Where should we expand ActiveTO? Here's what we've heard

We asked you to send us your ideas on where you’d like to see Major Road Openings, temporary bike lanes, and accelerations of the Bike Plan.

Photo of bike lanes on Brimley Avenue (left) and map of suggestions received (right). Photo of Brimley bike lanes by Michelle Kearns. Full interactive map below.

Cycle Toronto has asked to hear feedback from residents of Toronto on where they would like to see ActiveTO expanded. We asked you to send your ideas to the Office of Recovery and Rebuild, we asked you where you wanted to see more Major Road Openings, we rounded up the progress, we highlighted Danforth, Bloor, and Overlea, and now we’re here to share what we heard from you.

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We’ve gone through the suggestions and categorized some of them, mostly because it’s tough to keep track of all of the ongoing projects. These categories include:

  • Accelerate the Bike Plan: Moving ahead on projects that have been approved in principle at some point, whether through 2016’s 10-Year Cycling Network Plan (pdf) or the 2019-2021 Near-Term Implementation Plan (pdf).
  • New Bike Lane: Proposed routes that weren’t captured in a Bike Plan at some point and would represent a new project.
  • Temporary Bike Lane: A bike lane that would be used to connect key parts of the network as a pandemic response.
  • Quiet Streets: Neighbourhood streets that require traffic calming to make them more comfortable places to walk, cycle, and roll
  • Quiet Neighbourhoods: Neighbourhoods, including multiple streets, that require traffic calming
  • Major Road Opening: The city officially refers to them as Major Road Closures on weekends and holidays, but really they’re closed to cars and open to people.

In the process of reviewing the submissions and turning them into a map, there are a few trends that stood out:

Suburban suggestions are major roads

In the suburbs, a lot of the roads people suggested for bike lanes and major road openings were arterials. These roads are long, direct, and often feature multiple lanes of traffic where the curb lane could be converted to temporary protected bike lanes. Arterial roadways connect multiple neighbourhoods and are often the only way to cross major barriers like highways, railways, rivers and ravines. Whereas there were a lot of small roads suggested in the core, often to tidy up missing links, the roads suggested in the suburbs were for their entirety.

In comparison, Quiet Streets were, unsurprisingly, local neighbourhood routes. These are useful for the first- and last-mile trip, but aren’t the best way to get around the twisting and turning suburban street network by bike or on foot.

Whether you’re driving a car, riding your bike, or taking the bus, the more direct route is often preferred. When you’re riding a bike, doubling back and detouring can be even more challenging because it can add more time and effort to your ride. Creating continuous routes in the suburbs will be essential, but so too will be ensuring that they feel safe. Major arterials across the city feature fast-moving traffic, so it will be necessary to balance the need to get somewhere directly with the need to feel safe.

Ensuring suburban routes include destinations along the way (schools, shopping, places of worship, hospitals, community centres, transit hubs, etc.) is key to ensure their success especially to facilitate local short trips. Not all trips are bikeable, and not everyone will choose to ride a bike. Even with protected infrastructure, mode shift does not happen overnight. But providing communities with more safe transportation options to facilitate freedom of movement is essential. Finally, arterials are often the destinations: we need safe cycling routes to get people out of their house, and we also need routes on arterials to get to grocery stores, libraries, community centres, and more.

Safety is a concern

A lot of suggestions made specific comments that a bike lane should be protected with concrete, with many referencing the low concrete walls on Lake Shore Blvd that have also been installed on Shoreham Dr.

In Davenport, cycling underneath dimly-lit rail bridges was a concern. This is true of underpasses throughout the city and for many people concerned about personal safety, a poorly-lit route is not an equitable option.

Downtown, enforcement of ‘no parking’ in the Richmond Street and Adelaide Street bike lanes was referenced frequently.

There are a lot of ‘Greatest Hits’

We saw a lot of suggestions for our major campaigns, including Bloor, Danforth, Yonge, and Eglinton, but we also saw a lot of suggestions for roads such as Lawrence Avenue, Sheppard Avenue, and Bayview Avenue that echo the call for a transit relief valve.

Neighbourhood Connections: One-Way Streets and Contra-Flow Lanes

We received quite a few suggestions to create more one-way streets with contra-flow lanes, such as turning Hepbourne Street and Dewson Street into twinned one-way streets, making one eastbound and one westbound, with contra-flows on both to reduce traffic and slow down speeds, particularly in these school-heavy neighbourhoods. We also saw support for adding contra-flow lanes on Winona Street.

