This month, another ActiveTO report will head to the infrastructure and environment committee and city council and, with it, an opportunity for local residents to find out whether or not the ActiveTO Midtown Complete Street pilot project will become a permanent midtown fixture.
The complete street pilot project for the midtown area was initiated one year ago, in April 2021, and includes separated bike lanes on either side of Yonge from Bloor Street to Davisville Avenue, as part of the city’s Pandemic Mobility Recovery Strategy.
Since that time, there have been complaints from those commuting into the city along the main thoroughfare as well as from local residents. And there have also been compliments.
A local resident, who did not want to be named as a result of ongoing harassment, said she understands the importance of cycling infrastructure and separated bike lanes but suggested they might be better suited on other north-south corridors in the area.
“One issue is just the street is too narrow. And there’s far too much development going on in this neighborhood. From Summerhill to Heath, there are 12 developments, most of them towers,” she explained. “So I was thinking that this is not the street bicycle lanes should be on. There’s an opportunity to put them on Avenue Road or put them on Mount Pleasant.”
She also questioned what study the city has done to inform its decision regarding the project.
“They haven’t really done the proper studies. They’ve done sort of a focus group, but they really never did a study,” she said. “They did a good study up north Yonge and Sheppard. But here, they have just put them in and sort of decided it was a pilot.”
City councillor Mike Layton, who is a cyclist and an advocate for safe cycling infrastructure, said the report is set to come to council in early April. And, in the meantime, city staff has been studying the project.
“Staff have been closely studying the road uses, including cycling, pedestrian safety, travel time, on-street patios and emergency vehicles, and will report on this to the infrastructure and environment committee in March,” he said.
“Staff want to make sure we get a good picture of what can be done to improve safety and traffic flow. I expect their recommendations will reflect this.”
Jennifer Keesmaat, a former chief city planner for Toronto and a midtown resident, defended the bike lanes becoming permanent in a prior article for StreetsofToronto.com.
“Yonge Street is an iconic street in the city of Toronto. For quite some time, we’ve treated it in many parts as a bit like a highway,” she said. “There are parts of Yonge where it’s a very wide street, so there is the extra right of way and extra asphalt, which can be better used to serve the needs of local neighbourhoods. I think the biggest driver behind making both CaféTO and the bike lanes permanent is about creating better places for the increasingly higher-density neighbourhoods that are very pedestrian-oriented.”
Other concerns expressed by local residents include a series of what have been called “landlocked streets” that are on dead ends and have trouble accessing Yonge because traffic is so bad, thanks to the loss of active vehicle lanes to the bike project. This concern is compounded when taking into account emergency vehicles getting caught in the same traffic snarls.
“There are some real challenges with access along a couple of streets in the neighbourhood, and we should look for solutions that can provide safe streets for all road users while maintaining access,” Layton explained. “I think we can find solutions that work for all.”
If the project gets final approval, is there a chance the lanes will be expanded?
“There is an upcoming environmental assessment on Yonge from Bloor south to College, which will examine options, consistent with plans south of College,” said Layton.