Cycle Toronto forms new ward group in Eglinton-Lawrence

Founding meeting guest speakers from left to right: Constable Tom Somers, 53 Division; Karen Stintz, City Councillor for Ward 16; Staff Sgt. Matt Moyer, 53 Division; Howard Goodman, Public School Trustee, Ward 8 Eglinton-Lawrence; and Jared Kolb, Executive Director of Cycle Toronto.

Cycle Toronto forms new ward group in Eglinton Lawrence

Story and photos by Joey Schwartz

Cycle Toronto (formerly the Toronto Bike Union), expanded it's reach further north this week when it held the founding meeting for its newest local advocacy group: Cycle Toronto Ward 16. Thirty-eight people attended the meeting held at the North Toronto Memorial Arena on Eglinton Avenue West on the evening of November 19, 2013. The meeting included four guest speakers from the local government and police services. Some of the key issues raised were traffic speed concerns, pedestrian and cyclist safety near schools, police treatment of cyclists, bike lanes, cycle tracks and the physical condition of the ward's roads.

Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence is roughly bordered in the south by Eglinton Avenue, Bathurst Street in the West, Wilson Avenue and the 401 Highway in the north, and Yonge Street in the East. This ward of roughly 54,000 people has a higher income level than most: 60% of its residents live in single family houses, also higher than the city average. Cycle Toronto's Executive Director, Jared Kolb, was the chair of the meeting and introduced the four guest speakers. The first guest speaker, the area Public School Trustee, Howard Goodman, mentioned that the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is working with the city to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists near its schools. The board is trying to promote a Student Active Transportation program in the area, and better road safety would help them accomplish their goal of making students more physically active. He also mentioned that the TDSB will be hosting a global summit for active living for children next May and hoped that Cycle Toronto will support it.

Toronto City Councillor, Karen Stintz, the area representative on council, is a frequent cyclist commuter during the warmer times of the year. She cycles about three-times a week to City Hall. When Kolb asked meeting attendees what they thought were issues that need to be addressed, the Idaho Stop was mentioned, and Stintz latched on to it in her comments. Readers may recall that Stintz was charged with going through a stop sign on her bike earlier this year, and she understands the need for bringing in rule changes that allow for cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs. She wants to phase in such rules, first along bike trails and separated bikeways and then gradually bring them to residential side streets. Stintz also mentioned that she feels that there is now a better climate at City Council for talking about cycling issues, and making commuter cycling a "legitimate item" at City Hall -- she says she wants to work towards "normalizing" cycling as a legitimate form of transportation.

She also mentioned that she is looking into finding solutions for a bicycle-friendly way to cross the 401 Highway off of Yonge street, in the Hoggs Hollow area. Currently, many cyclists find the crossing extremely dangerous due to the on and off ramps from the highway.

53 Division Staff Sergeant Matt Moyer is in charge of the bicycle unit in the ward and spoke about the issues surrounding educating both drivers and cyclists. Since the spring, police are now formally allowed to issue educational warning tickets, to cyclists or drivers that break a traffic law. He mentioned he has counselled his staff to take an educational approach when stopping cyclists for infractions such as not having lights, going through a red light, riding on the sidewalk. He mentioned that it us up to the officer, and the attitude of the cyclist. (In other words, don't be a jerk to the officer, otherwise they will just issue a regular ticket with fines.)

Finally, bicycle unit constable Tom Sommers mentioned that enforcement can be hard when on a bike, because motor vehicle drivers do not seem to respect the officers due to them being on a bicycle. He too mentioned that when they approach a cyclist that has committed a traffic act violation, their mind set is to educate first, punish second. Still, this does not mean he wants cyclists blowing through stop signs, or otherwise ignoring the law. He also mentioned that the local side streets are becoming more congested due to the boom in condominiums sprouting up in the area, which is causing frustrated drivers to start speeding along the side streets, putting everyone at danger. The division is currently working on a plan to attempt to curb the dangerous increase in speeding along the side streets.

After the formal meeting concluded, members of the newly formed group met to discuss next steps. They will be holding regular monthly meetings starting the new year, and plan to have input in the various new bicycle infrastructure programs in the area, including the new cycle tracks along Eglinton Avenue which are part of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project. To get in contact with the new group go to the Cycle Toronto website at www.cycleto.ca.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Eglinton bike lanes planned as part of LRT

Rolling stops yield better safety

Bike Spotting: safety in focus

Bloor bike lanes update

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