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Pedestrian-Only Zones Coming This Fall to Toronto

[NOTE: BikingToronto occasionally posts about public space and non-bike related news.  BikingToronto believes that cycling infrastructure is NOT the panacea that some cycling “advocates” believe it to be.  It’s good to have bikelanes and stuff, but the prioritizing and politicization of bike infrastructure over infrastructure for other modes of transport is ill-conceived and ultimately ineffective.  Cyclists will bike on streets that *feel* safe, whether they have bikelanes or not.  If this is achieved by improvements that make a street more people-friendly, then it’s good for cyclists too, because the street will be safer.]

Door Prize Central by 'Xander @416cyclestyle.

Sharing the Road - photo by Xander N-Dante (click for original)

A public forum last week called “Sharing the Streets” unsurprisingly called for more bike and pedestrian infrastructure on Toronto’s streets:

The discussion, called Sharing the Streets, was co-sponsored by the Star and the Toronto Public Library as part of a series of public forums on civic issues. Panelists included Bambrick, urban planner Ellen Greenwood, urban adviser Gil Panelosa and Fiona Chapman, who oversees Toronto’s pedestrian projects.

It’s interesting that no “pro-car” speaker took part (or was invited?)… since it would be useful to have a moderate voice from this mode of transportation as well.

Here’s a quote from the Bike Union’s Yvonne Bambrick:

“We have 5,600 kilometres of road in this city and only 123 kilometres of bike lanes, so we have a hell of a long way to go to give cyclists a real voice,” said cycling advocate Yvonne Bambrick. “We all pay for our roadways, so there should be a way to share them.”

It should be noted that cyclists can use *any* of the 5,600 km of roads in Toronto (provided this figure does not include the Gardiner, DVP or 401) and we should not stick to just roads with bikelanes (we wouldn’t be able to get around if we did).

The point of the forum was “Sharing the Streets” and the “Complete Streets” movement – designing roads that are hospitable to pedestrians, cyclists, transit-users and drivers.

Two pedestrian-only streets approved for this fall:

Toronto plans to pilot test two pedestrian zones this fall: parts of Gould St. and Bond St. on the campus of Ryerson University, and Willcocks St. between Huron St. and St. George St. at the University of Toronto.

“It’s a great idea — it restores the public realm to pedestrians,” said cycling advocate Tom Flaherty. “I grew up in Ottawa which has the Sparks St. pedestrian mall. Many other cities have them.”

  • Were you there last night?
    It felt completely one-sided with regards to the bike lane debate but it was still interesting

  • No… I wasn’t there. Would love to hear your thoughts about it (saw your pic with Hume – nice!).

    If the “us vs. them” rhetoric is ever going to stop, on both sides, then people have to work together.

    So few people seem to understand that.

  • I think all 4 panelists mentioned the need to work together in their opening statements but things changed rather quickly. Gil Penalosa tried to highlight pedestrian needs citing that a pedestrian is hit every 6 hours in Toronto and Manager of Pedestrian Projects, Fiona Chapman, also added to that but received flak for the City’s inability to bring any serious efforts to better pedestrian safety (It’s been how many years since the Pedestrian Charter was introduced and we still have nothing to show for it?) though she did mention the pedestrian scramble intersections and the proposed pilot project closures at U of T and Ryerson.

    Discussions quickly shifted to road allocation for bike lanes and the use of cycling in the transportation network. Right off the bat, Ellen Greenwood sounded like Rocco Rossi saying that bikes are great bikes are fun…..BUT…..traffic flow is more important and bike lanes aren’t the right way to accommodate efficient traffic flow (Obviously I’m just paraphrasing) even saying that bike lanes should not be put on arterial roads. Needless to say a LOT of questions were targeted at her during the question period and after the forum ended.

  • Wow. Thanks. It’s amazing Greenwood said that… and shows that a lot of education is needed to show that bikelanes (cyclists at side of road vs. cyclists in middle of road) would actually benefit drivers.

    Any advocate should make that point… and stay away from any confrontational style.

