanding active and multi-modal transportation infrastructure and programs across the city - even when it is perceived to inconvenience car drivers.” -Alison Stewart 

Alison’s deputation focused on whether the policy being recommended, had it been in place during the budget deliberations, would have prevented the TTC service cuts and increase in fares. 

IE3.3 represents a step forward in advancing the city to achieve its climate targets by voting in favour of adopting a Corporate Policy on Submissions and Filings which will set out the standards and processes to be followed across the City to ensure that TransformTO Net Zero Strategy goals and targets are met. This will require City Hall to ensure that the Official Plan, Zoning Bylaws, and various planning policies and guidelines support achieving the Net Zero 2040

We reiterated our calls to improve access to safe cycling by: 

  1. Encouraging the uptake of cycling or e-bikes through the increase of investment and incentives.
  2. Streamlining the process of implementing the Cycling Network Plan so Transportation Services is able to more efficiently install the 100km of planned cycling infrastructure.
  3. Expanding the City’s Electric Vehicle (EV) Strategy to include e-bikes and other electric micromobility devices.

IE3.7: High Park Movement Strategy

A family and others standing in a City Hall Conference RoomDeputants and members of the Car Free High Park Coalition, our co-Executive Director Michael Longfield, Faraz, Nina, Michelle and Bob Murphy.

When the city initiated the High Park Movement Strategy, we were excited at the prospect of making one of the city’s most popular parks more accessible and safer by making the park permanently car-free. Since 2021, as part of the city’s successful ActiveTO program, the park has been closed on weekends and holidays. We were disappointed to see that the recommendation proposed a hybrid option, partially closing access to cars and reducing the car-free weekends to Sundays and Mondays. The majority of public feedback was in favour of going car-free, all day, every day. We will continue advocating with Car Free High Park Coalition until High Park becomes car-free permanently. 

Michael Longfield, our acting Co-Executive Director spoke about the success of New York and other North American cities that made their parks car-free.

We also heard from Faraz Gholizadeh, the leader of the Car Free High Park Coalition, and his entire family. His daughter, 12 yr old Nina, presented a powerful deputation on why closing the park to cars will improve the space for kids like her to enjoy recreational and physical activities with her friends. 

Listen to Bob Murphy, a disability advocate, call for making High park car-free give more opportunities for people like him with disabilities to move freely without having to dodge traffic. “Many of us have issues walking, but can ride a bike”. Jess Spieker a survivor of road violence also tackled the perception that removing cars is a barrier to accessibility.

“Conflating cars with accessibility while ignoring the alternatives ignores the fact that cars are a barrier to accessing public space, not an aid.” - Jess Spieker

The good news is that Deputy Mayor McKelvie put forward a motion, at the urging of local Councillor Perks, to commit to making the park car-free as part of the long term strategy and, as an interim measure, to continue with the car-free weekends and holidays on a permanent basis. The city will also be developing a pilot program to support recreational cycling opportunities in High Park in 2023 in consultation with cycling groups and other park user groups in High Park. 

IE3.8: Cycling Network Plan

As cycling advocates, with just 4% of our city’s streets and roads with a form of bike infrastructure, we have a lot to advocate for. This said, the city has committed to implementing 100 km of new bike lanes by the end of 2024. The item before IEC included 4 km of new bike infrastructure to be implemented with road reconstructions in Scarborough, as well as proposed improvements to 0.70 centreline km of existing cycling infrastructure, and 0.50 km of new cycling infrastructure in Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Park. Both of these areas of the city deserve greater investment in active transportation infrastructure. 

Alison Stewart deputed on the item, and urged the Committee to focus on expediting the installation process of the Cycling Network Plan so that Transportation Services can deliver projects more efficiently.

In an attempt to improve the safety of people who bike, Councillor Saxe made a motion to increase the fine for stopping in bicycle lanes and sidewalks, as well as requesting the City Manager to investigate whether a citizen enforcement scheme modeled on New York City’s Citizen Air Complaint system would equitably enhance effective enforcement to keep our lanes free of cars.

At the request of Councillor Robinson, who stated that she wasn’t consulted enough, a motion was made directing Transportation Services to submit a supplementary report to City Council on May 10, with alternative options to the proposed additional northbound one-way cycle track on the east side of Millwood Road that prioritizes space for pedestrians and public realm, as well as safely and efficiently integrate the proposed two-way north and southbound cycle tracks on the west side of Millwood Road.

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