Cycling is experiencing a boom in many cities in the world. Here in Weston, other than a short stretch along Eglinton between Scarlett and Jane, there’s no space exclusively dedicated to cycling through our streets. We have ‘sharrows‘ along streets like Weston Road and bike lanes that are simply painted lines but these do little or nothing to improve safety levels for cyclists in a city where people in vehicles have killed 2 cyclists and 28 pedestrians so far this year. Interestingly, when police report that someone has killed a pedestrian or cyclist, it’s the victims of driver inattention who are consistently lectured to wear light clothing and use more caution. Motorists are never asked to be more vigilant. The advent of the mobile phone and lax enforcement of distracted driving laws has made our streets less safe. Transportation Services’ cycling maps are hopelessly confusing and out of date.
Here in Canada, society favours motorists but Europe seems to be re-thinking their cities and many have extensive car free centres.
While Toronto doesn’t even have a single car free street, it is moving timidly in a more car-centric direction and recently set up bike lanes along Bloor street between Shaw Street and Avenue Road as a pilot study. The expectation was that the pilot would fail. Cyclist lanes would be unused, clog traffic and bankrupt the merchants along Bloor.
A report has been delivered to council with the following findings
Car journey times did increase
Merchants had difficulty with deliveries
Parking convenience was reduced (longer walks)
The neutral or positive:
Increased journey times were reduced 50% with traffic signal adjustment
Cyclists felt safer and cycling increased by 49%
Motorists felt more comfortable with bikes separated
Near miss collisions have been reduced
Parking revenues remained steady
Most merchants reported increased customers and sales
Store vacancy rates were unchanged
As a result of the successful Bloor pilot, the city’s Transportation Services are recommending that the bike lane be made permanent. The report will go before the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee and despite the committee’s car-oriented membership the recommendation will go forward to Council next month because as a result of the report, Mayor Tory supports the bike lanes. T.S. Committee members are: Christin Carmichael Greb, Stephen Holyday (Vice Chair), Chin Lee, Giorgio Mammoliti, Anthony Perruzza and Jaye Robinson (Chair).
Where does that leave Weston / Mount Dennis streets? Still dedicated to the traffic that mainly uses our area as a conduit to other places. Metrolinx is supposed to be investigating the extension of the West Toronto Railpath into our area but inquiries take weeks for a response and answers are vague or simply unhelpful. Even Toronto’s own Transportation Department doesn’t seem to bother to update its cycling information.
Councillors in the suburbs tend to be very car-centric and ours is no exception. Ms. Nunziata’s support base may be called many things but cyclist tends not to be one of them. It remains to be seen if the Mayor’s turnaround will influence other members of Council when it comes to local bike lanes and public car-free areas. If this is his way of not being Doug Ford then long may it last! Perhaps he can also turn his attention to adequately funding the TTC and cancelling that idiotic $3.45 Billion one-stop subway.
Pedestrians and cyclists may be better protected if the province gets passes new bills this fall. Ontario will increase to $50,000 the fine for distracted and careless drivers who cause death, and the move is being lauded by the daughter of Gary Sim, a Mount Dennis man, whose killer faced a $500 fine.
Steven Del Duca said that the new penalties will “send a very clear message to justice and law enforcement” to charge more firmly. The driver who killed Sim was charged only with making an improper turn.
Heather Sim told Matt Galloway that “this is great news”. She said “I couldn’t imagine that you could kill somebody and [a $500 fine] is the maximum you could get…. This guy is just going to get two demerit points and go on as if nothing happened.”
Heather Sim also called for a vulnerable road user act that would differentiate between drivers who hit cars and those who hit pedestrians and cyclists. “A lot of drivers are on the road, and they see a cyclist and feel annoyance or frustration…. A lot of people look at it as if it’s supposed to be the cyclist who’s supposed to get out of the way”, she said.
Del Duca has also made driving high on marijuana more punishable, creating a zero-tolerance policy for young, new, and commercial drivers.
As measured, the total roadway space required for everything in the video is 56 feet. The current right of way along local roads such as Weston Road, Jane and Lawrence Avenue is at their narrowest, 27 metres or 88.6 feet. Unless I’m mistaken, this would allow the modifications shown in the video with a minimum of 16.3 feet feet for sidewalks on either side. Check out various rights of way on every major street in the city here. According to the video, traffic volume doesn’t suffer and cyclists are then able to operate in safety.
Cruickshank Park has undergone two recent periods of construction. The first, in 2013 was to extend the Pan Am Path from the north end of the park to Mallaby Park at Weston Road and St Phillips.
The most recent was to do extensive erosion control work on the Etobicoke side. The Humber River was beginning to chew at a Scarlett Road co-op apartment’s playground and would have eventually threatened the whole site. Access for the work was through the Lawrence parking lot and this meant that for all but the most determined, the Pan Am Path northwards to Mallaby was closed.
A staging area and bridge to the affected bank on the far side were constructed to expedite access.
Toronto and Region Conservation Area Project manager, Courtney Rennie tells me that, “I anticipate opening the trail as early as next week, including removal of the temporary fast fencing around the project limits. There may be intermittent closures of the trail for terraseeding and restoration plantings, however that will only be for a few hours at a time while staff are on site.”
A 62-year-old man was charged with an improper right turn, and faces a $500 fine.
That improper turn killed Gary Sim, 70, of Mount Dennis, who was riding his bike on Jane Street. Sim died in hospital on July 2.
Is there a pro-car bias baked into the legal system? Heather Sim, the victim’s daughter, says so.
“If I was walking down the street swinging a lead pipe and hit someone, I’d be (facing an) assault charge … You just not paying attention and hitting people (with your car) doesn’t mean it’s anything more than a Highway Traffic Act charge,” she said.
Even the police think this is wrong. The Star says we could have a vulnerable road-user law, which would increase penalties for motorists who kill pedestrians or cyclists.
The province has been looking into this possibility for more than a year.