The Bloor Complete Street Consultation (Etobicoke edition)
April 14, 2023
Last night I went to check out the city consultation on the topic of complete streets that I mentioned in a post I wrote earlier in this week. The event I attended was held at Etobicoke CI.
I had already viewed the website connected to the project and knew a lot about the work behind the plans but I went to the in-person event as I was interested to hear what others thought. I have not hid my glee at the conversations surrounding the idea of improving active transportation in Etobicoke as one of my main advocacy areas focuses on our roads and the safety of all pedestrians in the community. Over the long term one way to make things better is to promote the use of 2-wheels vs. 4-wheels. Not only would an increase in bikes lead to a decrease in cars but the benefits to the health of the climate and ourselves would be worth short term pain while our roads got a much needed redo! Take a look at Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam; this is not a new idea.
That said, I do know this community very well and I understand the forced dependence on cars to get around. Our public transit is unpredictable unless you are right on the subway line and our main roads are starting to resemble highways, not just on local roads but also through residential neighbourhoods. For decades our area has grown but basic infrastructure has stayed the same and are roads were not made for the amount of cars we have today. Add to the local traffic, the commuters from outside the area who are using highway 427 now use local roads to avoid heavy traffic that piece of roadway too. However, the city has done little to improve road design and we still have pockets that have no sidewalks. Lets just say we have a long way to go to make transportation of any kind simple or connected throughout the entire geographic region of Etobicoke.
So how do I go from basic pedestrian safety to bike lanes, simple, its being proactive and looking at the long term. Looking at what is happening in other parts of the city is useful when looking at what is available and how we could plan for the future. It will require change but when everything else is being revitalized for the next generation then transportation needs to be part of that vision.
That all said, lets take a look at what I saw come out of the consultation held at ECI. Please keep in mind that I am making observations here and I am not looking to find the bad or good of what I saw; I just want to bring the facts to you and you can then make your judgements on how the evening played out. I will also say that for a 2 hour event from 6pm to 8pm I was only at this meeting for the second half of the evening.
For the time I was there I would say that at most at any one time there were about 40 community members present in the room. Judging by the parking lot the majority of the attendees did drive to the school and if you are wondering, yes so did I as I do not live close enough to walk and the bus would take forever.
There were locally known former politicians in the room making the rounds who were speaking to people about the project projecting their own negative views on the project.
Many of those who were heard speaking about the project in a negative manner spoke that they were “representing neighbourhoods” and that they had little intention of even considering the possible positives or discussing with city officials what changes could help them see this project in a better light.
There was a contingent of residents present who were truly curious and attended with a willingness to learn more and consider the benefits while making useful suggestions.
A major local concern I learned about was the heavy rush hour traffic that is already a problem on the Humber River Bridge that connects the South Kingsway to Bloorwest Village. The issue that worries many of them is the idea that loosing lanes will make car traffic heavier.
The idea of a proper bike lane connecting to the downtown core is something that those already taking the subway like in theory as a way to avoid the constant overcrowding on the trains.
The community needs more access to discussions rather than just looking at posters and a map. Yes the city officials were there to engage with visitors but very few were active in seeking out to help those who did not start asking questions. I spent almost an hour in the room and not one city staff member acknowledged me in the actual consultation room. The staff at the registration table however were friendly and easy to chat with, they would have been great in the main room.
Councillor Morley arrived a few minutes after me and was busy with people right from the moment she got there. She is supportive of the project and had a really good manner of speaking with community members who are not in favour of the road changes. In my opinion it would be great if she could hold a virtual town hall meeting to help more residents learn about this project who may not have been comfortable walking up to officials to ask questions or who were unable to attend in person.
All in all I think it was an interesting event and one that made me think about our roads in a much bigger manner than just sidewalks and walking. It was nice to be out in person once again but if I had no previous knowledge of the work being planned I am not sure I would feel better leaving the school last night. I do encourage anyone with questions to reach out and I would suggest if anyone is interested in planning a virtual or hybrid town hall, I think you might get more residents on board with support.
In case you missed it earlier today I am running a survey to learn more about the issues that Etobicoke residents are concerned with in regards to the city’s Mayor By-election and that can be found here - Resident Concerns for Mayor Candidates 2023
Have a great weekend!