New lights are being installed west of the busy pedestrian and bike bridge
Four years after the Peace Bridge opened, the city is installing a crosswalk and lights to the west of the span, allowing access across Memorial Drive at 9th Street.
“People don’t have to worry about crossing through the road where there are cars driving,” said city spokesperson Pooja Thakore. “Having the signal will make it much safer for people driving and walking, it’s a more predictable experience.”
She said an average of 200 people jaywalk in that location every day.
Pam Tzeng, who took advantage of a break in traffic to run across Memorial Drive on Saturday, is happy to hear about the lights.
“I’m super excited, I will no longer have to jaywalk,” she said with a laugh.
Not everyone is happy about the new lights, however.
“I think we have two walkways already and we don’t need a third walkway on Memorial Drive,” said Wendy Hansen.
“If people just obeyed the traffic signals that are there, that children already learn in Kindergarten, Grade 1, 2, 3…. We don’t need it.”
Construction on the project has already begun and is expected to be finished by the end of fall.
The giveaway is part of a broader effort by two officers to boost safety and bridge rifts between cops and community in Lawrence Heights.
Mugdaba Ullah, 4, can’t believe his luck. First training wheels on his “supercycle,” now a flashy, fire-toned helmet.
“Two peez gave me a bicycle hat,” he says, busting out his nickname for “police.”
“Mine has Snow White and Cinderella,” notes his sister Nagina, 5.
The two “peez” pals, Constables Mir Lodhi and Wayne Clarke, have been giving bike helmets to kids around the Lawrence Heights area where they walk the beat as neighbourhood officers. Launching the effort last month after seeing scores of tike bikers without headgear, the duo has doled out more than a dozen helmets to boost safety and bridge old rifts on streets where distrust of law enforcement lingers.
Two factors lie behind the dearth of noggin shells, Lodhi says: cash and awareness.
“It’s mostly financial. They can’t afford to go out and spend 30 or 40 bucks,” he says of families in a neighbourhood identified by the city as a “priority area” until 2013.
Education plays a role, too. Whenever Lodhi and Clarke ask young cyclists where their helmet is, “They’re either shocked or they didn’t know they had to have one.”
A city bylaw requires all cyclists under 18 to wear a helmet.
“We just explain — to the kid and to the mom or the dad — how unsafe it is to ride without protection, and that it’s the law,” says Clarke.
The pilot project, launched informally by Clarke and Lodhi last month, complements other efforts such as taking kids for a ride-along to buy a slushy, or co-ordinating a makeover between teens and a Yonge St. aesthetician.
Lodhi arrived in Lawrence Heights in the fall of 2013 to help spearhead the Toronto Police Service’s new neighbourhood officer program to help heal “50 years of mutual distrust between police and the community.”
Less than three years later, he and Clarke are ambling along the streets, bouncing basketballs back and forth with children and razzing tweens.
“Looking good on those blades, Romario,” Lodhi says. “Yeah, but D’Andre’s getting cocky with his skills on the court,” Clarke chirps.
Lodhi says the effort has led to healthier relationships and heightened safety, as well as tips that have helped resolve crimes.
“We realize that we may not be able to work with certain people that already have their minds made up, but we want to work with the next generation, and this is how we get them.”
While helmets are critical, infrastructure such as segregated bike lanes and lower speed limits can prevent injuries and save more lives, says Pat Brown, a road safety advocate and head of Bike Law Canada.
“Even at slow speed, slight contact with someone who’s cycling can mean death,” Brown said. “Cycling shouldn’t be considered a contact sport.”
Last year, the city imposed lower speed limits on hundreds of kilometres of residential streets downtown and in East York in a bid to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Meanwhile, bike lanes await installation in a Bloor St. pilot project going into gear by the end of the summer.
Toronto police have faced criticism recently for apparent victim-blaming in fatal cycling accidents.
