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NEWS: Report urges reduction of traffic lanes on Avenue Road (Aug. 2021)

September 8th, 2021 · No Comments

Cyclist death spotlights lack of bike lanes in the plan

The Avenue Road Safety Coalition proposes reducing Avenue Road from six lanes to four and adding a linear park. COURTESY BROWN AND STOREY

By Madeline Smart

Toronto architecture firm Brown and Storey have teamed up with the Avenue Road Safety Coalition (ARSC) to transform Avenue Road into a safer and more enjoyable place for pedestrians, but what about cyclists?

Avenue Road is known for its narrow sidewalks and expressway-like street. The City of Toronto found that on average 60,000 cars speed on the road in a week, which is unsafe – but not just for pedestrians. On August 18, an 18-year-old cyclist was struck and killed by a cement truck on Avenue Road. Both the young cyclist and the truck were traveling northbound past Bloor Street in the curb lane. Police suspect that the cement truck may have not given the cyclist enough room and didn’t even realize he had been in a collision until witnesses grabbed his attention. This was 2021’s first fatal bike collision in the city, but there have been fifteen other serious and fatal collisions on Avenue Road between Bloor Street and St. Clair Avenue since 2006, according to police data. 

The report from Brown and Storey imagines removing the outer two lanes of traffic, reducing the current six lanes to four. It outlines asymmetrically distributing the spaces gained from removing the lanes so the west sidewalk can be widened by 3.5 metres while leaving just over eight metres of space for the east side, allowing a linear park to be created which could provide potential linkages to the Green Line and strengthen the connection to Ramsden Park. However, protected bike lanes were left out.

Their goal is to restore the balance between pedestrian and driver needs by bringing the street back to what it was in 1950 before the extra lanes were created to accommodate more cars. 

Albert Koehl, a coordinator with ARSC says the chosen plan will not only be more consistent with the area and its needs but also with current city policies. 

“It provides an opportunity for us to further achieve city policies in terms of climate change, road safety, even equity and public health,” said Koehl. 

Ry Shissler, communication manager for cycling advocacy group Cycle Toronto and an Annex resident, believes the accepted plan sends the message to cyclists that they aren’t a priority.

“They say they want to take a step back to the 1950s when the road was last changed and to me, you’re setting the precedent if you don’t address cycling that for the next 50 years cycling isn’t welcome there,” Shissler said. 

Koehl is also an avid cyclist and cycling advocate. From his perspective, making the temporary Yonge Street bike lanes permanent is more important than what’s happening on Avenue Road. 

“We want to see the pedestrianization of Avenue Road,” Koel said. He added that Avenue Road isn’t in desperate need of a bike lane because there are not many shops on the street compared to Yonge Street, and with a bike lane on Poplar Plains Road and the one on Davenport Road scheduled for improvements, putting one on Avenue is less of a priority.

“Equally important is that Avenue Road will be 100 percent better for everyone with this plan – on a bike, on foot or on transit because it would be a much, much, much friendlier, slower community-oriented street than it is  now with its six speeding lanes.”

The recent cyclist accident has sparked an outcry from cycling advocates and politicians for protected bike lanes on Avenue Road and other major roads in the city. Council passed a pilot safety program last year that involved adding a temporary cycling lane to the street, but that initiative ended up being put off because of ongoing construction in the area. The plan will however be re-examined this fall.

Correction:

Ry Shissler, who uses they/them pronouns, was misgendered in the story “Report urges reduction of traffic lanes on Avenue Road.” The error occurred in both the August 2021 print issue of the Annex Gleaner, as well as the initial online version, which is now corrected. The Gleaner regrets the error. 

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Tags: Annex · News