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Road reductions, bike lanes may be coming to stretch of Avenue Road

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A busy stretch of a Toronto roadway that’s seen three cyclists killed in the last decade could soon have its lanes reduced and bike lanes installed.

Avenue Road, between Bloor Street West and Davenport Road in the city’s Yorkville neighbourhood, was highlighted as a safety concern in a report approved by Toronto’s infrastructure and environment committee on Tuesday.

“There is a history of community advocacy for change on Avenue Road,” the May 13 report notes. “Narrow sidewalks and lack of bikeways, excessive vehicular speeds, and a history of collisions resulting in fatality or serious injury are highly vocalized concerns.”

Most recently, on April 30, a cyclist was on Avenue Road, just north of Elgin Avenue, when he was struck and killed by the operator of a commercial flatbed truck. Two other cyclists were killed in the area in 2021 and 2015.

According to the report, 30,000 vehicles pass through the area every day and 977 collisions have been reported since 2014, not including 22 collisions that involved pedestrians and 23 that involved cyclists, although those did not result in serious injuries or fatalities.

As CP24 was reporting on the issue Wednesday afternoon, cameras caught the moment a driver frantically escaped her car after it was struck and pushed by the driver of a truck on the busy roadway.

A driver gets out of a car being pushed by a truck on Avenue Road on Wednesday, May 29, 2024.

Last summer, the city introduced a speed limit reduction from 50 km/h to 40 km/h to increase traffic safety in the area. The recommendations laid out in the report build on that move and would see dedicated cycle tracks installed on the stretch of Avenue Road, in exchange for a reduction of lanes from six to four.

The report notes that the proposed cycle tracks, defined by the city as separate lanes for bicycles that are adjacent to the roadway, but separated from vehicular traffic, can improve road user safety for all users, “especially for vulnerable road users like pedestrians and people cycling.”

“They create a more comfortable pedestrian environment by providing additional separation between motor vehicle lanes and sidewalks. Providing separated and designated infrastructure for pedestrians, people cycling, and motorists can provide safer conditions for all road uses by separating pedestrians and people cycling from active motor vehicle travel lanes,” the report noted.

Public feedback to the proposed changes has been ongoing for years, with the report noting a mix of support and resistance among respondents. For example, of those surveyed, 46 per cent were supportive of the near-term implementation of cycle tracks while 48 per cent were unsupportive, citing concerns of increased traffic congestion in the area.

To that end, the report notes that if the plan is approved, travel times for motorists would only increase by roughly one minute during peak hours and the total volume of cars on the road would be reduced by 30 to 40 per cent.

That’s a fair trade for Brock Howes of the Avenue Road Safety Coalition, who said he was struck by a bus while cycling in the area two years ago.

“Honestly, it’s one of the most dangerous roads in the city to both walk and cycle on,” Howes said in an interview with CP24 on Wednesday. “This is long overdue and we could have had some preventable deaths if we had not been stuck in bureaucracy.”

A stretch of Avenue Road in Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood is seen in this image on May 29, 2024.

Conversely, Trevor Townsend of Keep Toronto Moving, a not-for-profit organization aimed at rethinking the way bikes and cars share the road in the city, said ‘it doesn’t make sense’ to put a bike lane on one of Toronto’s busiest streets.

“We don’t think it’s a good use of public policy money, we don’t think it’s a good use of tax payer dollars to start putting bike lanes on dangerous busy streets when there are perfectly reasonable alternative streets,” he told CP24 Wednesday afternoon.

The report will go before city council on June 26.

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