On July 5, spokesman Const. Clinton Stibbe told reporters a biker pedalling at a high speed did not “approach the area with enough care,” resulting in the 71-year-old’s death near the intersection of Christie St. and Dupont St. Stibbe apologized over Twitter for his remark the next day, noting the cyclist had the right of way.
“Historically, we’ve seen a tendency to look at the cyclist or pedestrian first, and second at the driver. We think that comes across as a form of victim-blaming and sends the wrong message to the public,” said Brown.
He noted police are “active participants with safety and cycling, especially with the younger generation.”
It’s a Monday afternoon and with nowhere else to go, an Edmonton cyclist weaves through throngs of office workers on a downtown street. There are close calls as the man, wearing a dress shirt, slacks and no helmet, inches between pedestrians.
Beside him a six-lane boulevard is busy with pickup trucks and SUVs.
There’s nowhere else for the cyclist to go because Edmonton is the largest Canadian city without a single dedicated bike path downtown.
While Vancouver is rolling out a bike-share program and Calgary finished a downtown network of bike paths last summer, the car is still king in Edmonton. The city’s first downtown bike path will not be finished before 2020, based on current plans.
Frustrated cyclists and local politicians bemoan a city government lacking ambition. They point to the contrast between what Mayor Don Iveson has accomplished and his progressive image. The young mayor championed active transportation three years ago when he ran for office, but now he has overseen the removal of four bike paths.
“By all accounts, Edmonton has fallen behind and we need political will to move forward,” Councillor Scott McKeen said in an interview from his office in City Hall. “We’ve been doing this in a really half-arsed way.”
Catherine Kloczkowski, a spokeswoman for the city, explained via e-mail that Edmonton’s cycling infrastructure is being built in conjunction with efforts to rebuild streets in neighbourhoods. “This is a unique program for Canada in that all the roadway infrastructure is rebuilt along with the installation of cycling infrastructure.”
It’s far too little for Mr. McKeen, who represents much of downtown Edmonton and is in his third year on city council. In early July, he pushed through a motion to shake up how the city builds bike paths. Stantec, the Edmonton-based engineering giant, has offered to pay for half the cost of studying how to build a network of temporary bike paths in the city.
The company, which did not respond to a request for comment, has hundreds of workers in the city’s downtown. Many of them would like a safer way to bike to work, Mr. McKeen said.
The councillor said he is aiming to have kilometres of concrete barriers and plastic bollards thrown down by the fall. It would be a complete about-face from how the city does things now.
Showing clear irritation as he spoke, Mr. McKeen questioned why it takes the city six years to fund and build a single dedicated cycling path, which he mockingly called a “feat of engineering.”
Edmonton residents are spread out over nearly 700 square kilometres and the sprawling capital is knitted together by ample roads. Gasoline is typically the cheapest in the country. Winters are long and cold. And perhaps most important, while downtown has a skyline of tall buildings, most of the city’s jobs are actually spread out in a manufacturing belt and shopping districts that ring the city.
The biking situation has only gotten worse during Mr. Iveson’s time in office, said Chris Chan, the executive director of Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Society.
One move he cites is the decision to erase four new bike paths in 2015. Edmonton city councillors argued that the 14 kilometres of painted bike paths were in the wrong place and motorists complained that no one was using them. While Mr. Chan said the paths, which ran through suburban and industrial areas, were not exceptional, the millions of dollars spent removing them sent the wrong message.
In their place, council has approved plans to build two new bike lanes by the end of the decade, totalling nearly eight kilometres.
“There’s a frustration at the pace we’re going. Not only at the removal of bike lanes, but that it’ll take another four or five years for the partial completion of two bike paths. It feels like I’ll be dead before there’s a bike network in Edmonton,” Mr. Chan said.
Beyond the removal of the bike paths, there have been a number of grievances brought up by cyclists under Mr. Iveson’s watch. One of the few footbridges in the city is being torn down to make way for a new light rail line and the installation of suicide barriers on the city’s main bridge has made a shared path dangerously narrow, according to many cyclists. The mayor admitted as much when he suggested last week that cyclists should consider walking their bikes across the one-kilometre span. He soon backtracked after howls of protest.
