Deferral of bike lanes on Clearmeadow and William Roe

On March 1, Town of Newmarket Council voted to confirm the earlier Committee of the Whole decision to defer the 2021 Active Transportation Implementation Plan projects until at least the fall, so that they can study the loss of on-street parking as a result of bike lane installation. This means that we will have to wait another year for lanes on Clearmeadow/William Roe Blvd, which will likely delay the 2022 plans for lanes on Stonehaven, KIngsmere, Nellie Little, and Fernbank. (Lanes on Lorne Avenue will still go ahead in 2021 as part of the entire road redevelopment).

We at Cycle Newmarket are immensely disappointed in this plan. On behalf of our group, Peggy Stevens read a deputation to the March 1 Council meeting, proposing that the lanes go ahead but in a temporary mode as the parking issue is dealt with. This compromise was still not enough for Council.

What follows is the text of the deputation, referring to the slide of the Town’s strategic priorities above.

• Good Afternoon Mr. Mayor, Councillors and staff

• I am here this afternoon on behalf of Cycle Newmarket to ask you not to defer Newmarket’s Active Transportation Implementation Plan

• The motion was created “on the fly” so to speak and I am asking you to reconsider

• Please put up my slide – thankyou

• I’m sure this looks very familiar to you – it’s from the town’s website – it is from the Strategic Priorities you established

• Priorities –that means they are very important

• Notice that under the priority Safer Transportation you have listed implementation of the Active Transportation as an ongoing action

• Why am I drawing this to your attention?

• To put it simply, I want to remind you that the Active Transportation Implementation Plan came from you – it isn’t the product of a special interest group – it is your plan!

• Your Strategic Priorities and the Official Plan are like promises to Newmarket

• Please take down the slide

• Cycle Newmarket has supported you and cheered you on as you have worked to provide safer active transportation infrastructure

• Cycle Newmarket is dismayed that you think deferring is even an option

• What is Active Transportation and why did Newmarket develop a plan? It wasn’t to satisfy a special interest group

• And Cycle Newmarket isn’t a special interest group – everything we advocate for is for the betterment of the whole town as outlined in the Official Plan

• The purpose of the Active Transportation Plan was to get people out of cars as the population grew and continues to grow – there simply aren’t enough roads in Newmarket to have everyone getting around in cars

• More of us need to use public transportation, walking and cycling

• In order for that to happen the town has to provide the infrastructure which includes cycle lanes and the town has been doing that and is committed to do more

• Monday past some of you suggested that the town had changed since the Active Transportation Plan was adopted in 2014 as Amendment 11 to the Official Plan– that is true but the plan was developed to deal with future growth which has and is occurring

• The Active Transportation Implementation Plan was adopted even later, in 2018, so I fail to understand your comments suggesting the town has changed since the plan was developed

• This past week I read the Active Transportation Plan in the Official Plan (Section 15.6) – I would like the councillors who think it doesn’t make sense in today’s Newmarket to tell me what exactly doesn’t make sense. I think it is a very progressive document

• Cycle Newmarket is also frustrated by the muddying of the waters by the constant inclusion of recreational cycling in the discussions of Active Transportation

• There are clear distinctions in the Town’s Official Plan which makes numerous mention of connectivity so that people can get to destinations without using their cars – yes, sometimes that is on trails designated for Active Transportation

• Cycle Newmarket has always been honest about our dislike of designating trails as both Active Transportation Routes and Recreational Trails – nonetheless, we will take what we can get

• The Clearmeadow/William Roe Active Transportation Route exists (at least on paper) because it is a collector route which explains why it is busy and why it appears on the Active Transportation Implementation Plan

• Why shouldn’t cyclists have safe access to this route too?

