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Lake Shore and Leslie Redevelopment: wide, freeway-like streets, lots of parking – and No Bike Lanes!!

Concerns about pedestrian and cyclist safety have been raised by residents of Leslieville and The Beaches in the south east of the city around the redevelopment of Leslie Street that will see Street Car tracks added to the street starting next year.

Paul Young Community Health Promoter

Tomorrow, Saturday, November 20, 2010 Paul Young, Health Promoter at South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC SET-BUG), cycling advocate and consultant to The Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition will accompany Ward 32 Councillor elect Mary-Margaret McMahon and Ward 30 Councillor Paula Fletcher on a walk-about of Leslie Street, Lake Shore to Gerrard.

You can go too, have your say! Contact Paul Young at pyoung[at]srchc[dot]com.

A new TTC yard going in at Lake Shore Boulevard and Leslie Street – and the requisite major construction along Leslie – provides an opportunity to re-imagine the street towards better accessibility for things other than cars and street cars; like cyclists and pedestrians.

As the design process on the redevelopment of Leslie Street moves forward at City Hall, cycling advocates are formulating a response to planners who have stated that Leslie Street is too narrow to accommodate bike lanes.

Wide freeway-like streets, like Eastern Avenue and Lake Shore Boulevard are extremely dangerous if you’re not in a car. The intersections at Eastern, and at Lake Shore and Leslie are extremely busy and getting more so every day. Leslie Street is one of only three roads between The Don Valley and Ashbridges Bay that cross the barrier-like Lake Shore Boulevard – making Leslie a crucial access point for all Torontonians to access the new green spaces being developed along the water front – like the Leslie Spit – not to mention the Great Lake Ontario itself. It’s another example of how the culture of the car touches every aspect of our lives.

Even though it is currently City of Toronto policy to create better infrastructure for cycling when redevelopments happen, like this Leslie Street redevelopment, ‘Big Box Store’ developments forces a car centric metric on the surrounding space. Add to that 60 years of urban car centric design in the street grid and one can see how, with out pressure from cycling advocates, the same old same old tends to remain. But room must be made for a bike lane to connect the existing bicycle infrastructure in the area: The Martin Goodman Trail and the Greenwood and Jones Avenue Bike Lanes.

I’m not one of those cycling advocates that say every street should be shared – but I also don’t want to see prohibitions of cars, or bikes from any street. That doesn’t make me ‘soft on cyclists rights’; I just think that main arterial roads should be avoided when choosing bike lane routes — as long as another direct, parallel route is available, and is ‘Enabled’.

The idea behind ‘enabling a bike route’ is to tailor a roadway to suit the nature of cycling. One of the key elements of cycling is the importance of maintaining the momentum cyclists work hard to create. Doing this with-in an existing grid designed with a very low priority placed on ‘things maintaining their momentum’ – is not easy.

Bike route ‘Enabling’ would include signage changes, small changes in traffic law, and mostly minor changes to the roadway.

- ‘Idaho Stops’ allowed for bicycles at intersections with 4 way stops – meaning “Yield to Cyclists” signs posted beneath stop signs on roads that intersect an enabled bike route, or ‘Bikeway’.

- Where a Bikeway crosses an arterial, stop lights should be installed – and timed for the average cyclists rate of speed wherever possible.

- two way sharrows are painted on streets that have one-way designations put in place for ‘traffic calming’.

- speed bumps removed from the bike lane proper.

I have more bike route enabler ideas many of which are sprinkled through-out the “Toronto/GTA Bicycle Route Mapping Wiki” – and there are undoubtedly many great ideas out there in the cycling community.

(I think this  idea of “Bikeway Enablers” is worth a whole article – watch for it here.)

This enabling is essential to the Bikeway concept. To encourage cyclists to abandon arterial roads – which are almost always the shortest route through the grid, and thus call for the least expenditure of energy by the cyclist – the Bikeway must offer something else the cyclist covets as prize.  Encouraging cyclists to go a couple of blocks out of their way to get to a long stretch of street that has, bike right-of-way through all 4-way stop intersections, very low volume of car traffic, and bicycle timed lights through major intersections will not be difficult I believe.  After all, safety and the physical challenge of cycling are the top two reasons why citizens who are looking for a better way to commute, don’t choose to cycle.

After experiencing the incredibly stressful working conditions of the cycle courier (which I did for three years, full-time, winter and summer), I discovered that finding and perfecting off-arterial routes through-out the city actually reduces journey times, and, very importantly lessens stress. Thus one gets the benefits of better physical conditioning (which is essential in this post agrarian society), but also the benefit of commute-stress reduction.

So the upshot of my thinking here is that Leslie Street doesn’t have to be the bike lane, but because the intersection of Lake Shore and Leslie is the only route south of Lake Shore between Carlaw and Coxwell Avenues – and one of only three roads in the entire east end that do – the intersection does need to be a part of the cities cycling route network.

If those Big Box Stores don’t want us cyclists coming near for fear of injury or death – then we won’t! How about this for a solution: We’ll go through them in order to avaoid Leslie Street almost entirely!

The image below is a Google Map I made to demonstrate a possible solution (click on the title to go to the interactive Google map). I used the Drive-Thru of the Burger King, and an odd, larger-than-two-lanes-wide egress way at Price Choppers as a route for a Bike Lane.

Here in Ontario corporations pay the lowest taxes of any jurisdiction in the developed world – so they should step up and do their part on this one. We really need a good solution here and the streets are so permanent… . Perhaps the property owners and the leasers could help with some land and some flexibility on this. Strip Mall buildings are fairly easy to move, (I’ve built a couple of them) they have no basements and shallow foundations. If Burger King really needs their drive-thru (which I expect they do), then perhaps the property owner could receive lower property taxes for a time in exchange for the inconvenience that a disruption to this one lease might cause to their business plan in moving the Burger King building 4 metres to the east.

