BRT is the best option for cyclists

Dear City Council,

I am writing on behalf of London Cycle Link, a non-profit representing hundreds of Londoners who cycle and desire a more bike-friendly city.

After reviewing the 19 projects eligible for provincial and federal infrastructure funding, the best projects for moving cycling forward in London are the 5 core BRT projects. The original BRT plan incorporates important cycling connections and offers a reliable, frequent, and fast transit alternative when cycling is not possible.

There are three transformational cycling improvements that are part of the north connection and Wellington Road Gateway projects. The first is proper cycling infrastructure across University bridge. Earlier this year when the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic, the bridge was safer for cyclists and encouraged many people to choose to ride to campus. This will also be the case with protected bike lanes on a widened University Bridge. Second, the north connection extends cycling facilities from Western University to Masonville. This will offer another great option for North London residents to get to campus and for students and faculty to get to Masonville. Finally, the third cycling improvement is Wellington Road between Base Line and Bradley. Having a safe cycling connection here will make it possible to ride to Victoria Hospital from the south, and for many people to reach the retail destinations along Wellington Road. All three of these improvements will be transformational for encouraging more people to bike in London.

Further to improved cycling projects, having reliable, fast, and frequent transit in London will allow more people to live a multi-modal lifestyle. There are many people who want to cycle when the weather is nice and the destination can be accessed safely; however, there are many other trips that may need to be completed using a different mode of transportation. A rapid transit system will benefit trips along the corridor and any transit trip that can use the corridor for part of the trip. A London with good cycling infrastructure and a reliable and frequent transit system is much more attractive to help Londoners leave their car at home. This will increase the number of cyclists dramatically.

Please proceed with the 5 projects that comprise the original BRT plan. This is the best plan for a vibrant, healthy, accessible London and the best plan on the table for cycling.

Sincerely,

Daniel Hall

Executive Director

Daniel HallComment
Lessons Learned from Bikes on Dundas

On Tuesday, March 5th, London City Council voted almost unanimously to endorse the staff recommendation for protected bike lanes on Dundas between downtown and Old East Village with a hybrid/couplet model through the heart of Old East (westbound on Queens and eastbound on Dundas).


Although the hybrid portion is not the best solution, the protected bike lane as a whole represents a giant leap forward for attracting more people on bikes, for improving perceived and actual safety, and for creating a more vibrant Old East Village and Downtown.


There are many things we can learn from the process and decision that can inform our future work:


  1. Advocacy works - This may seem counterintuitive since we didn’t get the full solution we wanted, but if we look back to the first public meeting, many business owners didn’t want bike lanes on Dundas at all. Having us present and vocal at the public meetings to declare the importance of locating good cycling infrastructure close to retail and cultural destinations gave city staff the support they needed to make it a reality.

  2. Building positive relationships early on is critical - Since the precise solution we advocated for was only detailed after both public meetings had been held, it was harder to garner support from the local city councillor and BIA. Having as many businesses, councillors, and community leaders as possible in support before it comes to a council decision will give us a much better chance of success.

  3. Communicate clear messaging and factual information widely - Misinformation or confusion around what is being proposed is likely; the status quo is always the easiest path forward because it is known and accepted. It’s up to us as advocates to communicate the benefits, illustrate the vision, demonstrate how it will affect stakeholders, and synthesize it all into a cohesive message.

  4. We need a team of people to strategize and support the advocacy process - Advocacy is dynamic and strategizing in real-time is important. We need many voices to make good decisions and be heard. The community of people supporting Bikes on Dundas could be a great start for a member-based advocacy team for future projects.

  5. We have support - There are many people in London who want to see better infrastructure for people on bikes. Through the Bikes on Dundas process we heard support for our advocacy from citizens, business owners, politicians and other community organizations. Let’s amplify those voices!


Although Council has made their decision, and that is more or less final, there is still much work to be done to ensure the project achieves its goals of attracting more people to cycle and improve safety. Here are a few things we need to do in the coming months:


  1. Count the number of cyclists on Queens, Dundas, and King this spring/ summer so we have a baseline to compare to. This will help document the progress that is made.

  2. Create a wish list of any improvements we feel are necessary to city staff’s design and advocate for these.

  3. Ensure  an increased cycling budget for the infrastructure that’s not on Dundas between Adelaide and Ontario (covered by a full road reconstruction project). Early estimates from staff were in the $2 million range, which would be the equivalent of 3 years of the current cycling budget.

  4. Partner with local businesses to help them understand the needs and wants of cyclists and ask how people on bikes can support them (buy more!).


This was a great project for London Cycle Link to undertake, and it was by no means a loss. Changing London from a car-centric city to one that accepts and supports cycling as a viable alternative is difficult and important work.


Thank you to everyone who has supported Bikes on Dundas so far.  We look forward to following this project through to its best end, and to using what we’ve learned in this process to work towards better, safer, smarter cycling infrastructure as we ride on!


Wonderland Road Widening
 

A letter from Dr. Gabor Sass
(published with permission)

I am very dismayed that the city is planning to widen Wonderland Road to 6 lanes. This project goes against not only all of the policies of the London Plan but also against all of the evidence from around the world which says that road widenings don't solve traffic woes. They actually make them worse and decrease the quality of life for the people living along these gargantuan roadways. 

Or are those active transport, public transport, and density friendly policies of the London Plan just window dressing? Does London want to firmly retain its solid reputation as the city of cars and suburban sprawl? Road widening to 6 lanes; 60% of all new build as low density sprawl gobbling up precious prime ag. land; 80-90% of Federal gas tax money spent to repave roads and bridges! Is this what sustainability means in this city? Moving cars more efficiently through the city's streets. 

And I understand most residents, many staff, probably half of council will be behind this plan. Little support for BRT or LRT but there is money for a 6 lane highway through the city. With a sprinkling of separated bike lanes as a side dish, to keep the greenies happy.

I am also very disappointed that the consultation process is not about what would Londoners want done about the Wonderland corridor, but here, city staff have already made up their minds, this is what we are doing, now we just want your stamp of approval. Whatever happened to the new style of consultation that John Fleming brought in for the Rethink and urban agriculture strategy processes? Let the public develop the different options and then together with consultant help we can collectively pick the best option. 

Roads with 6 lanes of traffic and unending sprawl is not the type of city I want to help bring about. On the other hand this is: 
https://www.ted.com/talks/peter_calthorpe_7_principles_for_building_better_cities

More than half of the world's population already lives in cities, and another 2.5 billion people are projected to move to urban areas by 2050. The way we build new cities will be at the heart of so much that matters, from climate change to economic vitality to our very well-being and sense of connectedness. Peter Calthorpe is already at work ...

Hiring Peter Calthorpe and his team might do this city a dose of good.

Sincerely,
Dr. Gabor Sass
Assistant Professor, Department of Geography
The Centre for Environment and Sustainability
Western University

For further thoughts on Wonderland Road, see comments from London Cycle Link’s Executive Director Daniel Hall here.

 
Molly MiksaComment