A beautiful ‘spring’ day along the Pan Am Path that runs below and to the West of Weston Road. There’s a whole different world by the river in Cruickshank Park. This evening, a cyclist travels north towards where the trail ends at a set of steps (St Phillips and Weston Road). This part of the trail was built in 2013 and hopes were high that it would continue north. Instead, cyclists must haul their bikes up the steps and continue along Weston Road to Fairglen (where the trail continues) with fading sharrows their only protection from busy traffic. If the stair climb doesn’t get you, a driver on Instagram will.
The recently released ‘MOVING FORWARD‘ is ‘An Action Plan to Improve Safety and Opportunities for Pedestrians and Cyclists in Ward 11’. It’s a huge and detailed report by the Ward 11 Pedestrian Safety and Cycling Committee (PSCC) and contains 31 recommendations. The plan was commissioned by Councillor Frances Nunziata in an effort to create a safe environment for cyclists and pedestrians in Ward 11. It has already received praise in other jurisdictions.
This is a fantastic report by the pedestrian and cycling safety committee in Ward 11. 31 specific recommends to make streets safer.
Cycle YorkSouth-Weston has tweeted this fascinating wish list for Weston drawn up by residents back in 1985. Some very forward looking ideas were proposed and some have actually come to pass (the Humber footbridge). Would the people who created this list 33 years ago be pleased or disappointed with the progress made since then?
from a 1985 public consultation asking residents what they would like to see improved on their main street “Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame and Museum” “Weston Bicycle Festival and road race” “reduce speed” “take back the main street” pic.twitter.com/XMiTcxKhX6
The Star has the sad story of a cyclist killed in the Mount Dennis area last week. A motorist struck 70-year-old Gary Sim while he rode near Alliance and Jane. He later died in hospital.
The police recently released a 10-year data set on cyclist and pedestrian deaths and serious injuries, which your correspondent has mapped for Ward 11. The results are telling.
Four pedestrians and one cyclist have been struck at Weston and Lawrence.
19 pedestrians and four cyclists have been struck on Weston Road.
Ten more pedestrians and four cyclists have been hit along Jane.
These data are certainly very conservative, and only report deaths and serious injuries.
Many of these accidents—I use the word loosely—happen because we have very poor cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
There is no way, for instance, to get to the Junction, and the bike paths from there to downtown, without riding on the hilly, fast, four-lane Jane expressway. Riding on Weston terrifies even me, a gigantic, fast, fit and ferocious cyclist.
The West Toronto Railpath is exceptional. It’s fast and safe, and good enough for downtown. Why isn’t it good enough for Weston?
Metrolinx could make this happen. They’re working on electrification, which will entail widening and moving tracks (again). Instead of wasting billions on hydrogen powered trains, they could build paths for potato-powered people.
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.
Frances Nunziata is looking to form a Pedestrian and Cycling Safety Committee “whose mission will be to help plan and promote safe and enjoyable ways for pedestrians and cyclists to travel throughout the ward.”
Her office is looking for a few good people to help give input on safety and planning, and the first meetings will be in May. You can contact her, if you’re interested, through her website. I hope to see you there!
Right wing councillors such as Junior Holyday™ and our own Ms. Nunziata are keen to have lower taxes and lower government intervention but only when it suits their own personal agendas. When it comes to protecting the status of cars and therefore their own personal travel times, bureaucratic expansion and government regulation are deemed to be essential tools, hence the suggestion to license bicycles, the most efficient mode of transportation ever invented. The only rationale offered seems to be that there are reckless cyclists who break the rules. As Adam has pointed out, scofflaw cyclists pose very little threat, unlike scofflaw drivers who check their messages, mascara, shave or have a meal while imposing their presence, air and noise pollution through the city.
Motor vehicles are a hideous, expensive and dangerous blight on society and unfortunately, we have built our communities to the point where they are a necessary evil. Public transportation has been denied priority and is starved of funding so that it is slow, overcrowded and uncomfortable. Mayor John Tory’s idiotic request to the TTC for a 2.6% budget reduction speaks to the pervasive ‘cart before the horse’ mentality at City Hall.
If Councillors Holyday, Nunziata and other like-minded representatives were forced to use public transportation in order to attend to their duties at City Hall, can you imagine how quickly the TTC would improve?
Amazingly, Toronto is the only major city in the world without a year-round pedestrian-only street. Think about it; that doesn’t happen accidentally. Similarly, in our own neck of the woods, Weston has no dedicated bike lanes on any of its streets. It’s largely thanks to our representatives who seem to be mentally stuck in an episode of Happy Days.
As the winning photo from the Complete Streets competition illustrates, cars spoil the environment in our cities. Unfortunately the photo was not taken in Toronto. It was taken in Porto San Giorgio, Italy. The second place photograph was taken in Toronto and looks pathetic in comparison. The other Toronto photographs are embarrassing in comparison to what is being achieved in major cities around the world. We have nothing remotely like the Italian example on any street in Toronto.
Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that cars have jumped the shark and that walking, bicycles and public transit are our future.