by Markus O'Brien Fehr, Chief of Staff
A new road infrastructure project is presenting an opportunity to create the first protected cycling “loop” in our community. Advancing suburban cycling projects is rarely easy, but growing our cycling network is a critical step towards getting our community moving better, more safely and with fewer GhG emissions.
The City will begin a long overdue resurfacing of Sheppard Avenue East in 2022, starting with the stretch between Bonnington Place and Bayview Avenue. The road will maintain the same number of traffic lanes, but with a smoother surface and redesigned turn lanes, making it more efficient for cars. New sidewalks, new pedestrian crossings and a new cycletrack will also make it a critical part of encouraging more active trips through the neighbourhood.
This project presents an opportunity to efficiently complete the cycletrack started on Willowdale Avenue two years ago. Though criticized as a “bike lane to nowhere” by some, it was always intended as the first step working towards a neighbourhood network. This project will connect the existing Willowdale cycletrack to Sheppard East.
When the Sheppard project is completed east of Bayview in 2024, a complete cycling loop will be in place composed of Sheppard East, Willowdale Avenue, the Finch Hydro Corridor and the East Don River trail. Over time, this network will continue to expand and connect to other corridors, including the Yonge Street cycletrack that was approved with the Transform Yonge plan for 2026.
Getting safer active transportation infrastructure into Toronto’s suburbs encourages active transportation, whether regularly or periodically. Downtown, where bike lanes are common, 31% of all travel is active (i.e. walking or cycling). In North York, that number is only 9%. Even if North York got only half way to the downtown active trip numbers, that would cut local car traffic by 17%. That’s a huge benefit to cyclists and drivers!
This week, the City of Toronto also proposed a plan to bring Toronto to net zero GhG emissions levels by 2040. If approved by Council, we would become one of only three cities in North America to have made this commitment by 2040. To get there, one of the big changes required will involve transportation. Currently, travel represents 36% of GhG emissions in the city. On Tuesday, December 7, at 6 PM the City will be hosting a community consultation meeting to discuss the proposed Sheppard East road improvements (more below). If you’re concerned about a safer community, a more efficient transportation system or a city that has less negative impact on our environment, we need your voices at the table. I hope you will join me there.