Terrible news on Friday afternoon: yet another pedestrian was mowed down by someone driving a vehicle near Weston Road and Lawrence. According to cbc.ca, the woman, in her 20s was in serious condition but expected to survive.
Toronto’s drivers are killing people at the rate of one a week. At this rate, another 55 Torontonians will die on our streets by year’s end.
While the Mayor and Council claim to be concerned about this, they are doing little about the deaths and injuries. For example, there are only 77 red light cameras in the whole of Toronto and only one remotely close to our area (at Keele and Lawrence). This in a city with 2300 traffic lights. Incidentally, why do we warn drivers about these cameras?
In a similar vein, Mayor Tory and his hand-selected Public Works Committee are fighting the insertion of bike lanes and wider sidewalks on Yonge near Mel Lastman Square, preferring the current 6-lane highway.
As we approach the year end, here are some things that seem to be holding us back in Weston / Mount Dennis. This is a five part series, the first of which begins today.
As always, your comments are welcome.
1. Our Road System
Pedestrian and cyclist deaths in Toronto are not taken seriously enough and by extension here in Weston / Mount Dennis. Last year in Toronto, 43 pedestrians were killed by people driving cars while 40 of us were killed by people with a gun. Locally, compare the reaction to the man killed in the Shoppers Parking lot last month with the response to the woman killed on Monday 285 metres west of Weston and Eglinton; a particularly dangerous intersection because of its diagonal angle. Traffic engineers deplore diagonal intersections because they are more prone to driver error, yet Weston Road slices diagonally through Ward 11 at several major points without modification.
Weston and Lawrence was the 7th worst Toronto intersection for collisions between 2009 and 2013. Diaginal intersections can be straightened by traffic engineers, often without much disruption.
Pedestrian light timing is too short – especially at the busy transit hub at Weston and Lawrence. There is a seniors’ building at the intersection yet priority is given to traffic rather than pedestrians. In addition, as already mentioned, intersections that are not at right angles are inherently dangerous.
We need red light cameras to stop people from endangering lives in their haste to shave a few minutes from their journey. Red light cameras more than pay for themselves through the fines that they collect. Is it too much to ask for cameras that can make such a difference at dangerous intersections? Although there are 77 red light cameras in Toronto, there is only one in our area, oddly at Jane and Bala / Emmet.
Cycle lanes – according to Councillor Nunziata, her Cycling Committee has met and will be releasing a report soon. Kudos to the councillor for this initiative and let’s hope for some good recommendations. Apart from dangerous sharrows, there is precious little resembling cycling infrastructure in our area. Paint isn’t infrastructure.
Tomorrow: The retail experience in Weston / Mount Dennis.
The Toronto Parking Authority is asking permission to make the parking lot at 4 Rosemount a city pay-and-display lot for the next year, with fees of $1 an hour or $5 for 12 hours. Revenue will be split between the city and the lot’s owners.
Anecdotally, your correspondent has found that lot to be quite busy, though whether that is from traffic to the local businesses or from overflow parking for the train station, I couldn’t say.
Making the lot paid-for may have the undesirable effect of spilling parked cars out onto nearby streets. The TPA says that “certain on-street parking restrictions [should] also be implemented.”
The city is asking for a pilot, which, if successful after 12 months, could be extended.
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.
It’s well known that many more people in Toronto would cycle if they were isolated and safe from other traffic. The Ontario Government announced today that it will be spending up to $42.5 million on cycling infrastructure across the province. According to Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, the Ontario Municipal Cycling Commuter Program aims to, “promote safety for cyclists and make cycling more comfortable and more appealing for daily commutes and other frequent trips”. The Ministry has also set up a website to promote cycling. This is great news as York South Weston is one of the most under-served wards in the city when it comes to separated bike lanes. As pointed out in a previous article, a few sharrows are the main concession to cycling in the Weston, Mount-Dennis area.
Toronto Council and the mayor were no doubt horrified and shamed by the recent tragic death of a five year-old riding with a parent in a separate but unprotected lane adjacent to busy traffic. This lane should have been physically separated from Lakeshore Road traffic had the city followed its own guidelines. The fact that it wasn’t is an indication of the low esteem in which cyclists and their safety are held in the city. The Mayor has offered to dither study the matter once more – a familiar council tactic designed to do nothing after the clamour for action has died down.
