It’s getting safer to ride a bicycle in Toronto. Key priorities essential to keep the progress of the cycling network moving

Cycle Toronto statement on the update to the Cycling Network Plan

More than 5% of downtown residents are riding every day with some neighbourhoods as high as 34%. Across the City, the number falls to 2.7% which is still higher than many cities across the country. Road safety for cyclists is also improving, with a 19% decline in the number of people killed or seriously injured while riding a bicycle between 2013 and 2018. The safety improvements are even more pronounced on streets where we’ve installed protected bike lanes; cyclist collisions decreased 73% on Richmond and Adelaide streets, and 61% after the Bloor St bike lanes were installed.

Later this week, Infrastructure and Environment Committee will consider an update to the 2016 Cycling Network Plan. Rather than a 10 year plan, City staff have proposed a near-term implementation plan (2019-2021) and a long term plan (2022+).

Cycle Toronto is supportive of the rescoping of the plan to better align with the capital planning program of Transportation Services and political cycle of Toronto City Council. It enables Council to realistically plan and commit to upcoming projects in order to achieve implementation. We were critical of the 10 year plan in how it attempted to take the political process out of cycling, which we believe were key contributors to its failure to achieve results.

There are a number of key short term priorities which set the bar for success for this term of Toronto City Council including:

  • Extending the Bloor bike lanes to High Park,

  • Adding protected bike lanes on Danforth Ave to Dawes Rd as a potential pilot and Victoria Park Ave in full implementation,

  • Developing an implementation plan and funding strategy for Eglinton Connects streetscape improvements and

  • Completing many other complete streets studies including Warden Ave, Yonge St, Avenue Rd, Mount Pleasant Rd, University Ave

We firmly believe these projects will make Toronto roads safer and enable more people to choose cycling more often. 

“We are glad that Mayor Tory and Council have backed key cycling projects in the past, such as on Bloor St, Richmond St and Adelaide St. These projects have been immensely successful in driving up cycling volumes and increasing safety while maintaining or improving economic activity and travel times,” said Jared Kolb of Cycle Toronto. “While we’re disappointed by the challenges faced by the City in implementing more complete streets across the city, we believe there are key projects and process improvements that will enable more people to ride safely.”

City staff identify a number of key challenges to implementation of the 10 year cycling network plan. We’re supportive of the process improvements adopted by City staff as detailed in the report. We’d also recommend the following changes to enhance implementation:

  1. Better connections between the Cycling Network Plan and Vision Zero 2.0. Protected bike lanes not only create safer streets for cyclists but for drivers and pedestrians too. After the Bloor St bike lanes were installed, conflicts between all road users decreased by 44%. 249 km of arterial roads across the City will be reduced from 60 km / hr to 50 km / hr. That’s good progress. But when travel lanes are narrowed to help reduce travel speeds, it creates more space at the edge of the roadway; it’s an ideal time to install safe cycling infrastructure.
     

  2. Complete streets by default when roads are up for reconstruction. Vision Zero 2.0 has identified that going forward sidewalks will be considered by default when roads are up for reconstruction. We believe that when roads are up for reconstruction, safe cycling infrastructure should be considered by default as well. 
     

  3. Improve the community consultation process so it is more inclusive and streamlined. We believe that a part of what has opened initiatives like the Thorncliffe / Flemingdon, Conlins Rd and Northcliffe Blvd cycling connections project up to criticism is the way they were communicated to the community.

    - Earlier and deeper outreach and community engagement before proposals are developed.
    - Collaboration with supporters of projects, including schools, street safety groups,  neighbourhood associations, businesses, etc
    - Longer notice periods for the general public in advance of meetings with appropriate reminders.
    - Public drop-in events should be held after preliminary community engagement.
     

  4. Targets. City staff faced a number of challenges in implementing the 10 year plan that hindered their ability to execute. While a 10 year implementation target may not be appropriate, we think the plan should be guided by goals. We are encouraged by the number of people that live within 250m, 500m and 1km of a cycling facility but believe only high quality, provably safe facilities should be included. City staff currently include these targets as tracking mechanisms, and these should be converted into goals for the overall plan. Getting all Torontonians within close proximity of a high quality cycling facility is an excellent goal and implementation of the short term major corridors will make significant progress towards achieving them. We also encourage the creation of modal share goals for all modes of transport.
     
  5. Focus on quality.  Data shows that sharrows provide no safety benefit.  Sharrows (shared lane markings) on arterial roadways (e.g. College St west of Manning) do not constitute a safe cycling facility and we would encourage their removal from the cycling map and tracking towards progress in the network. We also encourage a higher standard for neighbourhood connections that includes traffic calming and diversion to deliver multiple benefits to local residents. We’re encouraged by the new standards for protected bike lanes described in the forthcoming Bikeway Design Guidelines.

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By Jared Kolb on Jun 24, 2019