Bump Outs Coming to Roncesvalles
Later this year and next year Roncesvalles Avenue will be undergoing a rebuild and at today's Infrastructure Committee meeting at City Hall the design concept featuring bump outs and streetcar platforms that emerged from the Environmental Assessment was approved. The various community groups - coalesced into Roncevalles Renewed - have been providing input for about five years and the end result was presented - to some controversy (although whether it was controversial is questioned) - at a March 23rd community meeting. The project documents are available online (see PW24.5).
Councilor Gord Perks was confident that the only thing the committee was passing today was the broad concept for bump outs and that many details of the specific design will need to be worked out as the process continues. He invited the Toronto Cyclist's Union's Executive Director, Yvonne Bambrick, to participate in this process, essentially taking the wind out of the sails of Bambrick's disorganized objections to the proposals and its potential confusion for cyclists.
And it's confusion in general that seems to be at the root of the remaining controversy for this streetscape renovation.
The basic problem as the new look for Roncesvalles has been debated is a simple one of limited space. The right of way is not particularly large and it must accommodate the boulevard (aka sidewalks) with pedestrians (and trees, patios, etc), the busiest streetcar line in the world (504 King, with stops), cars (and parking for those 4-wheelers) and bicycles. Establishing dedicated bike lanes would have meant no parking at all on one side of the street. Turning Roncesvalles into 4 lanes of traffic would have meant infringing on the sidewalks or bicycle safety. And so on.
So the current design reduces the number of parking spaces very slightly (although one resident spoke passionately about large cuts on certain blocks, concerned people won't walk a few blocks to their business of choice) and gives space for cyclists and parked cars. It's a plan that tried to find middle ground, even analyzing demand for existing parking (pdf), ultimately leaving something for everybody to be happy about, or complain about.
But what really got people confused was the introduction of bump outs and transit platforms. The latter are meant to facilitate smooth boarding on the new streetcars, which will hit streets in 2011 (and in full force in the years after that). The bump outs are meant to make things safer for pedestrians. But where the cyclists will fit and how all this will actually look and work is still somewhat of a mystery.
So eight people lined up to speak in front of the committee this morning to variously express concern, objection and support. Most of the concern centered around parking or confusion.
Admittedly, I used to be steadfast in my thinking there had to be dedicated bike lanes. But my desire to dissuade driving was tempered by the simple reality that there are no "Green P" lots in the neighbourhood and cars are an integral part of our lives. We need to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians, but I don't want to see local business closing shop if Roncesvalles isn't considered accessible enough (of course, with as many streetcars as there are hitting the neighbourhood, Roncesvalles is about accessible as it gets in this city).
Ultimately I think the various interested parties concocted a good plan. The details of the bump outs obviously need to be worked out, but considering how closely the BIA and resident associations are working together and focused on this project, I'm confident the design will receive considerable community input.
Now it's just a matter of living through the utility upgrades that will disrupt neighbourhood life this year and the track replacement that will cause headaches next year. But by the end of 2010 - well, let's say by sometime in 2011 - Roncesvalles will have a whole new look.