From the Horse’s Mouth: Councillor Ana Bailão on Expanding the Railpath and connecting bike lanes in Ward 18

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Illustration by Ian Sullivan

There's so much to celebrate this spring. From last week's council vote overwhelmingly in favour of the Bloor Street West bike lane pilot project, to new lanes popping up across the city, we see growing support from city hall for cyclists. In our latest installment of From the Horse's Mouth, we asked councillor Ana Bailão (Ward 18, Davenport) about her plans for infrastructure, the West Toronto Railpath and the minimum grid.

What are the top priorities for bike infrastructure in your ward this year?

In Ward 18, one of my top priorities for bike infrastructure in 2016 is focusing on making the cycling network more functional at a local level by working to create better and safer connections to the larger cycling network. This includes working to establish a bike lane on Lansdowne Avenue from Dupont Street to Lappin Avenue to better connect to the existing east-west bike routes in the northern part of Ward 18.

I have also been working with city staff and residents to come up with better ways to make the College Street, Dundas Street West and Lansdowne Ave. "triangle" safer for cyclists and pedestrians. These discussions are ongoing but we will be adding sharrows on Lansdowne between College St. and Dundas St. as a first step in this process and will also be installing a bike box to make the turn onto Lansdowne from Dundas safer.

Last year, we saw the installation of the Argyle Street contraflow lane from Ossington Avenue to Gladstone Avenue, a much needed improvement in cycling infrastructure in the southern part of Ward 18. However, there is currently a gap in the network between Gladstone Ave. and Dufferin Street that needs filling before this route is able to connect westwards along Florence Street to Brock Avenue. I have been working with city staff, local residents, and the Toronto District School Board on this issue and I am hopeful that we will be able to secure the necessary easement from the TDSB in order to provide for a seamless cycling connection by making the crossing at Dufferin St. much safer and easier.

Another local priority of mine is working to ensure that the Bike Share Toronto network is expanded into Ward 18 for the first time. Our ward has recently been surveyed as part of the preliminary expansion planning stage and I am hoping that we will be able to secure approximately 10-15 bike share stations to be installed in 2016 throughout the ward.

In addition to looking at other ways to make the network more functional at a neighbourhood level, in conjunction with the Ward 18 Cycle Toronto group, I am focused on securing the necessary funding and support to make the expansion of the West Toronto Railpath a reality for cyclists in the west end.

Would you encourage public works, the executive committee, and council to support the minimum grid?

Yes. Toronto is growing and more Torontonians are choosing to travel by bike. As a result, we need to be looking at a variety of options to create safer streets for everyone. Building a minimum grid of connected bike lanes across Toronto would go a long way to achieve that goal. The collection and utilization of data will be an important part of this process in order help us evaluate where different modes of transportation can effectively and efficiently coexist with one another, while reducing travel times and increasing the safety and comfort of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers in our increasingly growing city.

What is the progress on expanding the West Toronto Railpath southward?

The city recently completed an environmental assessment to determine a route for extending the West Toronto Railpath south from Dundas. The recommended solution consists of a multi-use trail that will be aligned in the rail corridor under the Dundas bridge to Dufferin and on street and adjacent to the rail corridor from Dufferin to Abell Street on Sudbury Street. This has been an important milestone in making this extension a reality and next steps will include community consultation as part of the detailed design process, which is projected to take place later this year.

Metrolinx has committed to incorporating the expansion of the Railpath as part of their work on the Dufferin rail bridge and I have worked to ensure that proposed and currently under-construction developments are integrated into the Railpath extension. Developers are recognizing that the Railpath is an important community amenity which will make our neighbourhood stronger in a time of increased development pressures.

Currently, I am working on securing funding for the extension through the city's budget process and/or through the federal government's infrastructure funding program due to it being a "shovel-ready project". A formal request to the federal government to help fund active transportation projects such as this one will be voted on at the May 2016 city council meeting (ed note: council voted to refer the item to the executive committee for consideration).

More public consultation and study will need to be done on the section from Abell St. to Fort York and I look forward to working with councillor Layton to secure this extension eastward into Ward 19. I am also hoping to start the conversation on expanding the Railpath to the north, providing even more active transportation and recreation opportunities for those living in the west end.

How has the West Toronto Railpath been received by the community?

Since its inception, the West Toronto Railpath has become a much-loved multi-use linear park and cycling corridor for Ward 18 residents and the surrounding community. The Railpath travels along the entire western Ward 18 border and it provides great connections to the different neighbourhoods along its route. At any time of the day you will find people cycling, running, walking their dogs, or just enjoying the outdoors. Over the years with the help of the Friends of the West Toronto Railpath, the community has really come together and been involved in supporting and shaping the programming that takes place on the Railpath.

This award-winning public space is also the site of the annual Railpath Run, and we are exploring opportunities to add more public art along the entire linear park, including the creation of murals to brighten up the space. Work is currently underway by the city and its partners to create a revitalized gateway to the Railpath at the Wallace Avenue entrance, which will feature additional opportunities to animate the Railpath with a new public plaza.

All of these efforts and many other features have helped to cement the Railpath as a vital piece of community infrastructure in the public's consciousness. I am truly excited for what is next and I hope you are too!

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Councillor Bailão at Erwin Krickhahn Park

Photo by Vic Gedris

Related on the dandyBLOG:

From the Horse’s Mouth: Councillor Joe Mihevc goes all out for the minimum grid

From the Horse’s Mouth: Gord Perks on pushing for more from city hall

From the Horse’s Mouth: Councillor Janet Davis on improving cycling in Ward 31

Council approves bike lane pilot on Bloor Street

Bike Spotting: Talking Bloor Street bike lanes

Bikes are good for business: New Lansdowne bike lane announced at Cycle Toronto Ward 18 event

Going with the flow: a system of Contraflow lanes, bike lanes and sharrows planned for Shaw

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