By Lindsay Tsuji
The Annex Residents’ Association has made motions to call for more bike accessibility in the Annex, but some in the city’s transportation department say the plan is unrealistic.
The bike policy put forth by the ARA calls for bike lanes on Bloor Street between Bathurst Street and Avenue Road, the construction of fixed barriers between cars and bike lanes, a reduced speed limit of 30 km/h for motorists, the removal of car parking and adding bike boxes at major intersections, amongst other things.
“We began the policy in May or June of last year with a committee of four people,” said Albert Koehl, a member of The ARA’s bike policy committee. “Our focus was acknowledging that a lot of residents in the Annex do cycle, and that it’s good for the environment, and it’s good for fitness, and good for the community.”
One of the basic themes in the policy is that it should also be safe for the people who cycle, Koehl said.
“One of the big complaints that people have is that cyclists don’t obey the rules of the road. Our view in the policy is that if cyclists feel that they are being accepted and valued in their community, than they will start to feel a part of the community and obey its rules,” said Koehl.
The Clean Air Partnership, a charity that works to improve local air quality and reduce greenhouse gases in communities, did a study of Bloor Street in the Annex in Feb. 2009. They found that only a very small percentage of merchants believe that more than 50 per cent of their customers drive to their shops. It was customers who came on foot and by bike that gave them the most business.
Andrea Garcia, director of advocacy and operations for the Toronto Cyclists Union, sees the ARA’s policy as a great long-term goal. “I think this is a great policy,” said Garcia. One of the things that has kept them from implementing bike lanes sooner is the amount of street parking, Garcia said.
“Bike infrastructure is actually the cheapest form of transportation. It’s the most cost-effective infrastructure that moves the most people per dollar,” said Garcia.
The City of Toronto has also been making moves for more bike accessibility in the city. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong put forward a proposal to create a connected network of cycling routes along streets such as Wellesley and Richmond.
“We’ve already started doing some of the things listed in the policy” said Daniel Egan, manager of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure with the city’s transportation services.
“Rolling stops are a provincial issue that has to do with the Highway Traffic Act so that is out of our jurisdiction.”
The only thing that would be expensive are the physically separated lanes, Egan said.
Changing the speed limit to 30 km/h between Bathurst Street and Avenue Road on Bloor Street was also raised as a concern.
Bloor Street is a major arterial roadway and these changes would not satisfy criteria to maintain the flow of traffic in the area, said Ron Hamilton, manager at traffic operations of Toronto & East York District, Transportation Services at the City of Toronto.
Council will only reduce speed limits to 30 km/h if there are traffic calming measures on the road like speed bumps, Hamilton said. “Bloor Street is one of the only major streets that go from Scarborough all the way to Etobicoke,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton added that the existing infrastructure is already faulty, given that half the lanes are allocated to parking.
“One of our recommendations was for the Annex to be part of a city-wide bike plan,” said Frank Cunningham, the ARA chair of planning and zoning. “If Bloor Street was the only east-west bike artery in the city, it would defeat the purpose. There needs to be a network of bike lanes.”