“There’s a fear of upsetting motorists, that’s what it comes down to. They’re really timid around cycling infrastructure,” Mr. Chan said of the city government.
There’s a disconnect in Edmonton between the city’s plan to build dense, walkable communities and how it actually spends money, said Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s former chief planner. Mr. Toderian came to Edmonton in February at the city’s invitation to speak about how it’s doing.
“The city has an A grade for vision and a C grade for follow-through. There’s a wavering when it comes to the tough choices,” Mr. Toderian said in an interview.
The city’s budget for walking and cycling is a rounding error in the road budget, he said, a problem compounded by a city that lacks urgency. “They’re taking one step forward and two steps back,” he said. “Other cities are doing more, smarter, faster.”
That the city tore out bike lanes without replacing them “speaks volumes,” Mr. Toderian said.
“In the context of a global revolution in urban biking, they’re making small steps slowly,” he added. “Edmonton could change its sign from City of Champions to City of Roads.”
There isn’t a plan in Edmonton calling for a citywide system of bike paths. A 1992 plan called for a 500-km grid of painted paths across the city, but it never received enough funding and many of the paths that were built do not connect to each other. A rethink in the mid-2010s to shift away from painted bike lanes led to the current plan for two real paths, near the city’s two main thoroughfares, Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue.
David Shepherd is the New Democrat MLA for downtown Edmonton. A cycling advocate, he often bikes to the provincial legislature in his suit – he says it’s the fastest way to get to his seat. He admits that it can be harrowing and says that a rear-view mirror is indispensable on his bike to feel safe in traffic.
“I’ve been cycling back and forth to work year-round for about five years. At this point, I’m pretty comfortable with most of what’s there, but I’ve certainly had the occasional close call with drivers. I’d love to see decent cycling infrastructure downtown sooner rather than later,” he said.
Over the past decade, 14 cyclists and 78 pedestrians have been killed on the city’s roads, and nearly 5,500 have been injured.
With much of the staff at his constituency office now biking as well, Mr. Shepherd said many of the city’s downtown bike racks are busier than ever. But he admitted that the city has to overcome resistance from some drivers.
“Not seeing a lane completed until 2020 is frustrating to riders.”
The TTC’s new policies have caused confusion for some passengers and parents.
The TTC board approved major changes to its fare policies Monday that will affect the Red Rocket’s young riders. The new rules, which would come into effect next year, include requiring children as young as 6 to use Presto fare cards. Children 10 to 12 would have to have photo ID in order to ride free, while teens from 13 to 19 would have to have photo ID to access the discounted youth fare.
The new policies have caused confusion for some TTC users and their parents. Here’s what you need to know.
Why is the TTC doing this?
One reason is to combat fare evasion. Since March 2015, children 12 and under have been able to ride free, but the TTC suspects teenagers are abusing the system to avoid paying fares. Having youth around 12 years of age carry photo ID would solve that.
Because fare evasion costs the TTC money, chief customer officer Chris Upfold framed the rules as a way to ensure the agency can “protect” free rides for young riders. “Because if it gets to a stage where it actually becomes unsustainable, then people are going to lose that discount,” he said.
The other reason is Presto. The TTC will have installed automatic fare gates at all subway stations by mid-2017, and fare collectors will be phased out. Because the gates won’t open without a Presto card, any child too big to go through the gate with a parent will need a card in order to physically enter the station.
Will children 12 and under still be able to ride without paying a fare?
Yes. But while nothing would change for children 5 and under, kids aged 6 to 12 would need a Presto card, which costs a $6 administrative fee. Children aged 10 to 12 will also need to pay about $5 to $7 for TTC-issued photo ID.
Will children in the same family each need their own card?
Yes. For children 10 and older, their cards would include their photo and would be non-transferable. Children aged 6 to 9 could share a card, but not if they are travelling together.
