The East End is one step closer to seeing bike lanes on Woodbine Avenue.
The city’s public works committee agreed yesterday, September 27, to adopt a proposal to install bicycle lanes along Woodbine Avenue. The proposal, with amendments, now goes to city council.
Ward 32 city councillor — and avid cyclist — Mary-Margaret McMahon said she is “thrilled” with the decision, particularly with how efficient the decision-making process has been compared to other bike lane projects.
“It took us three years to get a contra-flow [lane] on Dixon and this is basically six months to get us a bike lane here,” she said.
Previously approved in principle, the lanes are a part of transportation services’ recent “Ten Year Cycling Network Plan”, a roadmap which aims to connect, build and establish the city’s bike network. The overall plan identifies 525 centreline kms of new infrastructure which includes 280 centreline kms of bike lanes or cycle tracks on fast, busy streets, 55 centreline kms of sidewalk-level boulevard trails along fast, busy streets, and 190 centreline kms of cycling routes along quiet streets.
Community consultations regarding the proposed bike lanes were held earlier this year. City staff are recommending that the lanes run northbound and southbound on Woodbine Avenue from O’Connor Drive to Queen Street East, in addition to an eastbound contraflow (also commonly known as counterflow) lane on Corley Avenue from Woodbine Avenue to Brookside Drive.
“Cycling facilities on Woodbine Avenue would improve safety and reduce risk for all road users by providing designated space for cyclists as well as to make cycling a more comfortable experience, encouraging more people to travel by bicycle and reduce long-term traffic congestion and transportation-related emissions,” reads a city report on the proposal.
But for the chair of the Woodbine Heights Association, the initiative is about more than improving roads for cyclists.
The Woodbine Heights Association “support continuous, separated and protected bicycle lanes along Woodbine Avenue, not just because they promote cycling safety but because they are essential for the revival of our commercial ‘main street’: Woodbine Avenue,” wrote James Ward, chair and membership officer of the Woodbine Heights Association in a June 17th email to the city.
“It is important to remember that our stretch of Woodbine Avenue is the heart of the Woodbine Heights neighbourhood, rather than just a high-speed through-route for motorists headed downtown. Woodbine has the right ‘bones’ to be a vibrant and successful main street,” he said, also noting that many people currently avoid Woodbine Avenue, fearing the combination of fast drivers and narrow sidewalks.
According to a City of Toronto report, a May 2016 count found that approximately 150-200 cyclists frequent Woodbine every day. Compare this number to the rest of Toronto — the intersection of College and Spadina sees an average of 2,300 cyclists per workday — it’s clear that Woodbine has a long road ahead.
But councillor McMahon is convinced hope is not lost. Pointing to the recent success of the Richmond and Adelaide cycle tracks which now count over 4,200 cycle trips each weekday, McMahon explained that “what we’ve seen elsewhere in the city is if you build it, they will come. People just want a safe place to bike.”
Along with the bicycle lanes, staff also recommends that city council amend current traffic and parking regulations in the area. This would result in a reduction of pay and display spaces along Woodbine, which its estimated would decrease the net revenue of Toronto Parking Authority by approximately $3,500 per year.
Once the lanes are installed, ongoing maintenance would cost approximately $133,000 per year, with the total financial impact coming in at around $400,000.
Transportation services will have to make adjustments to signals, lane markings and other traffic measures, as necessary, to help mitigate any impacts, agreed the committee at the September 27 public works meeting, stating as such in an amendment.
Final approval for the project now rests in the hands of city council, with councillors scheduled to consider the proposal October 5.