As the Provincial Government grapples with a new cycling strategy, anyone engaged in the debate understands that there are no simple solutions or quick fixes. An old infrastructure designed for cars, clogged roadways with users competing for space, and a limited amount of funding make meaningful change at all levels seem next to impossible. Where do we begin? A one meter passing rule. That’s a good start, but not a long term solution. Riding paths that circle the City, although valuable do not get you safely to the store to buy bread, work or go to the local café. The implementation of bike lanes seems to be like trench warfare. Gains and losses are determined street by street, ward by ward, city by city. Exhausting, slow and for the most part disjointed.
However there is hope! It emerges from the forward thinking of our Chief Coroners’ Office. It is not based on specifics, but on how decision makers are to look at things. A new culture perhaps. Its called “Complete Streets”. Words, that to date, are not mentioned in any provincial policy statement, legislation, or standard. An approach that is growing in US. One that has been advocated for the last few years by active transportation advocates like TCAT and Cycle Toronto.
One that now has some wheels. In 2012 the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario released the Cycling Death Review. During the course of the review, various stakeholders including the Coroner’s Office, medical professionals, law enforcement, Toronto Transit Commission, Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO), Ontario Medical Association, City of Toronto, and various cycling and road associations participated.
Following the review the Dr. Dan Cass, Deputy Chief Coroner made his number one recommendation to be “Complete Streets”. The words were clear. “To the Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing a complete streets approach should be adopted to guide the redevelopment of existing communities and the creation of new communities throughout Ontario.”
Shortly after that, the Coroners office released the Pedestrian Death Review. Again, the very first recommendation was “Complete Streets”. “The complete streets approach should be adopted to guide the development of new communities and the redevelopment of existing communities in Ontario. Complete streets should be designed to be safe, convenient and comfortable for every user, regardless of transportation mode, physical ability, or age.”
The concept is not complex. It simply means that whenever we are dealing with our roads, whether it be planning, designing or maintaining them, whether it be in the city core or in outlying suburbs, we recognize equality among the users. The concept of equality among road users has been recognized by our courts repeatedly but not necessarily equated at the policy level.
Many of the Road Design Standards, Guides, Manuals, and minimum standards used by our planners and engineers do not always refer to cyclists or contemplate them as equal road users. Lane widths, road markings, signage, speed limits, hazards, and traffic flow studies primarily focus on vehicles and vehicle safety measures. The province’s entire road classification system is based primarily on car traffic flow. Anyone looking at our roads will see that the focus has been with cars.
It is time to have a new outlook; a new way of moving forward; one that incorporates equality among road users. The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) has had a proven track record of leading North America in reducing vehicle to vehicle collisions. It would be fantastic to engage the same insight and ability to help cyclists and pedestrians.
As the new government takes shape and the cycling strategy rolls along, we need to ensure our request includes [among others] the following:
- Request that the MTO and Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing adopt a PPS (provincial policy statement) that all roads under provincial jurisdiction be planned as complete streets, enabling users of all ages and abilities – pedestrians, bicycles, transit riders and motorists – to interact and move safely along and across provincial roadways and streets.
- Request that the MTO review,revise, develop and implement provincial road design standards, guidelines, minimum maintenance standards and protocols that adopt a complete streets approach so as to ensure a consistent and uniformed approach across the province (that includes roads that are maintained by municipal, regional and provincial road authorities) within one year.
- Request that the MTO review and report the progress of complete streets within the province after 2 years.
As we move forward toward a new cycling strategy, lets’ move toward a new way of thinking. Requests to the MTO have already been made by myself, Albert Koehl, Cycle Toronto, and TCAT. ARC, Hoof and Cycle and the United Senior Citizens of Ontario have also supported Complete Streets at the Coroners Reviews. The United Seniors Citizens of Ontario, who represent over 300,000 seniors have passed a resolution in August of 2012 calling on the province to implement complete streets as set out in the Coroners Review. It would be great if other stakeholders, including associations, cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers make a similar request.
Ministry of Transportation of Ontario
Transportation Policy Branch
Ministry of Transportation
777 Bay Street, 30th floor
Toronto, ON M7A 2J8
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Municipal Affairs and Housing
777 Bay Street, 17th Floor
Toronto, ON M5G 2E5