Bike lanes are once again in the news in North York as the city approved a plan to bring buffered bike lanes to Willowdale with construction scheduled to begin this November. The news comes on the heels of the hotly debated Transform Yonge streetscape plan that would have brought buffered bike lanes to Yonge Street in Willowdale in addition to more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and other public space improvements.
This time, it would appear that the local community is in full support of the plan, albeit with some reservations over possible interruption to public transit service.
On May 13, the City of Toronto held a public drop-in event at Earl Haig Secondary School for local residents and interested parties to learn more about changes coming to Willowdale Avenue, including the addition of bike lanes.
“This is not a large and controversial project like the Transform Yonge project,” said local councillor John Filion. “The [Willowdale reconstruction] has been in the works for a while. I’m glad to see it happening.”
Anne Brooke, the Silverview Community Association secretary, said bike lanes have been promised on Willowdale Avenue for about 30 years.
“I’m happy to see that it is finally happening,” she said. “Pedestrians and cyclists deserve to be safe.”
The proposed construction would see current traffic lanes narrowed, the dedicated left turn lanes at Byng Avenue and Empress Avenue removed and bike lanes on both sides of the street.
Brian Nolan, an engineer for the City of Toronto, confirmed that the bike and car lanes would be further divided by bollards in order to create a physical width between cars and bikes.
Many in attendance expressed concern over possible public transit service disruptions.
Eric Holmes, a city spokesperson, said, “There is no proposed change to regular bus service along Willowdale Avenue.”
The project is set to begin August 2019 and last through November 2019. The bike lane cycle tracks will be presented to the Toronto City Council Infrastructure and Environment Committee on June 27, and city council on July 16 to 17.