Karen Stintz is a former city councillor, elected in 2003, and was a chair of the TTC. She lives in Ward 8 with her family.
The cycling renaissance has begun in Toronto. Over the last several years, cycling has moved from a fringe activity to more mainstream. Now, the decision by Toronto City Council to add 40 kilometres of new cycling infrastructure over the next few weeks means that cycling has now moved from mainstream to trending.
Although the lanes will be reviewed in a year, it is a decision that will dramatically shift cycling participation and acceptance of bike lanes as a means of transportation. The missing piece in the cycling network is Yonge.
There are 150 groups that support bike lanes on Yonge. If the bike lanes are intended to provide transit relief, then there is no better place for the lanes.
During peak ridership, the Yonge Street subway line carried 750,000 passengers daily. With social distancing requirements, the line will only be able to accommodate approximately 30 per cent of that passenger load. While ridership is expected to remain well below that number for some time, it does make sense to build the bike lanes to support alternative travel.
Of course the local business community will have a strong opinion about bike lanes on Yonge.
The forced closing of local business in response to the pandemic has resulted in many vacant storefronts.
The local Business Improvement Associations will argue that bike lanes will take away
from on-street parking, which they see as critical to their survival.
There is a way to have parking for the businesses and accommodate bike lanes on Yonge Street, but it requires a little flexibility. Many of the local residential streets that connect to Yonge have restrictions on parking.
Many of the restrictions were created in response to residents’ concerns about commuters parking on side streets in the morning and then taking the subway to work. Since that is not a concern in the near term, residential side streets should be opened up and parking allowed throughout the day. This would provide the local business community with the parking they need and free up needed space on Yonge for bike lanes.
The city would lose parking revenue, but it is a small amount in the overall budget of the Toronto Parking Authority, and on-street parking is the least efficient use of space.
Any cycling network needs to include Yonge Street. At present, Yonge Street is not a safe street on which to ride a bike. A dedicated lane is required, and now is the time to make it happen.