  • I was this panel last night. It was supposed to be about ‘sharing’ the roads and having ‘mutual respect’ for various road users (cyclists, motorists, pedestrians and public transit). Ellen Greenwood was there as a bit of ‘voice’ for motorists – she was part of the Moore Park Residents Association that opposed the Jarvis reconstruction. It was her who especially called for this ‘mutual respect,’ but I couldn’t help but notice that many times her face had a condescending smirk and wasn’t that ‘respectful’ to the panelists or audience.

    One highlight was, after Greenwood blamed the cyclist lobby for the current plan for Jarvis, she was reminded that her group was opposed to the reconstruction when it was initially proposed with ‘beautification’ and widened sidewalks! Though it didn’t come up last night, I’ll remind people that the Jarvis project changed from widening sidewalks to adding bike lanes because of environmental assessments and city council wanting something instead of nothing (to widen sidewalks and narrow the street requires a provincial EA which would take two years; adding bike lanes -paint- only requires a municipal EA which only takes a couple months and can be done before October’s election).

    In any case, to me it was the same-old, same-old: Toronto’s been designed for cars and it’s time make room for people walking or cycling. So, any talk of ‘sharing’ the roads is code for re-assigning space given over to cars. Interesting to learn that there has never been a bike lane installed that removed motor-vehicle lanes (perhaps College lost some on-street parking for the bike lane?).

    Bambrick also pointed out that the new Transit City Minus plan still has the proposal to add bike lanes along the new transit lines “where appropriate.” People groaned at this, knowing that it wouldn’t be likely that bike lanes would actually be put in. But Bambrick reminded us that people who are opposed to bike lanes are the ones that show up and speak at the consultation meetings and so people who want bike lanes need to come to the meetings and state their position.

    Missing from the discussion was transit. Steve Munro was in the audience, but not on stage and transit didn’t really come up that often.

    One of the panelists was Gil Panelosa who proposed that Queen West and Yonge Street be closed to traffic for a trial period. You can read his article/blog posting about this here:
    http://thestar.blogs.com/yourcitymycity/2010/05/does-technology-make-people-smarter-whats-an-example-of-how-it-does-or-doesnt.html

  • Thanks Mark.

    Who said that traffic lanes have never been taken out for bikelanes in Toronto… because that is hugely false.

    Just in the east end, Dundas East, part of Eastern Ave. and Cosburn are all roads that went from 4 “active” lanes to 2 “active”, 2 bikelanes, and permanent parking.

    They are ALL better streets for it. Safer, quieter, and perfect in parts of the city with lots of families and kids.

  • I really didn’t like Ellen; after the panel she actually said something along the lines of “Oh I’ve upset all the bike-fanatics” in a sarcastic tone.

    She also seemed to have treated cycling as a recreation only activity as she kept referring to the recreational benefits of it but failed to regard any utilitarian purposes of it in TO.

  • @Joe:
    I think that was me. It was actually part of a question in which I was asking her about the bike lanes on College / Wellesley / Harbord which were added on with no lane loss of disruption to traffic flow for motorists but I was cut-off by her before I could finish what I was saying.

  • @Bikeroo Ah-ha! That’s ringing a bell now – you were the one in the ‘I Bike TO’ shirt? Thanks for the clarification – always best to have the facts straight!

  • Righto!
    It was going to be my follow up question because based on what I’ve read and what I’ve heard from her bike lanes on major arterials add more to gridlock so I wanted to ask more on that but sadly there wasn’t enough time.

  • “Two pedestrian-only streets approved for this fall…”
    Baby steps.

    On the subject of bike infrastructure, for the cost of a few new signs Toronto could make its streets a LOT safer for everyone:
    Research
    Effect of 20 mph traffic speed zones on road injuries in London, 1986-2006
    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/339/dec10_3/b4469

    Literature Review on Vehicle Travel Speeds and Pedestrian Injuries
    http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/pub/HS809012.html

    Pedestrian Injuries at Impact Speeds:
    http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/Untitled_2.jpg

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