ActiveTO Next Stop: Overlea?
Our streets are being transformed. If you haven’t had a chance to ride your bike on Danforth Avenue in the last week, it looks like this:
Installation is still ongoing, but ActiveTO and the Destination Danforth project have begun to revitalize the environment on Danforth. People can now walk, dine, ride bikes, take transit, drive, and park with ease. It’s something that’s good for the people that live, work and go to school in the area. Thanks to the efforts of advocates, local Councillors, and City staff, Danforth has been transformed into a street that works for everyone and a new vibrancy has arisen out of the pandemic.
Just three kilometres to the north, the residents of Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park have not been as fortunate as ActiveTO on Overlea Boulevard remains “under consideration.”Existing condition of Overlea Boulevard between Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park with no ActiveTO temporary bike lane. Image courtesy of Google Maps.
What can you do?
Write the Mayor and say you want to see the city continue its historic success this summer and fulfill its commitment to ActiveTO. The Mayor called for ActiveTO to act as a transit relief valve and the residents along Overlea need to benefit from this.
Why do these neighbourhoods need safe cycling infrastructure?
Thorncliffe Park in Ward 15 Don Valley West and Flemingdon Park in Ward 16 Don Valley East are both City-designated Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (NIA). NIAs are neighbourhoods requiring special attention and are among lowest income neighbourhoods in Toronto. According to the 2016 census, about 64% of residents of both Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park are immigrants and nearly 80% of residents are visible minorities. Both communities rely on public transit for commuting to work.
Does this connect to the cycling network?
In 2018 both Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park had some painted bike lanes installed in each of their communities. Overlea Boulevard, with many busy bus routes and no cycling infrastructure, is the only direct route between these linked communities. So, it was welcome news when the City approved “under consideration” temporary bike lanes on Overlea as a transit relief valve during the pandemic.
As July comes to an end, every single ActiveTO bike lane project is in some state of completion except one: Overlea. It’s been two months since Council approved the acceleration of the Cycling Network Plan through ActiveTO, but Overlea still sits as “under consideration” with no updates to timelines or considerations. This needs to change.
Is there local support for cycling on Overlea?
Cycle Toronto has been collaborating to build awareness and community support of bike lanes on Overlea with the Women’s Cycling Network (WCN), Cycle Don Valley Midtown, and other local community organizations. WCN’s commitment to improving local transportation options is undeniable. To meet the new demand for riding bikes in their community during the pandemic WCN started a Bike Match program where they arrange for donated bikes to be given to women that would otherwise not be able to ride (the waiting list is long, so if you have a bicycle in need of a new home, please get in touch with them to arrange a match). Najia Zewari, co-founder of WCN, says that “We want everybody to think about us, from policy makers to whoever is involved, to support us to allow us to have safe mobility and have the right to cycle safely.”
Najia Zewari, co-founder of Women’s Cycling Network, speaking about what the Overlea bike lanes would mean to her.
Nafisa, member of Women's Cycling Network, speaks about why she enjoys cycling: for health and for exercise.
In the medium and long term, there are crucial mobility projects for consideration for Overlea and Don Mills Road including improved connections to trails and rebuilding the dilapidated Overlea bridge in 2021/2022. The existing painted bike lanes in Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park are well overdue to be upgraded to protected cycle tracks to help ensure infrastructure is suitable for all ages and abilities. And ensuring ActiveTO Overlea not only connects the communities to each other, but forms the basis to build a broader network to the south along Millwood Road to Danforth and to the north via Don Mills Road to the coming LRT and bike lanes at Eglinton Avenue.Existing bike lanes in Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park between Overlea Blvd. Image courtesy of Google Maps
ActiveTO by definition is rapid and temporary, quickly repurposing curb lanes with paint and bollards to create temporary bike lanes. If community consultation is required to proceed on Overlea, we look to the exemplary town halls conducted by Councillors Fletcher, Bradford, Pasternak, and Deputy Mayor Thompson to get feedback and bring awareness to ActiveTO projects in their wards.
The City cannot remain committed to addressing questions of equity while the residents of Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Park have their ActiveTO installation remain “under consideration” indefinitely.
Keep the momentum going
Donors and members are crucial to Cycle Toronto's success. Your support helps us advocate to expand ActiveTO to accelerate building more bike lanes across the city this summer. Even $5 a month helps us work through the pandemic toward a safer, healthier and more vibrant cycling city for all.