Councillor Pam McConnell supports BIXI expansion
Interview by Sarah Greene
We spoke with Councillor Pam McConnell leading up to our spring safety issue, to find out what is happening in Ward 28 to improve cyclist safety and also asked the councillor what she thinks the City should do about BIXI (Toronto’s bike sharing program) in the face of its financial struggles.
What do you think the City should do about BIXI?
The notion of closing up shop in my view is not anything I would support nor is it good for the City. I think the amazing thing about BIXI is it's got people on bikes, it's got a whole transportation network that we didn't have before and it's attractive to tourists. It's a huge economic driver and a huge tourist attraction and I don't think the City has been thinking of it in that particular way.
In Regent Park the developer, Daniels, sponsored two BIXI stations. I know my colleague Kristyn Wong-Tam is making that recommendation [to allow developers to reduce the number of parking spots they are required to provide if they install Bixi stations] and I think it's a very good recommendation. I think that it might go a long way to getting the kinds of capital infrastructure expansions that they are going to need in order to make the whole system work.
Do you think the City should invest in helping it expand?
Personally? Of course I do. But I think that what the City should do and what 23 councillors will agree to do may be different. So I think that what the downtown councillors are working on, led by Kristyn, is plan B: what happens if we don't win the vote at council? How do we continue to keep BIXI afloat?
Having a plan B helps us to get those 23 votes at council. I will be one of the 23 votes but there's a need for about 8 or 10 that we haven't identified yet.
What is Plan B?
The plan B would be to have developers invest - as with Daniels - in lieu of additional parking you'd have BIXI stations. Kristyn was talking about having them in garages; I wouldn't do that; I'd have them up in the pedestrian areas so that people could continue to use them but I wouldn't require as much parking.
What are you doing to make cycling safer in Ward 28?
The first thing to make cycling safer, particularly in the downtown, is to make sure that we are bringing together the connections. And that we are integrating cycling fully into our transportation infrastructure - making it easier for when we're reconstructing roads to have the roads accommodate all the modes of transportation.
We need to make sure we are not taking people north and south and east and west and have them not be able to connect up with another bike lane - either a path or a lane or what I think is better, which is the discrete lane (separated).
What is going on with the completion of the Sherbourne bike lane south of King?
It will be completed by the Pan Am Games; it will not be completed within this year - partly because of other infrastructure that has to go in lower Sherbourne and then also trying to accommodate the construction of one of the condominiums.
We are also implementing the Harbord-Wellesley street plan – that will make it much safer for people who are currently using Cabbagetown as a quiet cut through and then are coming out onto the busy streets. I'm quite pleased about Wellesley and we just need to move on getting that connection in and that will also help on Sherbourne as well. We will have the first piece of that in place this year (they are starting east and heading west).
What else do you have going on?
The next big discussion will be Richmond and Adelaide. What are we going to do about the report that is outstanding that looks at whether or not we can accommodate bike lanes on those two streets? I can't imagine that we won't be able to. But also more importantly: what is then the route to traverse the river? Where do you go over?
[Eastern and the river] is not like getting to a normal bridge, like over the Dundas bridge or the Gerrard bridge; it's a highway, it's a fly over.
You would be competing with cars that are dealing with this particular part of the road as if it is a highway or a highway entrance.
We are also trying to work on continued connections to the Waterfront.
Sherbourne would be an example but also Bay Street; we are looking at ways we can get people safely across and to the Waterfront. Bay Street is a very important one because it connects directly into the ferry docks.
Editor's note: we spoke to Christina Bouchard (Assistant Planner, Cycling Infrastructure & Programs, Transportation Services, City of Toronto) about cycling on the overpass on Eastern and she explained that although the bridge is not designated as an expressway, and there is no bylaw that would prohibit cyclists from using it, she would not recommend biking over it. "The built form of this bridge and the ramps which attach to the DVP are of a style that suggests the bridge is part of the expressway system," she says. "For this reason, fast moving motor vehicle traffic may not expect cyclists. As a precaution, the City has provided "alternate route signage" (which directs cyclists to use Queen), and signage directing motorists to be aware of cyclists, as they exit the DVP."
In other bike sharing news, the City of Chicago is about to unveil details of its brand new bike sharing program, Divvy Bikes. The number of bike stations it will have will be comparable to Montreal's - 300 by the end of the summer with a goal of 400 for next year (versus Toronto's 80) - read more about it here. Toronto should take note!
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