A POS­I­TIVE SPIN ON CY­CLING

WE’VE GOT MO­MEN­TUM, AND THE MU­NIC­I­PAL ELEC­TION JUST AROUND THE COR­NER OF­FERS AN OP­POR­TU­NITY TO EF­FECT CHANGE.

NOW Magazine - - COVER STORY - BY NANCY SMITH LEA

THERE ARE MANY REA­SONS TO COME BACK OVER TO THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET

t may seem like an odd time to be writ­ing a pos­i­tive story about cy­cling.

BBC News re­cently called out Toronto for be­ing the worst city in the world to ride a bike. Ear­lier this sum­mer, a surge of pedes­trian and cy­clist deaths led Jen­nifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s for­mer chief plan­ner and now may­oral can­di­date, to call for a state of emer­gency. And last month On­tario’s cap and trade pro­gram, which was to fund a $225-mil­lion pro­gram for mu­nic­i­pal com­muter cy­cling in­fra­struc­ture across the prov­ince, was abruptly can­celled.

In light of all this it’s tough to stay pos­i­tive, and al­most seems per­verse to try. Yet if you love cy­cling, or even if you haven’t yet made the leap into the won­der­ful world of bikes, there are many rea­sons that have helped me get back over to the sunny side of the street.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est cen­sus data, cy­cling rates are ris­ing across the en­tire city, in­clud­ing some in­ter­est­ing change out­side the down­town core. For ex­am­ple, more than 500 peo­ple have vis­ited three com­mu­nity bike hubs this year and the city plans to cre­ate 20 more bike hubs.

Bike Share Toronto, the city’s bike­shar­ing sys­tem, is grow­ing ex­po­nen­tially.

Also, more than 80 per cent of Toron­to­ni­ans, in­clud­ing 75 per cent of driv­ers, sup­port build­ing pro­tected bike lanes, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Ekos poll. Per­haps be­cause bike lanes make driv­ing eas­ier?

Be­fore bike lanes were in­stalled on Bloor in 2016 as part of a pi­lot project, only 14 per cent of mo­torists re­ported feel­ing com­fort­able driv­ing next to cy­clists com­pared to 66 per cent af­ter the lanes were in­stalled.

Es­pe­cially in an era of fis­cal re­straint, bikes are a bar­gain and streets with bike lanes move more peo­ple at a lower cost.

But bike lanes or not, the more peo­ple on bikes, the safer it is.

Does all of this in­di­cate that Toronto is a cy­cling par­adise? Not a chance.

But we’ve got mo­men­tum hap­pen­ing that we need to cel­e­brate and fiercely pro­tect. Al­though re­cent leg­is­la­tion has cre­ated tur­moil, the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion just around the cor­ner of­fers an op­por­tu­nity to ef­fect change.

To ad­dress the grow­ing con­cern about road safety, a coali­tion of com­mu­nity lead­ers re­leased an all-can­di­date sur­vey in June to gauge sup­port for #BuildTheVi­sionTO: Safe And Ac­tive Streets For All, a set of 15 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion pri­or­i­ties to im­prove road safety, in­crease phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and build safe and ac­tive streets. The sur­vey re­sults will pro­vide Toron­to­ni­ans with a tool to eval­u­ate coun­cil­lor and may­oral can­di­dates on their com­mit­ment to mak­ing road safety and pro­tect­ing the lives of vul­ner­a­ble road-users a pri­or­ity.

The coali­tion strongly sup­ports the Vi­sion Zero Road Safety plan, which Toronto adopted in 2016. But it’s not be­ing im­ple­mented fast enough.

The plan’s goal of elim­i­nat­ing all traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties is an ur­gent one, de­mand­ing im­me­di­ate and mean­ing­ful ac­tion.

To get mov­ing on achiev­ing Vi­sion Zero, the coali­tion’s pri­or­i­ties in­clude: traf­fic-calm­ing mea­sures, such as speed humps, bulb-outs and raised crosswalks, in all ele­men­tary school zones by 2022; side­walks on every street be­ing re­con­structed (nearly 25 per cent of all lo­cal streets in Toronto don’t have a side­walk and many more only have a side­walk on one side of the street); and pro­tected bike lanes on main streets, in­clud­ing the ma­jor cor­ri­dors in the Cy­cling Net­work Plan (Bloor, Yonge and Dan­forth), which were put on hold and sub­se­quently re­moved from the im­ple­men­ta­tion plan by coun­cil.

Any day now, coun­cil and may­oral can­di­dates will be knock­ing on your door ask­ing for your vote on Oc­to­ber 22. Ask them if they en­dorse the #BuildTheVi­sionTO cam­paign. In the fall, all of the can­di­dates’ com­pleted sur­veys will be re­leased. Don’t for­get to vote – and may all the streets be sunny in our fu­ture. Nancy Smith Lea is di­rec­tor of the Toronto Cen­tre for Ac­tive Trans­porta­tion, a project of Clean Air Part­ner­ship. Her work in ac­tive trans­porta­tion and city build­ing has been rec­og­nized by Spac­ing Mag­a­zine and the United Way.

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