• Certainly, the majority of cyclists who cycle for transportation want cycle lanes

• On street parking is an issue and Cycle Newmarket understands that it is hard for you but deferring the ATIP isn’t the answer

• Our suggestion is that Council study the issue of on street parking

• While Council is studying the issue of on street parking temporary cycle lanes could be painted on Clearmeadow and William Roe to determine just how big a problem the loss of on street parking is

• 15.5.2 of the official plan states that “On-street parking facilities will only be permitted where such facilities do not interfere with traffic flows or create traffic hazards.” – this statement is from 2006 and should be used by Council to update certain roads – I think that’s why the statement exists in the Official Plan

• The Official Plan is a very important document as I am sure all of you know – it guides the actions of Council – it open and transparent and provides citizens with an understanding of where the town is going

• It is definitely time for the town to develop some clear guidelines about on street parking but I don’t think it’s only cycle lanes that might result in the loss of on street parking

• When did buses start to travel on Clearmeadow? It is my understanding that from a traffic flow and safety standpoint there should not be on street parking on roads with buses

• Are there other roads in Newmarket with both buses and on street parking? Should there be?

• Painting temporary bike lanes on Clearmeadow/William Roe while studying the issue of on street parking makes sense to Cycle Newmarket

• And it would be more in keeping with the Official Plan and your Strategic Priority

ATIP Interim Report

Active Transportation Implementation Plan – Interim Report to Council

Distribution Date: October 16, 2020

The purpose of this report is to outline the progress and successes of the on-road Active Transportation Network, and provide some cost estimation for the 2021 budget, and future budgets. The report will outline the progress to date and the future plans. Also, the report will note some of the issues encountered and mitigation measures used to address these issues.

Get the full report here:

Here are some excerpts:

  • To date, the roadway bike lanes planned for 2019 and 2020 are largely completed.
  • ATIP planned routes for 2021 through 2023 are outlined, emphasizing connectivity provided in each case.
  • Lorne Avenue, Clearmeadow Boulevard and William Roe Boulevard on-road bike routes are planned for construction in 2021.
    • The Lorne Avenue bike lanes (Davis Drive to Eagle Street) are planned to be implemented in conjunction with a road reconstruction project.
    • The Clearmeadow Boulevard and William Roe Boulevard routes provide a long eastwest network link.
    • Both routes provide excellent connections and the design of these routes will have to consider impacts at the schools and on-street parking.
  • 2022 ATIP routes are planned to be implemented primarily on Ward 1 roads – Stonehaven Avenue, Kingsmere Avenue, Nellie Little Crescent, and Fernbank Road.
  • 2023 ATIP routes are planned to be implemented primarily on Ward 3 roads – Huron Heights Drive, Waratah Avenue, Leslie Valley Drive, and Ringwell Drive.
  • The proposed Mulock Multi-Use Path (MUP) is outlined. A Request For Proposals has been tendered for a Feasibility Study.
  • There is a section on Lesson Learned:
    • On-Street parking
    • Communication
    • Costs
    • The numbers – increased cycle use when cycle routes are in place; and the reduction in average vehicle speed.

London Rd Cycle Lanes & ATIP

Cycle Newmarket had a ride and photo-op on the new cycle lanes on London Road, Nov 8, 2020. These lanes are an important cycling connection between Yonge Street and Main Street, and to the Tom Taylor Trail north of the Tannery.

Cycle Newmarket on the new London Road cycle lane, Nov 8, 2020

These new lanes are a part of Newmarket’s ongoing Active Transportation Implementation Plan. The Plan’s recent Interim Report is available from the Town website here (pdf).

Cycle Newmarket member Stephen Harper wrote the following to Newmarket’s Transportation managers Mark Kryzanowski and Peter Noehammer.

Cycle Newmarket was delighted to see the Interim Report of ATIP published October 16, 2020. Our group is impressed with the tenacity of both you and Council in maintaining the focus on active transportation as a viable option for the citizens of Newmarket.

We are particularly delighted with the ‘Lessons Learned’ section on on-street parking. It is terrific to see that there is a continued interest in educating residents who have become accustomed to leaving their cars on the street, that there is a greater need for vulnerable road users to travel safely in the community.

In addition, the plans for future construction of Bike Lanes on Lorne Ave., Clearmeadow & William Roe Blvds. (2021), Stonehaven, Kingsmere, Nellie Little, and Fernbank Roads (2022), and Waratah Ave., Huron Heights, Leslie Valley and Ringwell Drives (2023) show that Newmarket is definitely becoming more sensitive to the needs of cyclists in and around the town.

