by Tammy Thorne ~ note: a shorter version of this story appears in NOW magazine ~
The City of Mississauga wants to know: Does Cycling Move You?
DoesCyclingMoveYou? is actually the name of a new public engagement project that asks for input from the public to help create a more bike-friendly Mississauga. The primary goal is get more people cycling in Mississauga. Residents of the fast-growing city just west of Toronto can take part by attending an open house on June 21 or by visiting the DoesCyclingMoveYou.ca to take the survey and add ideas to the map.
The open house on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, is at the Living Arts Centre, BMO Room, 4141 Living Arts Drive. Information gathered will help update to the 2010 Cycling Master Plan. Staff from the City will be gathering and compiling feedback from the public on their website until the end of the year, and in community centre pop-up sessions. There will also be another large public meeting in September. The updated cycling master plan will be presented to council in March of 2018.
dandyhorse spoke to Mississauga's most bike friendly councilllor, Chris Fonseca, and the coordinator for the Cycling Master Plan update project, Pauline Craig, to find out a bit more about where Mississauga is at and where they plan on going -- by bike.
It's looking good for this GTA city of over 720,000 people, many of whom identify as people who bike (or want to bike) for utilitarian purposes.
Notably, Mississauga is not shying away from adding dedicated bike infrastructure to major arterial routes. Indeed, that seems to be a major focus for the updated plan.
Councillor Fonseca (Ward 3), said that the new bike routes that will make the most difference to residents will be one of three: Dundas (which is currently in the midst of a major corridor study), Burnamthorpe, and Hurontario (where LRT will be added.) "There is a lot going on to ensure that cycling infrastructure is included in these projects because they connect with so many different parts of the city," she said.
Fonseca acknowledges that "Mississauga is in a very different situation than Toronto" because that city doesn't have the same density (yet) and "a lot of our network was built specifically for cars." There are many cul-de-sacs that don't allow for those quiet side-street cut-throughs that many Toronto cyclists enjoy. Wider, faster roads also mean that more investment in protected infrastructure will be needed.
But, Fonseca said, "You can see these challenges as opportunities." She said it's crucial to look at all planning projects through a cycling lens when any road is redesigned or redeveloped - and that is exactly what the City is doing now. Fonseca largely credits the devoted citizen-led cycling advisory committee (which she sits on) that organizes group rides, and from which, members regularly attend planning meetings to provide feedback to City staff.
Fonseca is clearly proud of the work the advisory committee does and said the committee is a key part of keeping the public engaged with cycling initiatives. (Note to readers: Toronto lost most of its citizen committees when Rob Ford killed them, but John Tory doesn't seem interested in bringing them back.)
"When we first started the [committee-initiated] community rides, we had about 20 people and 8 routes, created by local citizens. This year we have 28 community rides being offered and about 160 riders," she said, adding that riders range in ages from 10 to 80 years old and about 10 per cent of the riders are first timers. "It's just a great way to get people out," she said, "And, it's a reflection of the interest [in cycling]." Fonseca also said that the student ambassador program in all high schools via MiWay (transit) in Mississauga is working wonders to engage the younger demographic in city planning.
"Mayor Crombie says we are a 'leading edge city' and I really think, in terms of tourism, we are a destination. There's lots of incredible natural heritage here. We need to better promote that."
Indeed, the lake front in Mississauga is beautiful, and the city is dotted with historic, small town centres like Clarkson Village which are destinations. Mississauga currently has almost 50 km of on-road bike infrastructure with the lion's share of bike trails being off-road or multi-purpose paths.
"We were finding that a lot of the infrastructure ends up being multi-use trails, but that’s only one kind [of bike path], and as you know, on-road, separated bike lanes [for cyclists only] are very different from multi-use trails, so we want to make sure this is clear in the updated master plan," she said, adding that coordinating bike lane installs to existing road resurfacing projects is important, as is capitalizing on the province's recent $50 million investment in cycling infrastructure. Dundas (shown below) is one road that will definitely need "totally separated bike lanes" she said, adding that she thinks sharrows are "useless" and just cause confusion for drivers and cyclists alike. Overall, Fonseca said:
"I believe cycling leads to a more livable city and provides connections between neighbourhoods in the city."
A rendering of a complete street style design with bike lanes via Dundas Connects plans for Missississauga.
The City needs to build a safe connected network so cyclists "don't have to think about it" and they can "just get outside and ride" she said. "People cycling have to feel safe. So, we have a long way to go in Mississauga, but getting people out riding, and this updated master plan is really going to help achieve that."
Fonseca said Mississauga City Council does not pit safety against cost. "Safety is first, and council fully supports that," she said. (Mississauga has not yet adopted a Vision Zero plan, but they do have a Traffic Safety Committee that advises council.)
Pauline Craig, the City's new cycling master plan coordinator, said that Dundas Street is one of the most significant streets being reconsidered through a cycling lens now. The corridor is 17 km long and extends from Oakville in the west to Toronto in the east. Draft recommendations for Dundas Connects includes details that show the proposed cycling facility type.
Craig agrees with Fonseca that protected infrastructure on, or adjacent to, arterials will make the biggest impact for people who want to bike in Mississauga.
"Boulevard multi-use trails -- facilities that are comfortable for a broad range of cyclists – currently serve a portion of the population that are not comfortable sharing the road with motor vehicles. A lot of the arterial roads are very wide here, and conventional painted bike lanes are not recommended for higher speed arterials, nor are they very comfortable for a large proportion of cyclists in this context [in Mississauga]," she said. "This is an interesting challenge but also an opportunity for the city."
Craig notes that the updated bicycle master plan will also clarify terminology. For example, when she referred to Boulevard multi-use trails (above) she meant multi-use trails beside major roadways, which is a little bit different than a separated bike lane or cycle track because they are two-way trails and are shared by pedestrians and cyclists. Burnamthorpe is one existing example of this type of Boulevard trail already in use, she said.
"Mississauga wants to create a more bicycle friendly city,” said Craig, noting that cycling is being considered on several proposed projects. One (already mentioned) is Dundas Connects (17 km). The fact that cycling has been prioritized in that plan and the community has said they want to see cycling in the plan is really positive. Next is Hurontario (22 km), where cycling is proposed to be part of the LRT plan. These are long routes and could make a big difference. The third is the Lakeshore Royal Windsor Hydro Corridor trail (8.5 km proposed) that runs diagonally from the southern portion of the city, which would connect to various parts of the cycling network along the way.
Craig said that 2016 from the city’s cycling survey has sampled 1,620 people so far and of that sample 765 said they were frequent cyclist and another 648 identified as occasional cyclists.
Craig also noted that safety is a number one priority in the cycling master plan update. But perhaps most importantly when it comes to "marketing" cycling to citizens in Mississauga is making it accessible.
"One aspect is that a lot of people here are riding recreationally, and that can be encouraged and supported even further -- and by connecting recreational spaces with the network we can create a lot of different options," Craig said.
"We realize that recreational cycling and short trips for errands and that sort of thing, these are easier [trips] to convince people that it's a good idea to try - think of these trips as a sort of gateway. So we want to promote those trips and get people cycling that way, to start."
The idea is that once folks have that introduction to cycling, the next step is to combine those short trips with transit, or bike all the way to work.
"It's got to be something that is easy and accessible and fun -- then we see how we can move that into a commute."
10th Line above and 5th Line below already have basic bike lanes in Mississauga, but the City is now looking to update and upgrade their cycling network to make it more accessible and connected. You can participate at DoesCyclingMoveYou.ca.
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