Yonge St. bike lane battle returns to city hall

The battle over bike lanes on north Yonge St. returns to city hall Tuesday with a new proposal one city councillor calls a “compromise” and another calls “nonsense.”

Public works committee will debate the “Reimagining Yonge” proposal that would replace two lanes of vehicle traffic with protected bike lanes on Yonge between Sheppard and Finch Aves. The $51.1-million plan advocated by city transportation staff would create wider boulevards, better pedestrian crossings, and a landscaped centre median aimed at bringing more vitality and safety to a stretch flanked by an ever-growing forest of condominium towers.

Between January 2010 and December 2017, that stretch of Yonge saw 78 collisions involving pedestrians and five involving cyclists. Eight of those people were seriously injured or killed.

Councillor John Filion, whose Willowdale ward encompasses most of the stretch, is championing the plan he says will transform north Yonge from a “six-lane highway” for York Region commuters into a vibrant street for 80,000 local residents.

But Mayor John Tory won’t support that plan, arguing it will increase congestion. He wants to leave the six vehicle lanes and put the bike lanes on nearby Beecroft Rd. — a change city staff say would cost an extra $20 million and leave scant room for sidewalk improvements.

Councillor David Shiner told the Star he will table a “compromise” plan. It would keep the six vehicle lanes but narrow four of them, freeing up sidewalk improvement space. It would extend the proposed Beecroft bike lane north to Finch Ave. and cut through a TTC parking lot to join new bike lanes on Willowdale Ave.

Shiner (Ward 24) said his proposal would add only $7 million to the original cost, take advantage of deeper sidewalk setbacks required for redeveloped properties and, he believes, win the support of transportation staff.

“The plan supports bike lanes and the vehicle capacity of Yonge St. with enhanced boulevards and pedestrian realm,” he said. “We’re providing a better cycle plan.”