Toronto has formally abandoned the 10-year cycling plan it approved in 2016 but failed to make significant progress on, opting to focus instead on a few major improvements over the next three years.
Forgoing ambitious goals about installing more than 500 kilometres of new bicycle infrastructure, council is instead looking to narrow its efforts, including improvements to some major roads.
Under the new plan, approved after hours of debate that ran most of Wednesday, staff will extend the existing Bloor Street bicycle lanes west to High Park by next summer. Staff will also test out lanes on the Danforth Avenue and look at the viability of lanes on University Avenue.
The scope of the new plan suggests that it could be decades before the city has the sort of extensive cycling infrastructure for which advocates have been pushing. But it also reflects the reality that setting long-range goals has not been achieving results.
Councillor Joe Cressy bemoaned the lack of a plan over the middle term, but applauded progress toward a network of safe cycling routes.
“If someone is getting on a bike, from their household in the morning, they have to be able to ride to the childcare to drop their kid off, ride to work … go back to the childcare, maybe stop in a store on the way home,” he told council.
“You have to be able to do all of those. And so you cannot build in a piecemeal fashion. You can’t build bike lanes to nowhere. You have to build a grid.”
The new bicycle plan won solid majorities after debate that strayed into questions of licensing and insuring cyclists, and whether people on bikes should be allowed to use the sidewalk in some instances. Tempers ran high late in the morning, when Councillor Josh Matlow was ejected for refusing to apologize for saying that Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong wasn’t doing his job.
Council also rejected an attempt by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam to resuscitate the possibility of bicycle lanes on Jarvis Street, which were removed under the mayoralty of Rob Ford.
“I think there are some major pieces that are being built. Is it happening fast enough? No, of course we would say it’s not,” said Jared Kolb, executive director of the advocacy group Cycle Toronto.
“We have an amalgamated city and we’ve got a lot of different voices at the table, and so it’s going to take a little bit more time. But we are, I think today there was some really important things that [council] voted on.”