Trading Ambition for Implementation

dandyhorse magazine; September 22, 2015

City Hall in Toronto can be criticized for many shortcomings when it comes to cycling infrastructure, but not for a lack of proposing, planning, assessing, and debating of bike lanes. The problem has always been in implementation. Thankfully, the latest iteration of the City’s bike plan includes the word “implementation”, the year “2016”, and even the street name “Bloor.”

To be sure, the 2016 implementation program (part of the Ten Year Cycling Network Plan: Project Update and 2016 Implementation Program) is modest, and even if fully implemented will only see new bike lanes on 20 km of Toronto streets. (The City is now counting bike lanes on each side of the road; so by that method we would see 40 km.)

Each of the additions for next year are short, often filling in gaps, some measured in hundreds of metres. One of the longest new bike lanes would be on Bloor St. from Avenue Rd. to Shaw St. – a distance of about 2.5 km. Although this isn’t much, it’s a huge step forward in the almost 40 years since the first corridor study for Bloor was completed for the City by the consultant Barton-Aschman.

Bells on Bloor and the Annex Residents Association, now in collaboration with Cycle Toronto, had proposed a pilot for Bloor a few years ago.

The first hurdle of the new plan passed the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee today, where a motion was approved to ‘receive’ the plan. (And, the plan was slightly amended to include consideration of University Ave. and the Woodbine Corridor.) Next step: The plan goes to the entire City Council for consideration on September 30.

The 2016-2025 ten-year plan is still being finalized, after significant public consultation, but the test of its success will be measured in year-to-year progress, particularly in light of the fact that only 20 per cent of the last ten-year plan was actually implemented.

The planned work for 2016 also has a real budget, including over $2 million for implementation of the proposed on-road bike lanes. A large portion of the cycling budget goes toward new off-road trails, but includes $1.25 million for major corridor studies, including a Bloor study (but thankfully, an Environmental Assessment is no longer being suggested as necessary.)

For Bloor St., as for many of the other proposed 2016 on-road bike lanes, the next step will be design and public consultation – followed by a new vote at PWIC and at Council. And then, at some point during 2016, we should be riding on new bike lanes: Real – not simply proposed, planned, assessed, or debated – on-the-ground bike lanes on Bloor.

Albert Koehl is a founder of Bells on Bloor and Vice Chair of the Annex Residents Association. He is currently representing a coalition of groups calling for a Vulnerable Road User Law in Ontario.

You can sign the petition to support bike lanes on Bloor here.