City council will vote Tuesday on controversial plans to remove two lanes of traffic at Yonge and Sheppard and replace them with bicycle lanes.
Although the plan will make the area safer for cyclists, two fewer lanes means traffic will be slightly slower.
Toronto Mayor John Tory is opposed to the idea of narrowing Yonge street, fearing the changes may cause issues for commuters. Instead, he wants the bike lane to be added to a nearby street (Beecroft Road) so traffic continues to flow down Yonge while still making cycling an option in North York.
Aristotle Christou, a longtime Willowdale resident and planning policy development manager of The Christou Group, agrees that bike lanes don’t belong on the highway.
“The city’s so-called experts are myopic and they are the cause of much of the current gridlock and congestion throughout Toronto. They don’t know how to manage traffic,” Christou said.
An open letter addressed and sent to mayor Tory and city council from a group calling themselves the ‘City Builders’ urges council to vote in favor of the addition of the bike lanes.
The letter is co-signed by over a dozen of the city’s major urban thinkers such as former Toronto mayor David Crombie, former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat and prominent urbanist Richard Florida . It points out that this is a “once in a generation opportunity” that goes far beyond bike lanes.
“The “Transform Yonge” proposal is not about bike lanes; it’s about the health and vitality of this growing urban centre. Reducing one lane of traffic in each direction allows for expanded sidewalks, greenery, and more space for patios and public life. Bike lanes are part of the package, but they aren’t the impetus,” read the letter.
“Jennifer Keesmaat has left the city for greener pastures and David Crombie hasn’t been the mayor for 40 years” Christou said about the letter.
Pedestrian deaths continue to rise despite the city’s “Vision Zero” pledge, a comprehensive five-year action plan put in place last year. It focuses on reducing traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries on Toronto’s streets.
So far this year, 16 people have lost their lives in the streets of Toronto due to traffic incidents.
Friends and Families for Safer Streets is a support group trying to put a end to traffic violence. The group has planned a “die-in” at Nathan Phillips Square tonight, to highlight the vote city council is set to make.