Faster moving Toronto needs biking, walking and transit focus, groups say- Metro News

Metro Toronto
June 3, 2014

Four years, four ideas each to improve the lives of pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.

It adds up to 12 proposals at the centre of a new campaign launched Tuesday by a coalition of active transportation and environmental advocates anxious that their cause be part of the upcoming municipal election.

Building a Toronto that Moves is a series of actions that city council should take to release the city from the misery and lost productivity of gridlock, says the coalition.

“If we want to build a Toronto that moves, we need to develop viable transportation options so a person can switch from cars to transit to bikes to walking and back again in a way that makes sense for that person,” said Franz Hartmann of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

On the list:

• Slow zones on residential streets that limit speeds to 30 km/hr to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries and encourage a more social atmosphere.

• Build 100 on-street parking corrals for bikes to get them off the sidewalk. There are five bike corrals already in Toronto. A single car spot can hold eight bikes.

• A four-year transit fare freeze and fare reductions for those in financial need.

The group has not costed its proposals and would leave it to politicians to determine how to pay for the improvements, said Hartmann.

“If we invest now and starting building toward a city that moves, yes there will be some up front costs but it’s going to save us a huge amount of money in the future,” he said.

The transit proposals are focused on operational improvements because new projects are already getting plenty of profile from candidates, said Hartmann.

The group plans to survey candidates on their support for the ideas and publish the results in the fall. But it has no plans to endorse any candidates, he said of the coalition that also includes Canada Walks, Cycle Toronto, Toronto Centre for Active Transportation and Walk Toronto.

Transit riders should be rewarded for contributing to better health and a cleaner environment, said Hartmann. “Sadly the opposite has happened.”

“Today fares are higher than they were four years ago and sadly service levels are worse today than they were four years ago. That’s because any increase in service we’ve seen has not kept up with the increase in ridership,” he said.

Almost everyone can walk but too many people feel uncomfortable or unsafe doing it and sidewalks haven’t kept pace with the downtown population boom, said Dylan Reid of Walk Toronto.

“When it snows there 1,100 kilometres of residential sidewalks that the city will leave unplowed leaving the job to residents. Inevitably part of every sidewalk remains covered in snow and ice creating a dangerous barrier to seniors and people with mobility difficulties,” he said.

The city’s progress on bike lanes has also been “glacial,” said Jared Kolb of Cycle Toronto. The on-street bike network barely grew between 2009 and the end of 2013. During that time, Toronto has actually removed bike lanes on Pharmacy, Birchmount and Jarvis, although it did build the first protected bike lanes of Sherbourne St., retrofitted lanes on Wellesley St. and created a bike boulevard on Shaw St.

Cycle Toronto wants to double the $9 million annual budget for cycling infrastructure to build a minimum grid of 100 kilometres of protected bike lanes on main streets and 100 kilometres of bicycle boulevards on residential streets by 2018, said Kolb.

The Share the Road cycling group found 73 per cent of Torontonians would like to bike more often, he said. But many don’t feel safe.

Building a city that moves

For pedestrians:

1. Slow zones on residential streets that would limit speeds to 30 km/hr like London and Paris.

2. Sidewalk widening.

3. Harmonized sidewalk clearing of snow and ice across the city at a cost of $10 million annually.

4. School travel plans to encourage students to walk to their schools.

For cyclists:

1. Create a minimum grid of 100 kilometres of protected bike lanes on main streets and 100 kilometers of bicycle boulevards similar to one on Shaw St. with speed restrictions on residential streets by 2018.

2. Connect major transit hubs in North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke with protected bike lanes and bicycle boulevards enabling Torontonians to bike to transit.

3. Implement a Complete Streets policy to make Toronto roads comfortable for all users.

4. Create 100 bicycle corrals where on-street car parking spots currently exist.

For transit riders:

1. Freeze fares for four years.

2. Create discounts for low-income residents including seniors, people with disabilities and those on social assistance.

3. Expand service levels beyond the growing number of riders.

4. Keep the private sector out of building and operating transit.