Next, on the west side of Leslie, right opposite the Burger King/Loblaws parking lot egress point, there’s an odd street, that is in fact private property, I believe; it acts as a street to funnel cars out of the Price Choppers and Wendy’s/Tim Hortons parking areas – and it connects Leslie Street and Mosley Street! This looks like an excellent route for a bike lane. Perhaps the property owner could be convinced to give up part of this quite wide, under developed egress point to a Bikeway. It would enable a Bikeway over to Mosley, across Eastern to Rushbrooke Ave which connects perfectly at Queen to the existing Jones Ave Bike Lane.

(The crossing at Eastern is extremely dangerous here; the road is an ‘S’ shape cutting sight lines to nothing at 45 kph, plus, traffic typically moves at highway speeds through this area at rush hour. At dusk it is especially deadly. For this Bikeway alternative to Leslie Street to work, this crossing has to be made safe somehow. I don’t have the solution – this is the ‘pickle’ in this proposal.)

Google Map: Proposed new Bike Lanes to connect the Martin Goodman Trail to the Jones and Greenwood Bike Lanes:

My proposed route from the Martin Goodman Trail at Lake Shore and Leslie to the Jones and Greenwood Avenue bike lanes

City planners say there is no room for bicycle lanes along Leslie. I looked at it today, and I guess if you want four lanes of car traffic funneling into acres and acres of parking lots at the new Big Box Store shopping extravaganza – then yes – there is no room for bicycle lanes. My point being, the road is wide enough for bike lanes as long as you don’t build a freeway like grid of streets feeding a Big Box Store parking lot along both sides of the middle of Leslie Street.

One of the lessons of 60 years of freeway construction: build it and more cars will come. There’s no north-south way in and out of this Box Store vision from hell, so traffic will flow from the DVP in the west which empties into Lake Shore, Eastern and Queen. From the east – via the Main, Coxwell, Greenwood, routes – which flow into Kingston Road and then onto Eastern Avenue – and Woodbine, which turns into Lake Shore Boulevard.

Getting down to the lake is going to be just as difficult and dangerous as it was before we tore down the Gardiner Expressway! The Cities gonna have to put in a freeway again because Queen, Eastern and Lake Shore are going to become grid-locked!

Will we ever learn?

Because it’s parking lot car centric, there’s no room for bike paths! Its suburban sprawl come to the core.

Lets have a look at the ‘planning’ so far:
(click all pictures for a Much larger view)

Lakeshore and Leslie, North West:

Anchor Stores: Price Chopper, Wendy’s/Tim Hortons

Good Parking! On Leslie just North of Lakeshore, looking West

Lakeshore and Leslie, North East:

Anchor Stores: Loblaws, Bulk Barn, Burger King

Good Parking! On Leslie, looking North-East from Lakeshore and Leslie (Bulk Barn is just out of the pic to the left, Burger King to the right).

Lakeshore and Leslie, South West:

Anchor Stores – Canadian Tire and The Brick, plus  Marks Work Warehouse, Shoppers Drug Mart,  TD Canada Trust, Rogers Cable.

Good parking! View from on Lakeshore looking East towards Leslie

Lakeshore and Leslie, South East:

TTC Yard, Martin Goodman Trail

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TTC Yard (planned) as viewed looking South-East at Leslie and Lakeshore. Martin Goodman Trail is to the left of the sidewalk, then turns East (to the left in the pic), towards Ashbridges Bay

Jeez, good thing Wal Mart was stopped eh? We stopped the Box Store freeway parking lot culture anchored by an American company who’s business model banks on the end of the middle class. Now we’ve got a Box Store freeway parking lot culture anchored by Canadian Companies who’s business models bank on the end of the middle class.

In this writers humble opinion this on-going development at Leslie and Lake Shore is going to kill the small business culture along Queen Street East and turn it into a freeway like Eastern Ave..

So now with all this draw for cars, and all the four lane wide roads to get them there — slowly, with grid lock, and road rage, and idling motors spewing carbon monoxide gas (and about 1,000 other chemicals) into the air of the Leslieville neighbourhood — there is no way to get existing bike lanes connected through the area?

Jones Avenue bike lane gets cyclists safely from Danforth to Queen and then this car centric Medusa, this tangle of streets, parking lots, and Box Stores makes it impossible to design a way for cyclists and pedestrians to get to the Martin Goodman Trail?

Something’s wrong with this picture.

Leslie Street is the ONLY road that goes south of Lake Shore Boulevard from this neighbourhood and all the neighbourhoods north of here. It is essential that planners find a way to include safe cycling infrastructure for this redevelopment. If nothing changes from where we are now in the planning – cyclists will find themselves having to get off their bikes at Eastern and Leslie and walking it down to the Martin Goodman Trail because the intervening intersections, Eastern and Lake Shore are death traps.

Join Paul Young and your ward councillors tomorrow – or write them, tweet them, phone them – and suggest your ‘better way’.

***

Ward 32 Councillor elect Mary-Margaret McMahon: info@mcmahoncan.ca

Ward 30 Councillor Paula Fletcher: councillor_fletcher@toronto.ca

City of Toronto Website (click on the map of wards and contact your councillor)

Update: November 26th, 2010
Making Leslie St. Safer for Cyclists and Pedestrians
November 25, 2010 By Joe T. at BikingToronto’s Infrastructure Label

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Posted: November 19th, 2010
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