City of Toronto Addresses Streetcar Track Hazards for Cyclists; New Bike Lanes Absent
Submitted by Jared Kolb on 8 November, 2012 - 12:00
Toronto – November 8, 2012 – In the wake of a streetcar track related cycling fatality in August, Cycle Toronto called on the City to investigate the safety hazards posed to cyclists by streetcar tracks. Shortly thereafter, Councillors Joe Mihevc and Mike Layton took a positive step forward on the issue and brought the item to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) for consideration. City staff released their recommendations yesterday.
According to the report, City staff recommend developing a “streetcar track and cyclist” safety strategy. The goal of the strategy will be to actively collect data on streetcar track incidents, communicate safety tips and to ultimately launch a pilot project that will test various pavement markings to improve visibility for cyclists. Cycle Toronto proposed similar short-term recommendations in its August call to action to the City and we are pleased they are taking action. We encourage members of PWIC to adopt the recommendations.
However, the report makes few mid to long-term recommendations, such as adding more dedicated bike lanes. The report compares recent recommendations made by Alta Planning for the City of Portland to current conditions in the City of Toronto. Important considerations reviewed include separating bicycle travel from streetcar tracks, creating a policy framework that addresses bicycle safety issues and creating supporting programs for education and wayfinding. Some of the recommendations will be accommodated through the pilot project. Others, such as creating parallel bikeway facilities, have not been acted upon due to on-street parking. Cycle Toronto does not find this conclusion an adequate rationale for inaction. On-street parking should not trump road user safety.
“UBC’s recent study suggests that streetcar tracks are potentially involved in up to a third of cyclist injuries in downtown Toronto,” said Jared Kolb, Director of Campaigns and Membership at Cycle Toronto. “While the City’s recommendations are a good first step, we need more robust initiatives like dedicated cycle tracks and removal of on-street parking on streetcar routes to ensure safety. Regardless of whether our elected officials believe cyclists should be on arterial roads like Bloor-Danforth, College, Dundas, Queen and King or not, cyclists will continue to use them. Let’s choose a few of these streets and build or enhance bikeway facilities along them. The only thing holding us back is the political will to ensure that our streets are safe for all users.”
The report also reviews the issue of decommissioned streetcar tracks. There are approximately 3.5 km of decommissioned tracks in Toronto, and City staff suggest that half will be removed in the next few years, in line with the capital works budget and schedule. Unfortunately, Wychwood Ave – which includes the stretch of tracks out of service for decades that helped spur the City into action – does not have capital work scheduled for the next 10 years. The current cost to cover the tracks on Wychwood is $135,000, which is not a permanent solution and could require re-covering in future years. The cost to remove the Wychwood tracks is $500,000. Cycle Toronto is disappointed that the City has not found a swifter and more cost-effective way to deal with the tracks on Wychwood and elsewhere.