From the Horse's Mouth: Nancy Smith Lea, Director, Toronto Centre for Active Transportation on Complete Streets, More cycling in Scarborough, Bike Lanes on Bloor and Vision Zero
Nancy Smith Lea is the director at the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation.
The Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT) was formed in 2006 to give a unified voice to the many groups working for a better cycling and pedestrian environment in Toronto. This year TCAT will celebrate it’s 10th anniversary! Congrats TCAT!
TCAT has worked closely with the Clean Air Partnership (CAP) since its inception, and has evolved from a grassroots advocacy group into a research and education organization.
We asked Smith Lea: What’s up for TCAT for 2016?
We have lots on the go! We are juggling nine different projects right now. I’ll just highlight a few, but all of our work meets our overall objective at TCAT to advance knowledge and evidence to build support for safe and inclusive streets for walking and cycling.
- We’re working on a new book about Complete Streets: Evaluating Complete Street Transformations in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. In collaboration with Dr. Raktim Mitra at Ryerson University and Dr. Paul Hess at the University of Toronto, with funding from the Places to Grow Implementation Fund, TCAT is working on a book that profiles 8-10 recent Complete Streets in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. This project builds on the Complete Streets Catalogue and Evaluation Tool that we released last year. This will be a very visual resource with infographics, maps, before/after images, and section drawings and that documents key characteristics and outcomes of these new street designs. The book will be finished this spring. Stay tuned for the launch!
- We will launch two bike hubs in Scarborough this spring. Scarborough Cycles: Building Bike Culture Beyond Downtown. This is an ambitious project that TCAT is leading in close collaboration with the Toronto Cycling Think & Do Tank at the University of Toronto, Cycle Toronto and CultureLink, with funding from the Metcalf Foundation’s Cycle City program. Last fall our research team identified two areas in Scarborough with strong potential for increased cycling. We are very close to announcing the two chosen “hub” locations, where we will use targeted interventions to increase and support cycling. Bike hubs are physical workspaces that provide community members with free access to bicycles, tools, repair clinics and other activities. One of the things that I love about this project is that it allows us to really delve into what is actually happening at ground level outside of the downtown. It can be easy to just write off the suburbs because there’s this common belief that everybody has to drive because everything is so spread out. But looking more closely at what’s actually happening we found that there are a lot of Scarborough residents who don’t have access to a car and that about half of car trips are under 5 km. So we think there’s lots of potential in Scarborough for cycling and we look forward to hitting the streets this summer and helping to make it happen.
- Bike Lane Impact Study in Toronto’s Annex and Korea Town Neighbourhoods. dandyhorse readers are probably aware that City staff is planning a bike lane pilot project for this coming summer on Bloor Street between Shaw Street and Avenue Road. At TCAT we are studying the travel behaviours and the attitudes of both customers and business owners before and after the pilot lane is installed. This builds on TCAT’s previous research on this topic (2009, 2010, summary) as well as at Ryerson (2014). These studies showed that the vast majority of customers shopping at businesses on Bloor and Danforth are arriving by foot, bike or public transit. Not only that but they are spending more money and visiting more often than drivers. This lays the foundation for a very strong case for installing bike lanes on these streets, as does lots of other research that has been done since then in other cities. Our initial research design for these studies, back in 2008, was to do the study before and after a bike lane was installed. However there’s been a significant delay in getting these lanes installed so only now do we have the chance to do the study in the way we had originally intended. Dr. Beth Savan and her team at the University of Toronto were instrumental in getting the support of community groups and funders. Our results will be published in early 2017.
In addition to our ongoing project work, I’m also on advisory groups for the City’s Complete Streets Guidelines and the Road Safety Strategic Plan. Both are expected to be completed in 2016 and they are both critical initiatives that are expected to change the “business as usual” approach to transportation in Toronto.
With the new guidelines we should see cycling and pedestrian improvements included as a matter of course whenever a street is redesigned. With the road safety strategic plan it should include targets for how we are going to reach zero road fatalities aka Vision Zero. Every year, on average, there are 33 pedestrians and cyclists killed and over 3,000 injured (that’s six pedestrians and three cyclists injured every day!) It will be challenging to turn these numbers around, but it’s arguably one of the most important issues that the City is tackling right now that will drastically improve the lives of Torontonians. At TCAT we’ve been working hard for almost 10 years now to get these types of policies adopted that prioritize a safer and more enjoyable walking and cycling environment, so it’s rewarding to see them coming to fruition.
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