Inspired by last year’s Parkdale-Roncesvalles Cycling Town Hall in Ward 14 and Ward 30's bike summit in 2013, Cycle Toronto’s Ward 28 group hosted their own town hall.
Story and Photos by Robert Zaichkowski – May 6, 2017
On May 4th, the same day as Jane Jacobs’ birthday, Star Wars Day, and the one year anniversary of city council approving the Bloor pilot project Ward 28 gathered for a town hall meeting. Not even the persistent rain and flood warnings could stop roughly 30 community members from coming together at the Regent Park Community Centre on Shuter Street!
With Peter Rogers as the emcee, he welcomed community members from diverse neighbourhoods such as the Distillery and Canary Districts, Corktown, and Cabbagetown, as well as introduced the five keynote speakers. Those were Ward 28 Councillor Pam McConnell, Ontario Environment Minister and MPP Glen Murray, Ajandan Sivam with MP Bill Morneau’s office, Shawn Dillon who is the new Manager of Cycling Infrastructure and Programs, and Kristin Schwartz of CultureLink.
The evening's hosts and speakers (from l-r): Peter Rogers (Cycle Toronto Ward 28), Shawn Dillon (Manager, Cycling Infrastrucutre & Programs), Kristin Schwartz (CultureLink), Glen Murray (Environment Minister & MPP for Toronto Centre), Ward 28 Councillor Pam McConnell, Ajandan Sivam (from Toronto Centre MP Bill Morneau’s office)
McConnell reflected on how cycling is a lifestyle central to Ward 28 and asked those who thought cycling was only for summer to come to her deck and look down. She acknowledged Cycle Toronto (which provided a grant for the town hall) as important city builders who helped bring Ward 28 from the outrage over Gerrard Street to new cycling facilities on Queen’s Quay and Richmond-Adelaide. Murray credited McConnell as the “Johnny Appleseed of Cycling” to some laughter and declared there is no better choice to fight climate change than cycling. He highlighted his and Eleanor McMahon’s work on the #CycleON strategy, Bill 6 which required roads to factor in all road users, and the need for a sustainable cycling program beyond the up to $225 million available through the cap and trade program. Sivam briefly noted the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, which saw over 300 projects get funded in Ontario alone.
The engaged crowd at the Regent Park Community Centre
Dillon was only four weeks into his job as the cycling manager at the time and brought reinforcements via Dave Dunn. Dillon focused on the Cycling Network Plan and its development, which can be found on the City of Toronto’s website. For something new, Dillon brought up the Bicycle Parking Strategy to address a key deterrent of cycling. The strategy was launched in 2016 and is to be an eight-year plan addressing both public and private spheres. It will be developed over the summer months with a roll out starting in 2018. Schwartz then shifted the conversation from physical links to CultureLink, which serves 15,000 newcomers per year and offers programs such as Bike to School and Bike Host. She discussed TCAT’s Guide to Safer Streets Near Schools and highlighted a fact about children from poorer families – who walk to school more than those from wealthier families – being at an increased risk of collisions.
Jason from 311 provided some quick facts about the service and how cyclists can benefit aside from fixing potholes. These include getting around road closures, helping visitors get around, and clearing catch basins. Of the 1.5 million annual inquiries, 11 000 concerned abandoned bikes & CanBike (via Parks & Rec) got 3700 requests. For a pro tip, calling 311 gets a faster response than Twitter & e-mail.
The Q&A session brought up the Lower Don trail closures (which will be resurfaced), new procedures for managing work zones, the possibility of pavement patches on Shuter (à la Lansdowne), bike lane parking enforcement, and the maintenance margarita of glass, salt, and puddles. Community organizations such as Charlie’s Freewheels, Regent Wheels, Bike Sauce, Can-bike, and Friends for Life Bike Rally gave brief remarks before some refreshments (courtesy of Regent Park Catering Collective), networking, and a raffle for tune ups from Cycle Solutions, Switchback Cyclery, and Ya Bikes! Thanks to Peter, Donna, Arthur, and Bill for organizing and those wanting to get involved can follow the Ward 28 group on Facebook and Twitter.
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