Meet Toronto's New Cycling & Pedestrian Manager
Meet Becky Katz, City of Toronto Manager of the Cycling and Pedestrian Projects Unit
There has been a recent staffing change at the City. Becky Katz, pictured above, has taken over as the new Manager of the Cycling and Pedestrian Projects Unit. We at Cycle Toronto are looking forward to working closely with her. Throughout her career, Becky has weaved her passion for collaborating and engaging with communities into planning and designing high-quality public spaces and multi-modal transportation infrastructure. She spent the last year in Berlin as a Robert Bosch Fellow and before that she was the City of Atlanta's first Chief Bicycle Officer, where she led the design and installation of bikeways across Atlanta.
We got the chance to ask Becky a few questions to help us and you get to know her better and find out what's on the horizon.
What projects do you oversee?
The Transportation Services Division's Cycling and Pedestrian Projects Unit, which I oversee, is currently a group of dedicated staff members responsible for designing and delivering new bikeways and pedestrian-focused projects. We are the stewards of the Cycling Network Plan Update, which was adopted by Council this summer. We also oversee the high capacity bike parking programs including the bike corrals (when the racks are in a parking space and holds multiple bikes) and the long-term bike parking stations (like at City Hall and Union Station).
We don't work in isolation though! Cycling and walking is part of the work of many divisions including, Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Engineering and Construction Services, and City Planning. We coordinate with all of these divisions to get projects and initiatives moving. I am thrilled to work as part of a unit, division and city to improve and expand the bikeway and pedestrian network to ensure people can travel safely across the city using whichever mode they choose.
What are your impressions of Toronto compared to other places you've lived?
Photo from Becky's trip to the Bluffs
What has your bike riding experience been like in Toronto?
It's been a real mix honestly.
I live close to downtown and bike to work. For the most part, my ride is a true pleasure. The downtown network of bikeways is better than most places I have lived. The flat topography and friendly riders help. The biggest opportunity I see in downtown, and was identified in the updated Cycling Network Plan approved by Council this summer, is to close the missing gaps in the network to make cycling easier and to further improve the existing infrastructure. Along the same thought, there is work to be done on our intersections. Our intersection focused projects like the improvements at Peter/Soho/Queen or Bathurst/Adelaide are game changers. If just one intersection is uncomfortable, it can be a huge barrier and I feel that when I bike in Toronto.
Toronto is a BIG city and I only moved 8 weeks ago. A lot of work has already been done, but it’s clear more work is needed to grow the bikeway network outside the core. My experience riding to Bluffer's Park or around York University is a totally different experience than riding downtown. Last weekend, I got a bit lost on some roads and experienced some nerve-wracking routes. Berlin and Atlanta had similar roadways and I worked on a number of suburban route transformations focused on safety. I am excited to explore all the Wards and work with the diverse neighborhoods across Toronto to help improve the riding experience throughout the city, especially in the areas where people do not yet have access to a safe network of bikeways.
What can cyclists look forward to in the near future?
Our unit has a diverse portfolio of projects. Within the next few months, we will be finishing up some awesome projects including the pavement markings on Scarlett Road, Conlins Road and Blue Jays Way cycle tracks (with barriers to come early next year), Sumach contra-flow lanes and some smaller improvements like the Poplar Plains and St. Clair intersection.
The next two years are going to be great for bikeway improvements and this winter will be busy with public consultation meetings. I hope to meet Cycle Toronto advocates at upcoming meetings on the Bloor West Extension Project, Douro/Wellington Bike Lane Project, Shaw Street Upgrades, and St. Lawrence Cycling Connections Project. Of course, I share the same level of excitement and anticipation for the Bloor Street western extension project, which will be one of our signature transformations next year.
The best resource to understand our current initiatives is to check out the Near-Term Plan adopted by Council this summer and to check out our website.
What would you like to see improved about our infrastructure?
Transportation change is challenging. Movement is such a personal topic which produces a lot of passion. But the challenge is worth it. I am personally invested in working to expand Toronto's network of safe bikeways not just to support people already cycling, but also to improve everyone’s experience in the city. I’d like to produce better health outcomes for communities, to connect our neediest population to transit and other resources and to reduce our city’s impact on the environment.
The Cycling Network Plan focuses on three key themes: connect, grow and renew, which is where I see our future work aligned. With support from Council, I want to lead my unit in a direction to connect our downtown network and close gaps, grow the network outside of the downtown core and renew/upgrade older bikeways in the city to current standards of bikeway design. To do that, we are aiming to refine and improve our public consultation processes and continuing to build our engineering expertise. Working with the public is essential to take a project from idea to reality.
Also zooming further out, I am thrilled to work in a city that has adopted Vision Zero. The City of Toronto wants to ensure that people, no matter the mode, no matter their age or ability, will arrive safely at their destinations. This goal keeps me motivated every day. Creating a safer cycling environment is essential to creating infrastructure that reflects the vibrancy and beauty of Toronto and makes cycling appealing to everyone.
Again, I hope to meet more Cycle Toronto advocates at the public consultations across the city and can't wait to work closely to incorporate Cycle Toronto and the wider public's vision of a safe and vibrant bikeway network into our work.