Keep bike lanes off busy streets
Bicycle plans on Bloor Danforth started to ignite a controversial debate at City Hall last week. The proposed 24km would go through several neighbourhoods and business communities all the way from Scarborough to Etobicoke and already two of Toronto’s leading mayoralty candidates, George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi, have expressed some serious concerns about it.
The city is moving forward and is currently looking for a third party to conduct an environmental assessment, at which point further public discussions, the measurement of traffic patterns and reports on on-street parking will begin. A massive under-taking and one that, I believe, will be very expensive to the taxpayer.
Its impact is huge. Certainly I hope the city pays very close attention to the Business Improvement Associations and business owners along this corridor. It was interesting that I had one business owner on March 19th come up to me in Greektown right after I exited the Chester subway. He was very concerned that this had been discussed and he felt that, despite what he and many others say, that the plan will go-ahead. It was at that point that I decided that I would write about this issue.
As I said in my last piece, I am not anti-bicycle. I just believe the bicycle plan needs to be looked at more closely in the sense that lanes shouldn’t be placed on such busy arterials. The other consideration the city needs to figure out is how urgent is the expense? I’ve learned that the Toronto Bike Plans figures prominently in the city budget. I understand that it received an increase in funding in 2009 to $8 million and a commitment of $70 million to fund the Bike Network in the 2009 to 2010 capital plan. I believe the multi-million dollar backlog of road and sewer repairs warrants a higher priority on this.
Can we somehow encourage and put more emphasis on bicycle use in a secondary plan, which involves our excellent and beautiful ravine system? For example, in East York, there are many entries into Taylor Creek Park and the Don Valley for cyclists to ride downtown with no worry of passing cars within a few feet of them.
As a regular and frequent visitor to Greektown, I can tell you that the area at many times during the day and evening is congested. A lane in that area will just divert the cars on to Broadview and along O’Connor Drive in East York or on to the east/west arterials south of Danforth. Ultimately it will just add more travel time, and yes, more pollution in the air. What impact will gridlock do to the business community in Greektown, which has become very well known to have an excellent selection of restaurants? What will it do to customer parking? I believe it will cause a huge impact.
One of Danforth’s most well known retailers, Saul Korman, who’s had his business, Korry’s Clothiers, for 56 years, told me that approximately 50,000 cars drive by the Danforth over a 24-hour period. He noted to me that a very significant number isn’t local traffic either. “People with bikes don’t come to the Danforth to buy suits or groceries,” he said. “I’m not against bikes but it’s not the right street for this.”
Councillor Case Ootes who represents Ward 29 rightly noted that the thought of cyclists biking from Scarborough to downtown Toronto is incredibly small.
Cycling is also not the popular mode of transportation during the winter especially if we have snow on the ground.
The other important point is that we have a subway operating along the same route directly below from one end of the city to the other.
Again, as I said in my last piece, this comes down to spending and figuring out what core services require attention. Given the financial state of the city, I say we can’t afford this now.
I expect my piece to ignite a further discussion but at the end of the day perhaps if we’re giving so much of the road to cyclists, then perhaps it does warrant a debate to have bikes licensed in the city. Councillor Michael Walker recently made this point and it should be discussed sooner rather than later. Another topic for another day.