Cycling advocacy group hosts community meeting, releases preliminary results of Parkdale Transportation Survey
By Nicolle White
Photos by Rob Zaichkowski and Nicolle White
On April 7, 2016, Cycle Toronto’s Ward 14 advocacy group filled the auditorium of Parkdale Library with dozens of cycling enthusiasts. The full house was a reflection of a cycling community that cares about what’s in store for active transportation infrastructure in the city’s west end and beyond.
The highlight of the evening (for me, someone who is new to the cycling advocacy scene in Toronto) was the presentation of the preliminary results of the Parkdale Transportation Survey.
The survey showed that there are a disproportionate number of business owners who – wrongly – believe that most of their customers are driving to shop. The study revealed that 19 per cent of people bike and 53 per cent of people walk to do their shopping in this leafy and eclectic part of Toronto.
Nearly 700 pedestrians were surveyed, along with 58 merchants — a promising foundation for a study that will be published in full later this spring. Dandyhorse will provide a break down of the report.
According to the survey, merchants estimate that between 25 and 50 per cent of their customers drive, when, in reality, only 4 per cent reported driving.
Politicians from all three levels of government were there to show their support for bikes. City councillor Gord Perks, MPP Cheri DiNovo, and MP Arif Virani each presented their platform for cycling: Virani encouraged bike safety, and advocated education for drivers and cyclists alike to share the road; DiNovo highlighted one of her great accomplishments, the “1-metre rule” and said she “wants to see a car-free city”; Perks delivered both good and bad news, stating that little new infrastructure is on its way, but since the bike lanes have been built, their popularity has been “exceeding expectations.”
Aliza Shupac, Eva Szabo, and Maxine Chan followed the bike-friendly politicians with a presentation on their early research on the Parkdale Cycling Study. Laura Pin and Shupac spearheaded this study with the support of the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), and the Parkdale Village Business Improvement Area (BIA). Volunteers, including Szabo and Chan, who presented at the meeting, and Kevin Hurley and Greg Gapski all helped to gather data for the study.
For business owners still on the fence about supporting bike parking over car parking, the study further illustrates pedestrian spending habits: frequency of patronage show that 37 per cent of drivers spend more than $100 per month, and only 31 per cent visit more than 10 times per month, while 56 per cent of cyclists spend over $100 per month with a higher loyalty rate of 73 per cent returning over 10 times per month.
Notably: Over 80 merchants have signed the Bloor Loves Bikes petition, which has accumulated a total of nearly 10,800 signatures, and is still growing online.
Aside from the general consensus that bike safety is important and cycling is the way of the future, Virani, DiNovo and Perks also shared the same thoughts on funding for bike infrastructure: it’s bleak.
In 2016, Ontario will receive $1.8 billion from the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) Provincial Uploads, as part of the annual funding plan. However, the exact amount that Toronto will receive of this lump sum is still up in the air. Virani posed that the gas tax program, which is dedicated to the city’s transportation, has a chance of getting a large enough share from Toronto’s allocation to actually do some good for active transportation. The OMPF government site forecasted $332 million dedicated to gas tax for the 2015–2016 program year.
The general consensus in the room that night: current funding for public transportation, including cycling infrastructure, is a bad joke. Transportation is largely funded by property tax, and though that tax benefits small businesses in the long-term, it simply isn’t enough to fix our transportation woes. The lump sum may not be much help either, because building roads takes a great deal of planning, and planning costs money. With a fixed sum, rather than a steady income from tax, budgeting is difficult, and conceivably, the money could run out before bike lanes are built.
For now, the best and most immediate things for cyclists on the horizon are a bike box at Sorauren and Dundas West, along with some east-west routes in the Parkdale grid, including:
- Contra-flow bike lanes on Florence Street, between Brock and Dufferin
- Contra-flow bike lanes on Argyle St. connecting Gladtsone Ave to Shaw St.
- “Traffic calming” along High Park Blvd. for bike safety.
Everyone at the meeting was receptive, and offered some suggestions on where to allocate funding from such as congestion tax, parking tickets and toll roads, for example. But Perks said that such a tax would not begin to match what the city needs to make significant changes. Perks’ estimated budget for steady transport growth is $500 million each year. What we’re probably going to see in 2016 is just $332 million dedicated to gas tax, roughly half the amount that Toronto transportation needs.
Parkdale High-Park has all the ingredients to make cycling a priority: bike-friendly councillors, dedicated advocates, volunteers who take the initiative to contribute to this thriving community, as well as realistic plans like the west-end bikeways project already underway. Yes, we’re short on money, but more surveys like the Parkdale Cycling Study, could impact how people see cycling. Even though I’m new to big-city biking, I could clearly see everyone’s passion in this meeting. One thing I know, is that passion affects values; it’s really too bad that you can’t turn passion into cold hard cash.
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