As well, we received a lot of different suggestions for changes to the Oakwood neighbourhood, which has had some changes proposed and is awaiting the next round of consultation. This neighbourhood could certainly use some improvements to make cycling easier. 

Quiet Streets need to go farther

A lot of commenters commended the Quiet Streets for their potential, but identified that more is needed to make them truly effective in reducing traffic speeds and volumes.

People all over the city want to feel safe. With congested roads and sidewalks, there’s a lot of unease about staying safe while getting around. Every neighbourhood street could be a Quiet Street - but how?

Some ways we could envision taking neighbourhood streets to the next level and improving traffic calming could include (from the least amount of effort to higher amounts of effort):

  • Prohibiting entry at certain intersections, but maintaining two-way traffic flow as a minimal intervention that would make the road undesirable for GPS navigation apps
  • Using automated ticketing, similar to Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) cameras to enforce one-way streets and streets with prohibited entry points
  • Converting two-way streets into one-way streets with contra-flow bike lanes and eventually creating networks of alternating one-way streets (like the upgrades on Shaw Street)

Test them, then make them permanent

A lot of people wrote in to say that they supported the bike lanes and also wanted to see them made permanent. Many asked: “what do we have to do to make sure they stick around?” Our advice: organize and tell your councillor at every opportunity that you like the bike lanes. We'll expand on this more later in the section 'How you can help.'

The Standouts

We received a lot of great suggestions - over 200 from the public alone! There were many suggestions that filled in missing links in the network or proposed a new spine and eventual network in the suburbs. Here are a few that we think stood out:

More than just infrastructure: We need cycling infrastructure: cycle tracks, bike lanes, contra-flow lanes, and protected intersections, but we also need to build a community that supports cycling, from bike hubs that teach residents how to repair their bikes, ways to make bicycles affordable for low-income residents, and increased outreach to communities to hear what they need to get riding.

Major Road Openings & Black Creek Drive: Similar to Lake Shore and Bayview, Black Creek has few entrances and exits, which makes it a prime candidate for a Major Road Opening on the weekend. 400-series highway access can still be maintained through other locations, such as via Allen Road and the rest of Toronto’s dense network of on- and off-ramps. The Allen Rd and even Hwy 27 could be candidates as well in the north-west, and a short section of Danforth Ave in the south-east.

Finch Avenue West: The Finch West LRT is planned to be installed in 2023, but residents of Toronto’s northwest have been calling on transportation improvements for many years. Our Greenway has been working to demonstrate community appetite for improved mobility connections through active transportation and Councillor Perruzza has been fighting for years to ensure that the originally-proposed painted bike lanes are separated from vehicle traffic on a street that sees a huge amount of transport truck use. We think the cycling network plan could be accelerated to give residents another way to get around.

Kipling Avenue: A north-south route from at least Finch to Rexdale Boulevard could be the beginning of another essential north-south route in North Etobicoke, and urgently provide more transportation options to one of the neighbourhoods hardest hit by COVID-19. Eventually we could see bike lanes being extended to link up with the Bloor/Dundas/Kipling ‘Six Points’ intersection one day.

Sheppard Avenue: We received suggestions to create a new bike lane on Sheppard, of which portions are in the 10-Year Cycling Network Plan (Don Mills to Conlins). Sheppard could provide temporary relief to the Line 4 Sheppard Subway, and if extended further east to at least Victoria Park Avenue, could help people traverse Highway 404. While extending the Sheppard Subway is a momentous and expensive task, installing bike lanes along Sheppard is a far more affordable prospect to improve connections to the Sheppard Subway and the Yonge Subway line. We think focusing temporary bike lanes on the densest part of sheppard makes sense as a short-term solution, and then investigating possibilities of extending it east and west to create a new spine. As a long-term project, Sheppard is due for road work in 2022 and has strong potential for permanent protected bike lanes. Short term, an ActiveTO style temporary repurposing of the curb lane could offer immediate relief.

Rogers Road and Old Weston Road: These two roads would massively improve cycling connections in the Silverthorne and Oakwood neighbourhoods. The Rogers bike lanes currently end at Old Weston, but extending them west over the rail line would create a link to the Rockliffe-Smyth community through Lavender Creek Trail. As well, adding temporary bike lanes on Old Weston would stitch together the bike lanes on Rogers and Davenport Road. Including Weston Rd as well as a permanent project also has a lot of potential.