Instead, Mayor Tory may wish to actually read the city’s existing guidelines concerning cycle trails in the city. I’ve saved him the bother of doing a ‘study’ by quoting the relevant section.
6.4.1. Trails Adjacent High-Volume or High-Speed Arterial Roadways
High-volume and high-speed roadways may have space for trails in the lands dedicated to them. Generally,
these are roadways with speeds of 60 km/h or more and four or more lanes of traffic. These types of roadways often do not have sidewalks, and a trail adjacent should be planned in a similar manner as a trail within a dedicated right-of-way.
The conflict between high-speed traffic and trail uses is best addressed by distance. Designers should try to achieve the maximum distance between the trail and the roadway. Aligning trails at the maximum distance from the roadway will also help to “future-proof” the trail against road expansions.
Where an appropriate distance cannot be achieved, guide rails and a physical separation such as a fence or landscaping are recommended.*
Toronto City Council has a large number of car-centric members. Read here (and weep) for some of our elected officials opining on two-wheeled transportation.
So the bad news is therefore that any spending has to be approved by individual members of Toronto City Council. Let’s hope it won’t take any more lives before some concrete and meaningful action is taken. With the province providing up to 80% of the funding, there will no longer be a valid excuse not to act.
This is a supplement to Adam’s excellent ‘Tyraid‘ published in 2015.
At one time in Weston there was a CCM (Canada Cycle & Motor) factory that made bikes. Some time after the factory closed, Weston (through its Business Improvement Area) decided to call itself ‘The Home of the Bicycle”.
In recent years, Weston’s relationship with the bicycle has been marred by infidelity. Weston’s true love is clearly the car and bicycles are given the literal cold shoulder. Instead of encouraging cycling as a way to get around, our own councillor has in the past voted against bike lanes and has even proposed licensing bicycles – an idea that would curtail bicycle use.
More evidence of infidelity: not a single dedicated bike lane graces Weston’s streets; hardly surprising when we live in one of the few cities in the world without a single pedestrian-only street. The nearest thing we have to a bike lane in Weston is a set of ‘sharrows’ down some pretty busy stretches of Weston Road. What are ‘sharrows‘ you may ask – simply a set of stencilled chevrons and a bike image to indicate that cyclists may be present. Somehow a few licks of paint seem to allow politicians to believe that bikes are safely accommodated on our roads.
Incidentally one particularly dangerous stretch of Weston Road links two strands of the once vaunted Pan Am Path.
Negotiations to connect the two halves of the trail have been ongoing for a long time.
It has been shown that people who bike regularly are healthier and happier than those who don’t. The ones who don’t get hit by a car that is. Many cities around the world have found that by creating separate bike lanes, accidents fall off dramatically while cyclist numbers rise. Health care costs decrease too when large numbers cycle and the population becomes healthier. Plus we’re not talking about cities with nice climates either. Scandinavia can have some pretty foul winter weather yet cycling is used by a majority to get to work in Copenhagen. In fact, 63% of Danish MPs commute on a bicycle.
Councillors from the suburbs who live in their own version of the 1950s often put forth bogus arguments when blocking pro-bicycle council motions: Cyclists blow through stop signs, they don’t pay for the roads etc. There’s a nice rebuttal to that nonsense here.
Read here to learn what other cold climate countries are doing to encourage cycling through the use of bicycle highways.
Bottom line; if we want to be the ‘Home of the Bicycle’, let’s do something meaningful. Mount Dennis is opting to be a ‘net zero’ community and has made great strides towards that goal. Weston really could be the home of the bicycle.
If the political will isn’t there, nothing will happen. If people don’t tell politicians what’s important to them, nothing will change. Few people are brave enough to risk life and limb cycling alongside cars. Build separated bike lanes and people will use them. Not only that, cyclists spend deceptively more money.
Let’s make Weston the ‘Home of the Bicycle’ through purposeful actions; not through the use of a now meaningless name.
Note: an earlier version showed an out-of-date map. Thanks to Simon Chamberlain for the heads up.
The city has recommended against building speed humps on Patika between Jane and Pine. Staff found that too few cars were going too slowly to warrant building the humps.
To get the city’s nod, the fastest 15% of cars need to go more than 10 km/h over the posted limit, and more than 1000 cars need to use the road every day. The 429 daily cars on Patika were not going fast enough to warrant the humps.
Community Council can overrule staff on April 4, when the humps are considered. If they do so, a survey will be sent out to residents.