O'Connor Drive Redesign: A Symptom of a Bigger Problem

Rendering of a five lane road with no bike lanes

City Council will review an update to the City’s Cycling Network Plan, this fall. However, cycling shouldn’t be considered in isolation. Cycling, sustainability, and road safety need to be considered in all roadwork decisions. 

The current redesign of O’Connor Drive is an example of a process where a project initiated under the previous mayor was not adjusted to suit Torontonians’ desires for a healthier city. Our current mayor and City Council have since adopted better policies, but a process for moving legacy projects in the right direction was not put into place for O’Connor Drive.

It’s clear that this is not a one-off issue either; O’Connor, Port Union Road, or Ossington Avenue (as Shawn Micallef writes in the Toronto Star) are all symptoms of a much bigger problem where City projects are not adjusted as Toronto’s priorities change.

Read on to learn more about the issue, or take action now by emailing the Mayor.

Email the Mayor

What’s happening with O’Connor Drive?

Following nine years of planning, the City of Toronto is going to be fully reconstructing O’Connor Drive from south of St. Clair Avenue E to Bermondsey Road. The work is expected to begin in Spring 2022.

Toronto has changed a lot in nine years: City Council has approved a Vision Zero Road Safety Plan, several updates to the Cycling Network Plan, and have declared a Climate Emergency with a goal of increasing cycling and walking to 75% of short trips. While there are some improvements, in many ways the O’Connor plan does not reflect the changes in Toronto’s priorities; it includes no cycling infrastructure, for instance.

O'connor Drive.png

Rendering of a five lane road with no bike lanes
The proposed reconstructed O’Connor, even with some improvements, leaves a lot to be desired, especially for cycling and road safety.

How can we improve O’Connor going forward?

Stopping the project now, which is a nearly completed design ready to be installed, would prove costly and add several years of delay before anything could be achieved. The process would have to start over in many ways, frustrating potential allies in the area, including elected officials, businesses, and residents.

At this point, Cycle Toronto sees the best path forward for a cycling-friendly O’Connor Drive is to begin the consultation process for improvements that can be retrofitted after this reconstruction is complete. Many of the most effective bikeways in the city, like Bloor, Danforth, Yonge, Richmond, and Adelaide were all delivered by retrofitting a street rather than rebuilding it. The same could be done on O’Connor soon after the construction is finished, along with other nearby cycling network priorities such as St. Clair E and Victoria Park Avenue.

This path can lead to a better, safer result at a lower cost and on a faster timeline. Projects like Danforth and Yonge were designed and installed in months, not years; the same is possible for O’Connor.

So, how do we prevent this from happening again in the future on other streets?

People ride bikes on every road; road projects must reflect this

No matter how wide, fast, or dangerous a road in Toronto, you will find people riding their bikes there. Their safety, and the sustainability of our city, must be taken into account for all future roadwork projects. Cycle Toronto has written to the Mayor, Councillor Bradford, and the Office of the City Manager requesting action on these three items:

  1. City Council needs to reaffirm that a complete streets approach must be used for all road work. This is especially important for road reconstruction projects as reconstructions are typically the closest thing we have to a blank slate; there is no acceptable reason that opportunities should be missed for road reconstructions.
  2. The City Manager must ensure all relevant divisions within the City of Toronto support City Council’s goals for Vision Zero, TransformTO, or the Cycling Network. Road safety, climate, and cycling all need to be part of everyone’s job, especially when working on roadways.
  3. The City must ensure that stakeholders for all modes of transportation, like Cycle Toronto, are invited to all road project consultations. People walk, cycle, use mobility devices, and take transit everywhere in Toronto. Bike riders shouldn’t be consulted only when a bike lane is being proposed. Beyond transportation, it is critical to ask who isn’t at the table that ought to be so that issues can be identified early in the process and a better outcome can be achieved.

Help us convey this message to key decision makers by writing in today:

Email the Mayor

Members play a critical role in elevating Cycle Toronto’s efforts to get protected, connected bike lanes on all major roads across Toronto. As the cycling community continues to grow, people need and deserve to be able to move safely. For just $5 a month or $30 annually, you can help make Toronto a cycling-friendly city for all. Your membership will be eligible for a charitable tax receipt. 

Join the movement

 


Sample Email

TO:

 

mayor_tory@toronto.ca, councillor_bradford@toronto.ca, councillor_mckelvie@toronto.ca 

CC:

 

info@cycleTO.ca

SUBJECT:

 

Reconstructed roads shouldn’t be missed opportunities to support the City’s policy goals

BODY:

 

Dear Mayor Tory, Councillor Bradford, Councillor McKelvie,

 

I recently learned that the designs for the reconstruction of O’Connor Drive do not include enough to support the City’s TransformTO, Vision Zero, or Cycling Network Plan goals despite Council’s commitment to these policies.

 

Road reconstructions present a great opportunity to achieve the City’s climate, road safety, and cycling goals. Can I count on your support for the following so that future road reconstructions are no longer missed opportunities?

 
  1. City Council needs to reaffirm that a complete streets approach must be used for all road work. This is especially important for road reconstruction projects as reconstructions are typically the closest thing we have to a blank slate; there is no acceptable reason that opportunities should be missed for road reconstructions.
 
  1. The City Manager must ensure all relevant divisions within the City of Toronto support City Council’s goals for Vision Zero, TransformTO, or the Cycling Network. Road safety, climate, and cycling all need to be part of everyone’s job, especially when working on roadways.
 
  1. The City must ensure that stakeholders for all modes of transportation, like Cycle Toronto, are invited to all road project consultations. People walk, cycle, use mobility devices, and take transit everywhere in Toronto. Bike riders shouldn’t be consulted only when a bike lane is being proposed. Beyond transportation, it is critical to ask who isn’t at the table that should be so that issues can be identified early in the process and a better outcome can be achieved.
 

Thank you for your time,


 

By Ry Shissler on Jul 19, 2021

  O'Conner Drive, Cycling Network Plan, Vision Zero, TransformTO, East York

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