March 27, 2017
By Arianne Robinson
Toronto council voted to defer the decision to reduce traffic lanes on the northern stretch of Yonge Street from just south of Sheppard Avenue to north of Finch Avenue on Tuesday afternoon, after spending most of the day debating an ongoing study on the issue.
The item was based on an environmental assessment study of the area that considers how traffic will move through this northern part of the city and provides council with two primary options to decide the future stretch of the area. One option is to reduce traffic lanes on Yonge Street with the addition of bike lanes, and the other to put protected bike lanes on the neighbouring streets, and leave the traffic on Yonge Street as is.
In the morning session, councillors focused their questions on a few topics: where traffic comes from (mostly from York region); where traffic would be diverted if moved to Bathurst and Bayview (these roads aren’t at full capacity); and how TTC bus routes would be affected (planning city staff said they will be able to address potential problems in the actual design stage).
Mayor John Tory introduced a motion right before lunch to conduct an immediate safety review on Yonge from Sheppard Avenue to Finch Avenue, and to implement immediate pedestrian safety measures.
Local Councillor John Filion questioned the mayor in council chambers before the break.
“Are you aware that every organization in the city and beyond, that is interested in pedestrian and cycling safety, opposes the Beecroft option and supports Transform?” Filion said, referring to the option to reduce the number of traffic lanes on Yonge to implement wider sidewalks in sections and protected bike lanes.
“I’m aware, through you Madame speaker, that there’s been quite a campaign on to have people talk about that,” Tory responded, “but I’m also aware of the fact that, as we will have to with many streets in Toronto, where we won’t be reducing the number of lanes, there are ways in which – and my motion is meant to facilitate that – there are ways in which we can make this street much safer in its present form because this construction, I might add, is not scheduled to begin for some time, nor is this matter budgeted.
“So, while we sort all of that out, there’s plenty of time to make immediate improvements, which I want to see made on Yonge Street,” Tory said.
The mayor’s motion was never voted on because the deferral motion by Councillor Joe Cressy ended the debate.