January 31, 2018

Let's Talk Road Violence

Despite Toronto city council approving the “Vision Zero” road safety plan in 2016 aimed to eliminate traffic fatalities, road violence has gotten worse. 2017 saw a record number of vulnerable road user deaths at 46 and the first fifteen days of 2018 saw five pedestrians killed. To help humanize the road safety issue, I spoke with Jess Spieker who survived a collision when riding a bicycle in May 2015 and volunteers with Friends and Families for Safe Streets.

January 23, 2018

Bike Painting at Toronto Island

Until this past weekend, I never considered the idea of visiting Toronto Island during the winter. When Artscape Gibraltar Point organized a bicycle painting event called the Bike Island Mural Project, Helen and I felt we had to check it out. We set out on Saturday to Ward’s Island – the only destination open year-round – and were greeted by a vintage bus.

After a short bus ride, we arrived at Artscape Gibraltar Point which has a community garden and was the site of the former Toronto Island Public School and TDSB Natural Science School. Once inside, we found a kid’s bike, two adult trikes, and a wheelchair all with paint dispensers ready to go. A great way to make this activity accessible for all ages and abilities. :)
The painting activity marked my first ride on an adult trike. Despite the added rear stability, these trikes can be a bit unwieldy to steer at first with the front feeling heavy. In all fairness, I also found steering to be awkward when test riding a cargo trike during a past Open Streets event and it was a matter of getting used to the trike. The bikes eventually made their mark using red, orange, and yellow paint. After riding, I found out different colours would be used for the other two sessions that day after the paint dried. Participants were then provided some hot tea and coffee after making their mark.
Before leaving, Andrew Lochhead – Artscape Gibraltar Point’s Residency & Program Coordinator – gave us some information about the Winter Island 2018 series. Five artists were selected as residents for a one-month period with Jeff Nachtigall being the one responsible for the Bike Island Mural Project. Vancouver sound artist Stacey Ho will be the next resident artist with workshops and performances scheduled on the following dates:
  • February 10 (Deep Listening Workshop)
  • February 17 (Island Sound Walk – All Weather)
  • March 3 (Performance)
The other resident artists featured are Simon Pope (mid-February to mid-March), Shannon Gerard (March), and Sammy Rawal (April). The final Winter Island Exhibition will be shown at Artscape Youngplace (180 Shaw Street) from May 20 to June 7.
We then took our bikes around the Island before returning to the mainland. Without all the tourists during the summer months, the Toronto Island felt peaceful to a point it doesn’t feel like being next to a major city. The Toronto Island is worth visiting during the winter at least once; whether it be to check out Artscape for their accessible art programming or capture some unique photos. If you do decide to go, be sure to bring some snacks as the cafés are closed for the season.

Some more pictures of the Bike Island Mural Project can be found on Facebook and Instagram.

Paint away!

Rob Z (e-mail)

January 15, 2018

Budget Balancing Blues

This year’s Toronto budget is an opportunity for Mayor John Tory and City Council to set the stage for this fall’s election with $11 billion in operating expenditures and $25.7 billion in capital projects at stake. Unfortunately, the current plan fails to account for various council-approved initiatives such as low income passes and two-hour transfers for the TTC, as well as the TransformTO climate action plan. All this disappointment to satisfy the Mayor’s desire to limit property tax hikes to inflation. Social Planning Toronto has a good write up on some of the other unfunded priorities, though I will elaborate on the budget’s impact on cycling.

January 05, 2018

Ring the Post on Bike Parking

The first thing that comes to mind for many people regarding cycling advocacy is bike lanes. But what use would a connected bike lane network have if you don’t have a safe place near your work, school, or errands to lock your bike? The lack of bike parking is a challenge many Torontonians face, as do cities around the world. Let’s look at where Toronto stands with bike parking and what lessons can be learned from elsewhere.
Toronto's iconic ring-and-post bike parking

January 01, 2018

2017 … The Calm Before the Storm

A new year has started which will become pivotal for Toronto’s cycling community. Not only is there October’s municipal election with three new council seats up for grabs and a mayoral rematch between John Tory and Doug Ford, there is the June Ontario election which may see the end of fifteen years of Liberal rule. Before worrying about the coming political storm, let’s take a moment to reflect on 2017.

November 27, 2017

Bring on the Eglinton East LRT!

Map of Eglinton East LRT (via City of Toronto)
As with many city builders in the Greater Toronto Area, I am furious at the political games with the one-stop subway extension in Scarborough. City councillors – mostly suburban – repeatedly denied conducting cost-and-benefit comparisons with the original seven stop LRT, while a recent Toronto Star article indicated staff will not reveal the updated subway costs until after the 2018 election. The recent article raises suspicions the Mayor’s office is trying to bury the subway as an election issue with both John Tory and Doug Ford supporting the subway. However, it will only delay the inevitable truth the subway – currently expected to cost $3.35 billion – will exceed the $3.56 billion in available funding and leave nothing for the Eglinton East LRT. Especially if the controversies surrounding the Lawrence Avenue SmartTrack stop prompt the addition of a second subway station.

November 13, 2017

Not Just Bloor in November

Last week saw Toronto city council vote in favour of making the Bloor bike lanes permanent. While that decision grabbed the bulk of the cycling headlines, several other good developments have happened for Toronto’s cycling community. Let’s find out what they are.