Overlea Boulevard and Don Mills Road: We’ve written previously about the need for improved mobility options in Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park. Overlea Blvd still remains “under consideration” for ActiveTO temporary bike lanes.  Creating a connection on Overlea to link the communities will be essential and so will a route on Don Mills to create a safe cycling route to the forthcoming Eglinton LRT.

Midtown connections: We received a lot of comments calling for improved connections to Midtown. The University Road bike lanes are a fantastic start and we could imagine seeing them extended down to Union Station and north to St Clair Avenue along Avenue Road.  Midtown Yonge Street is also prime for a complete streets transformation like #DestinationDanforth, with bike lanes and patios to create a more vibrant and thriving community. Together they would form a crucial transit relief valve along TTC Line 1, improve general road safety for all road users including pedestrians, and provide more transportation options to support the idea of 15-Minute Cities.

Brimley Extension: The bike lanes on Brimley were a huge win for Scarborough. For the first time in years, Scarborough was seeing bike lanes added, not removed. Yet, there is always the possibility that they may not remain and the installation surprised a lot of advocates, who haven’t had time to build support or even simply share information with their neighbours. To combat the ‘bike lanes to nowhere’ problem that plagues many suburban routes, we think extending them to Scarborough Town Centre in the north has a lot of potential.

Kingston Road: We received suggestions for almost every part of Kingston as a major road opening, temporary bike lane, and acceleration of the bike plan. All suggestions would really add to the network, particularly to connect to Brimley and to make it easier to cycle to the Scarborough Bluffs.

Midland Avenue: We received suggestions for adding bike lanes to Midland Ave. We are particularly interested in bike lanes south of Sheppard to create a safe north-south route under Hwy 401. Midland and Birchmount Rd are the only two north-south roads in western Scarborough that do not have interchanges to the Highway. Conlins is a great way to cross the 401, but it’s much farther east; we’d like to see another crossing elsewhere in Scarborough. Midland could provide a safe alternative to the Scarborough RT for residents and also connect to Brimley or Scarborough Town Centre.

What’s Next?

We think it’s time for an expansion. Members of the community, including the Women’s Cycling Network, Cycle Don Valley Midtown, and many other residents have been calling on the City to move forward with their promise to study Overlea Boulevard for an ActiveTO solution. We support their efforts and see the potential to connect Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park. As well, we think an expansion of ActiveTO into the suburbs is the next step.

But ActiveTO in the suburbs will probably look a little different compared to downtown.

When you look at the map of ActiveTO projects, a lot of the ones that were built quickly fell into one of three categories:

  1. Routes with long-term support and years of advocacy, such as filling in the Bloor E gap and Danforth, or routes with strong emerging support from local stakeholders, such as University Avenue
  2. Routes that presented an opportunity to test in advance of scheduled road works, such as Brimley Road. We’ll need to continue to make the case to show that Brimley could be the beginning of a north-south spine in Scarborough.
  3. New routes that connected local communities, such as the bike lanes on Huntingwood Drive, Wilmington Avenue, Bayview Avenue, and Dundas Street East. Huntingwood and Wilmington created new local cycling connections in areas that have gone without, while Bayview and Dundas connected communities and started to fill in gaps in the network.

Cycle Toronto has been reaching out to Councillors to understand what kind of expansion they might support. We’ll be continuing these conversations, using the feedback from residents, the requests from ward advocacy groups, and the suggestions from other organizations, such as community organizations, to move forward.

How you can help

First and foremost, email your councillor to show your support, especially if you live outside the core or if you live in an area that didn’t see any ActiveTO projects. As we continue to push for an expansion and future projects outside the core, the most important thing we’ve been told is that Councillors need to hear from their constituents. Even a short supportive email about ActiveTO projects and more cycling infrastructure in your ward helps!

Email your councillor to show your support

If you want to take it a step farther, join your local ward advocacy group to organize and advocate for an expansion of ActiveTO. (If there isn’t an active ward advocacy group, email Tamara, Community Engagement Manager, to get one started).

If you’re involved in a community organization, such as a resident’s association, business improvement area, or healthcare cluster, bring it up and ask them if they would support writing a letter to the councillor and showing support. Let us know if you need help - email Tamara.

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.

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