City Hall undecided on downtown bike lanes

A 2001 proposal by the city’s public works committee to build separated bicycle lanes going east-west on Richmond and Adelaide Streets stretching from Bathurst Street to Sherbourne Street is no closer Thursday to winning approval by city council.

The proposal was put forward in response to the cycling union’s demands for a safe corridor.
According to the cycling union, more than 30 000 cyclists travel to and from downtown on a weekday, and there is no east-west bikeway between the College and Gerrard bike lanes and the Martin Goodman Trail along the waterfront.

But over the past 10 years, the proposal has undergone a number of amendments, last being discussed at city hall on Tuesday, when it was held by councilor Adam Vaughan.

Vaughan, himself a lifelong cyclist, said he has no problem with the project, but wants too look at all the options before rebuilding the streets, which the current proposal does not allow for.

“We know that we need stronger cycling infrastructure, we know that these streets have the capacity to handle it, the question is how do we design the streets, and we need to look at all the options,” Vaughan said. “I want to make sure we rebuild the streets so that everyone gets the best use out of them.”

According to the proposal, bi-directional bike lanes will cost approximately $1.2 to $1.35 million because of the modification of traffic signals. City officials have said the money invested in the project would be thrown away if the project were not successful or needed modifications in order to be permanently implemented.

The report suggested a uni-directional bike lane does not need modification of traffic signals and would be less expensive.

The implementation of the bike lanes will take two years and require the removal of at least one curb lane, which other councillors worry raises serious concerns regarding parking, loading, and traffic capacity.
“We need to find out if we can do it, what it’s going to cost, and what it’s going to do to traffic,” councillor Doug Holyday said Wednesday. “Because the last thing we can afford to do is cause more gridlock downtown.”

Holyday’s main concern is the way the bike lanes will affect businesses in the downtown core.
“Commerce has to happen.” Holyday said. “If you have a downtown that nobody [in cars] can get to, then pretty soon the jobs go somewhere else, and that’s a downward trend.”

City manager Joe Pennachetti said both sides have valid arguments.

“The mayor thinks that cars should have the room on the roads for their needs, but then we have the environmental pressures and cycling and pedestrian traffic instead of cars, and we are trying to balance off those two opposing views and come up with a recommendation,” Pennachetti said Wednesday.

Mayor Ford declined to comment on the issue Wednesday, deferring media inquiries to his press secretary, who was not available.

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