Illustration: Ian Sullivan Cant
In our latest installment of From the Horse’s Mouth, we talk to Councillor Mike Layton about how bike lanes get made and the possibility of a minimum grid of bike lanes for Toronto. Specifically, we asked Councillor Layton what the new bike lanes on Bloor mean for the minimum grid and why he asked for a report that would require more money to to implement the minimum grid.
Do your homework
I think as a policy (the minimum grid) is good to have, but we have to figure out how it actually works on the ground. Bloor is what we need to focus on now. I mean, every time we put in a bike lane we have to do our homework first and the community has to understand why we are doing it.
In my first four years as councillor, we had to have legislative change for the north-south contraflow bike lane on Shaw. Then, we just didn’t put it in, we knocked on every door to explain it and even if they didn’t like they got to talk to me and tell me why and the Ward 19 Cycle Toronto group helped. They have some great local advocates who really helped us get over some hurdles.
Same with the big Richmond Adelaide east-west corridor; we went out and actively explained at a very local level to all of the constituents that their neighbours are using these bike lanes even if they aren’t, and that it’s all about making it safer for everyone. And I think for the most part both of those bike lanes have been seen as a fairly good success.
Function and design
So when we want to do something like Bloor, it’s about demonstrating community support, with both residents and businesses. And then taking (a) very careful design approach. What works at Bloor and Christie and what works at Bloor and Avenue are completely different things. We learned a lot about Richmond and Adelaide, and that is that we need to move towards physical separation, but that it can still look good, which is in part how how we get more support too.
For the minimum grid, we need to look at what’s missing. We also need to look at where the cycling corridors are. Bloor should be the focus for the next couple of years to make sure we get that right.
Of course, I say that as a councillor who has a lot of cycling infrastructure already. [Here, Councillor Layton listed off all of the bike lanes in his ward.] This speaks to why my motion is so important. (We need to determine) where is that money coming from, what budget is it out of?
Regardless of where the money comes from I think we took a big step backwards by taking out Pharmacy and Birchmount (bike lanes) but I’m told that with the new bike plan we have pieces that will make up for that.
As a councillor with (bike) infrastructure already in his ward, (I can say) we now need to make sure that people are getting access all over the city. Those of us who enjoy bike lanes need to talk to those who don’t have bike (lanes in their wards).
A fast track for funding?
The minimum ask is very specific policy and so it’s the funding options that need (examination). With current funding proposal the funding options could mean the minimum grid is installed a decade from now.
We asked, "What would it take to do it in two or three or four years?" Maybe $25 million? That would get us there a lot faster. So, it wasn’t quite an ask for money, it was just to ask for a fast track option to be included in the report. What we want to see what a fast track option would look like.
(The) staff report will come back as early as April (to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee) and then likely to council. I’m not confident that this committee would vote in favour of a large budget increase.
You know, if the mayor was supporting then we would be better off.
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