Toronto VS Everybody the Mississauga edition
Mississauga's new bike plan is bigger than your bike plan
by Tammy Thorne
“The worst part of my commute is probably Etobicoke - very little bike infrastructure,” says Bart Maclean, a Toronto resident who has been riding his bike to work in Mississauga for the last three months. “Most of my travel in Mississauga is across Burnhamthorpe which has a separated path,” says Maclean, who rides every weekday from his home in High Park to his job near Square One Mall. He says Mississauga is uniquely situated to put in bike lanes, well, everywhere.
“In Mississauga you could put bike lanes everywhere if you wanted to, and it would have zero impact on the amount of car lanes. There’s so much space. It’s a unique situation for a city.”
Mississauga city council has realized that too. They are in a great situation. Mississauga could become one of the top bicycle-friendly cities in the country. And that’s why city council approved an epic new bike plan last month that proposes a new cycling infrastructure network that will be fully coordinated with road construction projects. The network is expected to result in almost 1,000 kilometres of cycling infrastructure over the next 27 years.
When I sat on the cycling advisory committee for the City of Toronto (before former mayor Rob Ford killed most of the citizen committees) I used to ask why the City didn’t install bike lanes on every street as it was being repaved or reconstructed.
Mississauga’s new bike plan is essentially proposing just that: Any upgrade being done on arterial roadways includes separated bike infrastructure in the plans. As they should. The bike plan also puts a focus on safer intersections. To get things started in that portfolio, Mississauga unveiled its first signalized “crossride” this month to provide a safer crossing for cyclists transitioning from the multi-use trail on Winston Churchill to the one on Britannia Road.
Toronto can learn a thing or two from Mississauga, starting with a lesson in accountability. Part of the new plan includes measuring goals such as increasing cycling trips and building the network and regularly reporting back to council on progress. Matthew Sweet, manager of active transportation for Mississauga, says, “We will report on our progress to the public and City Council.” Sweet said they also hope on getting a bike share program up and running.
Councillor Fonseca agrees. “Key to the 2018 Cycling Master Plan is that a step by step performance measuring plan is outlined to identify what is working and what changes, if any, are needed to be made, and must be regularly, annually in some cases, reported to Council, the community and all stakeholders.”
Fonseca, who is also a member of the cycling advisory committee and also takes Burnhamthorpe for a large part of her commute by bike, added that the plan will continue to be guided by community input to ensure that the city’s cycling network is “above all safe, is well connected, convenient and comfortable for cyclists of all ages and abilities.”
Sweet adds, “This plan will allow us to better leverage opportunities to coordinate with projects such as LRT or road reconstruction.” He says the city will focus on providing comfortable bicycle facilities on roadways “including 150 km of recommended cycle tracks and separated bike lanes.” One project of this type is along Hurontario Street, which will occur in conjunction with the HuLRT project scheduled to be completed by 2022. A draft version of the 1-5 year plan shows funding for 40 projects, which would result in about 15 km of bike lanes per year over the next 5 years – including a protected bike lane or cycle track on Bloor street in Mississauga.
Mississauga is setting a great example by showing how municipalities must take leadership roles when it comes to promoting active communities. On July 4, 2018, Mississauga council endorsed an average annual capital funding an amount of $5.3 million, to begin with the 2019 Budget, to fund the cycling master plan.
Maclean, a husband, and father of two, and a cycle commuter in Toronto for 17 years, sees about a half a dozen other cyclists when he is biking in Mississauga, and, yes, he uses the sidewalk sometimes – especially with all the road construction. But, why not use the sidewalk, he asks: “I don’t see any pedestrians walking anywhere.” Maclean suggests Mississauga should learn from Toronto on how to accommodate cyclists in construction zones better.
The worst part of his commute is definitely “the dodgy stuff in Etobicoke.”
“Etobicoke has none, no bike lanes whatsoever…” Maclean says, referring to the middle part of his ride to work. “Etobicoke really needs to step it up.”
Our current premier holds the riding of Etobicoke North. Yep. Still, if you are looking for a glimmer of hope you might watch the TVO Political Blind Date episode where Doug Ford gets taken on a bike ride by Jagmeet Singh. As they ride from a busy street with no bike lane on to street with a bike lane, Ford exclaims:
“I feel safer with the bike lanes.”
Amen, Doug, amen.
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