We do have concerns, however. While we are aware that the following is a matter involving the Regional government. we note that there appears to be an insistence on the use of  MUPs on Mulock Drive. We would prefer separate one-directional bike lanes on both sides of the street. Safety is our primary concern. When cyclists need to access the opposite side of the street from the MUP, they must do so by negotiating with motor vehicles which are often travelling at high rates of speed.

Davis Drive is also a purview of the Region. However, we notice that many of the feeder bike lanes noted in your report empty onto Davis, where there is no provision at all (except for sharrows located east of Alexander Drive only) for safe cycling infrastructure.

On the whole, though, this is a very encouraging document. Thank you for updating us on these upcoming projects.

We plan to request leave to make a deputation to council on it in the near future.

Yonge Street bike lanes now open!

Cycle Newmarket is thrilled to see that the bike lanes on Yonge St, part of the Vivanext Rapidway, are now open in both directions. The lanes go from Sawmill/Savage at the south end to Davis Drive at the north. They are separated from traffic by a curb, but join the regular roadway whenever there is a right-hand turn lane.
The route also features left-turn bike boxes. To make a left turn, you go straight through the intersection into a green-painted square which is cut out of the rounded curb. Then you turn your bike and wait for a green light in the direction you are turning. Be careful, though, because you have to merge with cars going straight when you join the roadway on the side street.

Bike lanes coming to London Road!

This map shows the planned bike lanes for 2020.

The Town of Newmarket’s Active Transportation Implementation Plan calls for the installation in 2020 of bike lanes on London Rd, as well as sections of Alexander Rd and Bonshaw Ave. Before doing this, the Town has to pass a bylaw prohibiting parking and regulating traffic for this purpose. When a report on this item came up at Council recently, several London Rd residents made deputations opposing the lanes on the basis that they would restrict on-street parking. Cycle Newmarket’s Stephen Harper also made a deputation, which we are sharing below. Thanks to his efforts, and to Council and Town staff’s recommendations, the London Rd bike lanes will go ahead as planned later this year, providing a vital east-west link in Newmarket’s on-street cycling network.

Here is the script of the deputation:

Deputation to Newmarket Council June 29, 2020 1:00 p.m.

Good afternoon Mr. Mayor, Councillors, and members of staff, on behalf of Cycle Newmarket I am Stephen Harper and I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today on a matter that is very important to us.

Bike Lanes on London Rd.

  1. Why do towns and cities need bike lanes?

According to the CAA there are 7500 serious injuries and 74 deaths of cyclists in Canada each year.  64% of these are on urban roads where traffic speeds are under 70 km/h.   A transportation study in Newmarket found that average speeds were reduced by 4.7 km/h on roads with bike lanes and bollards.    So, our roads are safer for everybody when bike lanes are installed on them.    44% of Canadians say they would cycle more if they felt safer on the roads.   So, we need bike lanes to protect these vulnerable road users and encourage people to cycle in town, whenever possible, instead of always taking a car.

  • Cycling in Newmarket makes sense as a viable transportation option for the following reasons:
  • It is environmentally friendly.
  • Its active nature promotes health and well-being.
  • In a 2016 study done by the GTHA, researchers found that of the 3.14 million trips taken from home 33% are less than 5 km in length, and are classified as ‘cyclable’.
  • Bicycles are vehicles too (see HTA) and are therefore equally as deserving of tax-funded road space as are cars.
  • Cycling lessens road congestion and frequent and costly road reconstruction – (every bicycle being ridden is one less car and far less wear and tear, on the roads).
  • Why do we need bike lanes on London Rd?

Since there are no bike lanes on Davis Dr, London Rd is the ONLY East/West transportation corridor connecting the massive Bonshaw  Ave. neighbourhood and the busy Yonge St Rapidway with Main St N, providing access to shopping and services, the Tom Taylor/Nokiidaa Trail systems and the GO station on Davis Dr.

The active Transportation Implementation Plan (ATIP) mandates that a network of interconnected bike lanes be installed on streets that are being rehabilitated. London Road has been part of that published plan. Reconstructing London Road with the installation of bike lanes should not be a surprise to anyone.

