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FORUM: Finding positive outcomes (July 2020)

August 7th, 2020 · No Comments

Rapidly expanding bike lanes a healthy solution

By Mike Layton

As Torontonians diligently work together to progress to the next stage of the recovery plan, we are collectively coming to terms with the fact that we are learning to live with a new normal. This period of rapid change has brought with it a number of difficult issues, and has highlighted the many ways in which we need to do better. However, it has also opened the door for us to imagine new ways forward. Toronto has always been a place where people with vision have put in the work to build their communities, and my recent communications with residents have shown that our city’s passion for progress is only getting stronger. 

An integral part of our pandemic recovery response is reviewing our highest single expense, the police budget, to see if there are improved ways to deliver services that ensure the safety of all residents. At the first opportunity, I will work to reallocate resources from the police budget into services to promote anti-oppressive practices in consultation with Black and other racialized communities. 

It is imperative that we continue to address systemic racism through the provision of services. We know that racism manifests in poverty, housing discrimination, in cuts to social and community programs, and in negative health outcomes—especially as being observed through the current pandemic. We must take action and invest our resources to address these inequities head on. The city works to apply an equity lens on every budget decision it makes, which is a good first step, but more must be done, starting with properly funding city services. 

Learning to live with the COVID-19 pandemic means recognizing that people need to be able to get where they need to go while maintaining a safe physical distance. As retail stores that have a public entrance door that opens onto a street or sidewalk have been allowed to reopen, the opportunity to revive our main streets is possible, with protective measures in place. This also means that many of us will need to consider alternate methods of transportation. 

In early June, we welcomed the installation of new protected bike lanes on University Avenue, through Queen’s Park Crescent. These lanes are part of 25 kilometres of new cycling infrastructure. This was approved by city council at the end of May, as part of the city’s ActiveTO program. The bike lanes on University Avenue will connect to existing lanes on Bloor, College, Adelaide, and Richmond Streets, making continuous, protected trips possible. They provide an alternative to the Line 1 subway for commuters, while opening up more space on the subway for those who need to take public transit. 

The community has long advocated for safe, protected bike lanes on University Avenue, alongside major hospitals in the area, including SickKids and the University Health Network, who released letters in support of the University bike lanes. Members of the group Doctors for Safe Cycling, some of whom work in the area’s hospitals, have also highlighted the importance of the lanes in enabling health care workers, staff, and clients to safely get to work and access the area’s health care facilities.

The lanes are ready to change the way that many residents get around this summer, and are just the beginning of what’s possible. With this change, Toronto has joined the ranks of London, New York, and Mexico City, all of which have responded to COVID-19 by expanding cycling infrastructure. Going forward, how people get around will continue to be a major public health issue. These new lanes are a step in the right direction towards keeping each other healthy, and keeping our city moving. 

I am committed to building an equitable and just Toronto, and I am grateful to work with you to make it happen. 

Mike Layton is Councillor for Ward 11, University—Rosedale

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Tags: Annex · Opinion