More, safer space for cyclists urged on Highway 407
Durham Region says Queen’s Park needs to walk its talk on cycling safety and build bike-safe approaches to interchanges.
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Durham Region politicians and cyclists say the province needs to lay a little more asphalt in the name of safe cycling around its $1.2-billion Highway 407 East expansion.
Queen’s Park talks a good line about encouraging cycling in Ontario, but it isn’t spending the money to put bike lanes on the side of roads approaching the bridges and interchanges on the new highway.
“We had clear commitments that cycling infrastructure was going to be incorporated in the crossings of these freeways, and now we’re not getting what was promised. The province has made a big deal about promoting cycling and facilitating cycling on their provincial infrastructure, and here’s a classic example of: Do what you say,” said Ajax Mayor Steve Parish.
About 35 bridge projects have been identified as regional cycling routes, and so far, each of five bridges that are open have included bike lanes on the bridge decks, said Bruce MacDonald, of the Durham Region Cycling Coalition, which advocates on behalf of 1,500 cyclists in five clubs.
But only one — Anderson Bridge in north Whitby — has a bike-friendly approach, because the town pushed for it, he said.
Another bridge on Ashburn Rd. had nine or 10 inches of pavement on the side and three or four feet of gravel, said MacDonald.
Putting a bike lane on the side of the road about a quarter-kilometre approaching the bridge from each direction is a matter of safety rather than convenience, he said.
Because the bridges are at the top of a slope, cars that move across the white line to pass cyclists will inevitably face oncoming traffic at the top of the hill and be forced back to the right, where they risk hitting cyclists, said MacDonald.
Parish, Whitby Mayor Don Mitchell and regional chair Roger Anderson have written Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca to urge the province to provide safe cycling and walking connections at the interchanges from the outset of the new highway opening, expected this spring.
“If this situation is rectified now, while construction is in the process, safe cycling connections can be created at a fraction of the cost needed to retrofit these interchanges,” said the April 1 letter.
Doing so would also mean sparing cycling infrastructure from the risk of having to battle for scarce municipal funding.
It just “absolutely makes no sense” to build expensive bridges that accommodate cars and bikes, and then fail to spend a little more to make sure the bridge approaches are safe for cyclists, Parish told the Toronto Star.
If the province forces municipalities to pay, the cycling infrastructure will wait years and taxpayers will spend more in the end, he said.
The Durham highway expansion also includes bridges on Highway 412 linking the 407 and the 401, and a future section of Highway 418 through Clarington between the 407 and the 401.
“After all these years of getting nowhere, (cycling) is finally getting traction and we’re finally focusing on connecting our communities and getting some kind of cycling network,” said Parish.
“When you put 400-series highways through the community and you don’t link over properly those freeways, you put barriers in place that are extremely hard to overcome.”