  • Are bicycles popular as a transportation option?

As stated in Friday’s Newmarket Today report by Kim Champion. According to the town’s engineering services director, Rachel Prudhomme, there was a 344 per cent increase from April 2018 to April 2020 in the use of bicycle lanes on Srigley Street. Clearly the  prophetic phrase from W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe is true: “If you build it, they will come.”

The total sales of bicycles sold in Newmarket in 2019 and 2020 from Toys R Us, Walmart, Canadian Tire and Sportchek was 11,490. They project even higher sales this year and next. Tom Zielinski of Bikesports states that his annual sales of typically 1400 bikes are up over 25% since last year at this time. Clearly there is a ‘tidal wave’ of bicycles coming at us. We must prepare for this by making our roads safer for them.

  •  The arguments against installing bike lanes: The desire for on-street parking.                                      

We dispute the claim that London Road residents require on-street parking in front of their properties. Our research determined that on London Rd every house has a 2-car garage and space for 4 vehicles in their driveway from the garage door to the sidewalk. Between the sidewalk and the curb one more vehicle could also fit. Therefore, optimally, each London Road house can accommodate 7 vehicles. We respectfully submit that with cooperative, driveway-sharing among neighbours and the addition of the alternate off-London Road parking areas there is enough residential parking for even the largest of family celebrations.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today. To conclude, bike lanes on London Road will benefit the Town of Newmarket.

COVID-19 makes cycling for transportation an even more important option

During the COVID-19 crisis, the need for our communities to provide safe, accessible routes for people of all ages and abilities to cycle to work, school, and other destinations has not gone away. For the roughly half of all car trips that are under 5km, cycling continues to be one of the most viable alternatives for getting us from A to B, helping to beat the automobile dependency forced on us by the last 75 years of sprawling suburban development. Why is automobile dependency so bad? Simply put, it is destructive to our environment, our economies, our health, and our social life.

COVID has, in fact, shown us that active transportation like cycling and walking have been crowded out by the immense space and expense we have devoted to moving and storing cars in our communities. Now that we need to social distance, “crowding out” takes on a whole new meaning, with walking and cycling routes too full for proper social distancing, and public transit carrying its own risks. It is an immense disappointment that while cities all over North America are temporarily removing traffic lanes in favour of pedestrians and cyclists, Newmarket and York Region have taken no such action. We are grateful, of course, that the already-planned curb-separated bike lanes on Yonge St. are set to open very soon, and we continue to call on the Region of York to expand lanes like these to all arterial roads, the ones that are the most dangerous for cyclists.

This takes us to the of crowding on the mixed-use trails in Newmarket. We have often argued that the trails are not the best option for safe cycling infrastructure. A network of safe on-street or curb-separated lanes is what is needed, with the trails providing an optional link in that network as well as a pleasant route for recreational cycling. Nonetheless, it is still important that cyclists who choose to use the trails respect social distancing rules, slowing down and alerting other trail users (remember: a bell is mandatory in Ontario) in order to give everyone enough time to pass with adequate space. The same holds even truer for sidewalks, where adult-sized bikes are prohibited but which remain a safer alternative for some riders.

Looking forward to a post-crisis world, it will be more important than ever for our communities to create opportunities for safe, environmentally friendly alternatives to automobile transportation. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to get out onto their bikes, not just for exercise, but for essential errands as well. Just make sure you respect other road and trail users while you do.

Pandemic & Shared-use Trails

The COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the fact that shared-use trails do not work for cyclists. There are things the Town and region can do temporarily to improve physical safety for cyclists and pedestrians until permanent infrastructure is in place.

The following expresses the general opinion of Cycle Newmarket, partially in response to Kathryn O’Reilly’s letter to the editor in the Era Banner: “Cyclists Must Respect Other Trail Users”, April 23, 2020, and is based on anecdotal observations of some of our members.

In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, being able to get out on Newmarket’s Trail system, particularly the Tom Taylor Trail, has been an important part of personal well-being for many citizens. For pedestrians, joggers and cyclists, the trails are safe places to be outside while maintaining physical separation. The trails are wider than sidewalks so, if one has to step, run or ride off the trail, it’s onto grass, not onto a road with cars, trucks and buses.

