The cancellation of an east-west bike lane across the east mountain leaves that area with no alternatives either in place or promised in the cycling master plan. The veto power invoked by the ward councillor to block the Queensdale Avenue route wasn’t specifically provided for in the council resolution or in the debate that led up to it but seems to have become an accepted practice.
Tom Jackson cancelled the 3.2 kilometre route last year despite its inclusion in the approved master plan and the Queensdale Avenue reconstruction went ahead without it. Jackson’s opposition to commuter cycling facilities could threaten three other approved bike lanes in his ward.
The master plan went before the city’s public works committee in June 2009 prompting Jackson to voice some concerns. Initially he askedif voting for it would mean “that I’m supporting what looks like about 300 or more cycling links that have been highlighted in this report.”
Traffic chief Hart Solomon replied that “the intention is to implement the network as shown” but noted that at the master planning stage “you can’t perceive every circumstance, every constraint, that you’re going to run into”.
Jackson said the response made him “nervous” and asked if staff would push ahead if “there’s feedback from community” and “they feel overwhelmingly it’s just not going to work”, or would staff be willing to abandon some proposed lanes. Solomon indicated a willingness to do so, but stressed the importance of “continuity” in the cycling network.
“It’s sort of the weakest link in the chain approach. If there’s a kilometer or kilometer and a half the cyclist doesn’t feel comfortable riding, he will not make the journey,” he explained. “But having said that, we depend on the support of the members of council and council as a whole in implementing this and will simply, as the note up there says, on contentious issues we’re going to work with you and try and work our way through this.”
“At the end of the day, if it’s simply not possible then the plan will have to be revised,” Solomon continued. “There’s a possibility after 5 years we’ll revise, certainly after 10, and we’ll have to revise the plan to find alternate routes to achieve the continuity we need in the network.”
Jackson went on to repeat that he was “just not detecting a clamouring from a large number of our citizenry from a commuter standpoint to spend the money, taxpayer money, to convert a lot of our road network”, although he was supportive of strictly recreational trail development. He subsequently sought an alteration to the staff request for endorsement of the master plan.
“Could I respectfully suggest that after the word ‘endorse’ could I put in an amendment conditional upon individual links being subject to community feedback in consultation with the ward councilor in affected neighbourhoods,” he moved. “That captures what Mr. Solomon said to me in response, but I want to put that in writing.”
It’s apparently that wording that led Jackson to order city staff to cancel the Queensdale bike lanes after taking a “straw vote” at a neighbourhood meeting last April. Prior to organizing that meeting – attended by about 40 people, some of whom supported the lanes – the councillor had attempted to put off “bike markings” until after the re-construction work on the road.
At this point, the only bike lanes in Jackson’s ward run along Stone Church Road and had been put in place prior to the adoption of the cycling master plan. Recreational pedestrian/cycling routes are in place on a rail trail running along the eastern edge of the ward and through conservation lands near Albion Falls.
North-south lanes are proposed for Upper Ottawa and Upper Sherman, plus a short east-west section at the eastern end of Limeridge Road, but none of these have are currently at an active planning stage. The “building the bike network” page on the city’s website lists projects “in the works” and being planned as well as a category of “projects not proceeding” that contains just one line: “Queensdale Avenue – as councillor approval was not granted”.
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