At council last week — during what seemed like an endless debate on a $48-million cycling plan — Councillor Paula Fletcher fretted about the condition of bike lanes on roads like Sherbourne St.
She was so concerned, she put forward a motion that transportation General Manager Barbara Gray create a “dedicated pavement condition, inspection, repair and maintenance program” specific to bike lanes to ensure “safe pavement conditions for these vulnerable road users.”
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It passed 21-5.
The irony of Fletcher’s motion is that it was proof of how little she and other councillors actually bike around this city (a point reinforced by the results of a survey I took of councillors’ cycling habits).
If Toronto is indeed a cycling city, as Gray and city cycling guru Jacquelyn Hayward said in their report last week, it is indeed a dysfunctional and bumpy one.
Readers have indicated to me in recent months that they’ve never seen the city’s roads such a mess as this year.
Now that I’m cycling to work and interviews regularly on my new commuter bike, I have experienced the mess first hand.
My route from home to the office and back does not take me near any bike lanes, except for the last stretch on Sherbourne St.
There are not just ruts, cracks and craters in the roads that could send a cyclist flying, but sunken manhole covers, crumbling pieces of road where there’s been flooding and a hodge-podge of repairs that make many roads look like a patchwork quilt.
Then there’s the endless construction. On Friday, I biked along Crescent Rd., my normal route to work. At one point, the construction paraphernalia — dirt, old sewer pipes, broken orange and black cones and other equipment — made it impossible for a cyclist and two cars to pass at the same time.
Never mind the obstructions created by construction and the workers who seem not to bother keeping their worksites clean. That kind of mess borders on dangerous when one is trying to manoeuvre it on two wheels.
In response to questions to Gray about what the city is doing to make all roads safer, city spokesman Brad Ross sent me a lengthy e-mail indicating that the city is “committed to coordinating construction” so that it “minimizes disruption” as much as possible.
He said in 2019 there is construction taking place on more the 600 Toronto roads with $100-million spent on resurfacing major roads and $70-million on local roads.
The city will also spend about $55-million on maintenance this summer –crack sealing repair, curb maintenance, etc.
He added that city crews have already filled more than 131,000 potholes during the first 6.5 months of the year and will continue pothole repair blitz efforts.
It’s far from enough.
As it is prone to do on so many other issues, our council never lets practicality get in the way of their ideology and those shiny objects they think will win them votes.
Wouldn’t it make far more sense to get the roads ship-shape for all users–cyclists, cars, buses, e-bikes, horses (kidding on that one) and pedestrians — before adding more bike lanes, and certainly not a dedicated repair squad.
By the way, while driving down Woodbine Ave. at 6:30 p.m. Friday evening, I saw only one cyclist using the bike lanes. Guess the “latent desire” for closeted cyclists to come and use them, the term Gray coined at council last week, is not working in this case.
DO THEY WALK THE TALK?
After listening to councillors speak so passionately last week about the need for a network of bike lanes, I wanted to see how many of them commute to work or to meetings during the summer.
I didn’t find a single councillor who rides regularly to City Hall. And many of those who have pushed bike lanes so vehemently didn’t respond to three e-mails asking about their biking habits.
Here is a selection of responses:
Mayor John Tory: Due to a leg injury, the mayor uses a car to get to and from City Hall and events … The mayor will be getting surgery on his injury and hopes to increase his use of public transit.
Frances Nunziata: I drive a car to City Hall.
James Pasternak: I rarely bike to City Hall but bike to my constituency office about two times a week in nice weather.
Jim Karygiannis: I have a fear of riding bikes. Almost got killed on a bicycle back in 1978.
Stephen Holyday: I do not ride a bike to City Hall and I do not drive to City Hall (take transit).
Mark Grimes: I don’t ride my bike to City Hall. My knees can’t take it.
Ana Bailao: I don’t ride my bike to City Hall. I do ride in my community. Most of the time I take TTC to City Hall.
Michael Ford: I do not bike to City Hall. I drive down approximately 80% of the time and 20% on the TTC.
Jennifer McKelvie: I do not ride a bike to City Hall … It is a 31-kilomtre ride that would take 1 hour and 54 minutes. My preferred mode of transit is the Go Train followed by a walk or subway to City Hall.
Jaye Robinson: I might bike to City Hall once or twice in the summer. I travel by bike more frequently in my neighbourhood. I almost exclusively take transit to City Hall.
Didn’t answer: Brad Bradford, Paula Fletcher, Joe Cressy, Gord Perks, Mike Layton, Shelley Carroll, Denzil-Minnan-Wong, Michael Thompson, Anthony Perruzza, Kristyn Wong-Tam, Mike Colle, Cynthia Lai, Josh Matlow, John Filion, Paul Ainslie, Gary Crawford.