Unfortunately, there have been confrontations on the trails, between pedestrians and cyclists, many caused by cyclists failing to maintain the required 2m separation between themselves and the pedestrians.

Cycle Newmarket believes that these conflicts really highlight the fact that the shared-use trails do not work for cyclists, now or ever. They are too narrow in many places, sometimes as little as 3m wide, and many sections have edges that are in poor repair. We also believe that Newmarket and the Region must greatly expand on the great start they have made with street cycling infrastructure.

There are ways to act now, as the pandemic continues, to provide temporary relief and increased safety to both pedestrians and cyclists. Some examples:

  • Brampton and other places have created temporary cycle lanes on roads that have greatly reduced traffic loads. This could be done now on Davis, Prospect, Mulock and others that could provide true, direct connectivity.
  • Many places have restricted vehicle access on some streets to expand the safe zone for pedestrians and cyclists alike. Nobody should have to step out into a traffic lane to maintain physical distance from someone else. This may not be applicable in many areas of Newmarket, where so much is residential, but closing Main Street South should be possible, as it seems mostly to be used as a bypass for cars.
  • On-street parking could be removed on Regional roads.
  • Speed limits could be dropped to 30 km/h in residential areas, and lowered to 40 km/h everywhere else.

There are many reasons for the Town to beef up its cycle track infrastructure, beyond the safety of the cycling public. Cycling helps us meet our climate emergency commitments, improves community health outcomes, and strengthens local businesses. These considerations have taken on added urgency with the COVID-19 pandemic and the required physical distancing.

Update from May 2: Apparently the Town has been hearing the same complaints, and has developed these signs:

A very positive approach, and cyclists have been seen coming to a stop to let others finish crossing.

The difficulty of getting around Newmarket by bike

Like most suburbs, Newmarket is frustratingly difficult to get around by bike. Residential streets are generally safe, regardless of whether they have bike lanes or not, but few of them actually go anywhere practical, other than those in the grid-pattern downtown core. To really get somewhere–shopping, professional services, work–you need to use the arterial roads, which are actually operated by the Region of York. And these are often unsafe because they are multi-lane and traffic is too fast.
We are making some strides. From the first on-street bike lane on a stranded portion of Bathurst St, we now have lanes on Leslie St south of Mulock, an extension of the Bathurst lane to Davis, and grade-separated lanes on Yonge St from Sawmill Valley to Davis, part of the Vivanext Rapidway. (I’ll blog about my experience on that one once the snow and road pebbles are all gone). We also have lanes on mixed-use Town roads: Harry Walker Pkwy, part of Prospect St, and Main St N. Further, speed limits on arterials have been reduced to 60 km/h within the town limits.
But other arterials present an almost insurmountable barrier to cycling to the commercial and institutional destinations along those same routes. Davis Dr is of course the poster child: bike lanes were part of the initial design for the Rapidway but were scrapped due to limited space. I have nothing against Bus Rapid Transit lanes and wide sidewalks–indeed I fully support anything that is an alternative to driving–nor do I begrudge the plantings that double as low-impact water drains. But Davis Dr is highly unsafe for cycling without bike lanes.
Similarly, Mulock Dr (for which the Town is studying an off-road multi-use trail) is downright dangerous. The issue for both is speed. Drivers regularly move well over the 50 km/h (Davis) and 60 km/h (Mulock) speed limits, and rarely have any regard to the laws that state you must leave a meter of passing distance around a bike. I don’t blame the drivers as much as I blame the wide roads, which encourage speeding, and the overall car-dependent development pattern which forces people to use cars to get anywhere.
The bottom line is, I need to carefully plot my route anytime I venture out on bike for an errand. Sometimes a car is the only choice. Sometimes I have to take a circuitous route to get there. Sometimes I actually choose which plaza to visit based on its accessibility by bike! And sometimes, maybe in the early evening when traffic is a little lighter, feeling a little defiant, I just take the dangerous arterial road. Welcome to Newmarket.