Will children aged 6 to 9 need a Presto card to ride buses and streetcars?
Although surface vehicles won’t have Presto gates and children will be able to physically board without using a fare card, the TTC will ask them to tap their cards on buses and streetcars because doing so provides the commission with valuable data used in service planning. “We would encourage them to tap because it gives us information, but it’s not necessary,” said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.
How will children get Presto cards and photo IDs?
Details have yet to be worked out, but the TTC hopes the application process will be entirely online. To prove eligibility for the discounted fares, families would have to provide the TTC with proof of the young transit riders’ age, such as a birth certificate or passport.
Instead of the old system, under which photographers visited schools to take student ID photos, pictures of young riders would be submitted online. The photo IDs for all age groups wouldn’t be a separate document, but would appear on the Presto cards themselves.
Will kids have to get new photos every year?
No. Youngsters would need new photos three times, at 10, 13, and 16 years old. The ID at 10 ensures they can ride free until they turn 13, at which point they need a new ID to access the discounted youth fare. While teens are eligible for the youth discount until they turn 20, a TTC report notes a “13-year-old can change in appearance significantly over this period,” so they would be required to get an updated photo at 16.
What happens if a child loses the card?
Presto cards for young riders would be registered with the TTC. If a card is reported lost, the agency would put it on a “hot list,” which would render it invalid. Children (or their parents) would have to go through the application process again to get a new card, but any outstanding balance on the lost card could be transferred to the new one.
This is what section 166 of the Highway Traffic Act states about passing streetcars:
Passing street cars
Standing street car, etc.
166. (1) Where a person in charge of a vehicle or on a bicycle or on horseback or leading a horse on a highway overtakes a street car or a car of an electric railway, operated in or near the centre of the roadway, which is stationary for the purpose of taking on or discharging passengers, he or she shall not pass the car or approach nearer than 2 metres measured back from the rear or front entrance or exit, as the case may be, of the car on the side on which passengers are getting on or off until the passengers have got on or got safely to the side of the street, as the case may be, but this subsection does not apply where a safety zone has been set aside and designated by a by-law passed under section 9, 10 or 11 of the Municipal Act, 2001 or under section 7 or 8 of the City of Toronto Act, 2006, as the case may be. 2006, c. 32, Sched. C, s. 24 (6).
“Take Time to Check” education and enforcement initiative, Tuesday, July 12, 2016 to Thursday, July 14, 2016 during morning and evening rush hours
From Tuesday, July 12, 2016 to Thursday, July 14, 2016, Toronto Police Service Traffic Services, in partnership with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), will be conducting the “Take Time to Check” safety initiative. Officers will be patrolling the main streetcar lines in the downtown core, during the morning and evening rush hour commute times, focusing on offences which occur in relation to streetcar-serviced stops.
Approximately 64,000,000 passengers use TTC streetcars every year. The Toronto Police Service would like to remind all road-users of the laws governing passengers getting on and off streetcars.
The “Take Time to Check” initiative is designed to promote the education and awareness of all road-users, focusing on the safety of transit-users.
The need to be aware and alert at all times on any road, and even in the most routine circumstances, is a key component to moving through traffic safely. This applies to pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, and transit-users alike. We ask those who drive to take extra care on the roads. If passengers are getting on or off streetcars, remember that, as a vehicle operator, you must stop before reaching the doors of the streetcar.
This promotes pedestrian safety and reduces the likelihood of a collision.
At streetcar stops, wait for the streetcar to stop and open its doors, and then look left. When approaching traffic has stopped, step on to the street and walk directly to the streetcar. When exiting, look right to ensure traffic has stopped and walk directly to the sidewalk.
General driving tips:
– scan to identify pedestrians entering the road from curbs or when approaching intersections, or TTC stops – be ready for the unexpected – avoid using distracting devices – leave at least 2-3 seconds following distance between you and vehicles ahead
During this initiative, all road-users will be subject to various education and enforcement actions. Let’s all work together to make your daily commute a safe one.