Attempts at building a cycling network in Scarborough have been an ‘abject failure,’ harming residents’ health. A new report shows how that can be fixed

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According to Nithurasan Elamuhillan, biking on a main road in Scarborough is so dangerous it seems to “put your life at risk”.

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The 25-year-old cyclist and Scarborough resident says the area’s wide streets are so dominated by high-speed traffic that some bicyclists usually ride on the sidewalk.

“Riding on the road is almost a foreign concept because it’s not acceptable, it’s not safe to do it here,” said Elamuhillan, a data analyst who spent years commuting by bike at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC).


About two years ago, he was the victim of a hit-and-run at Ellesmere and Morris Roads while riding through a crosswalk. He said if Scarborough had a better cycling infrastructure it could have avoided a torn meniscus in his right knee and six months of physiotherapy. “You have to make it safe for people,” he said.

Elamuhilan’s experience is supported by A new report from UTSC, which stipulated the city’s efforts to build up bike infrastructure in Scarborough is a “gross failure”.

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But the Scarborough Opportunity Report, authored by human geography professor Andre Sorenson and a team of UTSC students, says that doesn’t have to be the case, and urges the city to harness Scarborough’s hidden potential to become a cycling superpower.

“Scarborough presents a tremendous opportunity for transformation into a more walkable, bicyclable, transit-oriented and habitable space,” the report said.

According to the researchers, a post-war suburb, Scarborough, which covers about 190 square kilometers, is “suffering greatly” from its automobile-dependent urban form, which is characterized by wide main roads that allow cars to pass on other road users. Prioritizes movement. Cycling accounts for less than one percent of all trips in Scarborough, compared to about seven percent in the city as a whole.

In recent years, Toronto has made progress expanding its cycling network closer to downtown, where the high density and short distances between destinations make cycling an attractive option for many people. But according to the report, there has been “almost zero progress” in Scarborough.

Between 2016 and 2018, the city built approximately 60 kilometers of cycling infrastructure, but almost none of it was in the eastern suburbs, in addition to the renovation of two existing routes that featured painted “sharrows” and signage.

The cycling lanes installed on a four-kilometer stretch of Brimley Road as part of Toronto’s largest bike lane expansion last year lasted just five months before the city removed them, citing complaints from local councilors and drivers.

Sorensen said the lack of cycling options places a significant burden on Scarborough’s more than 630,000 residents. “It creates pollution, it creates congestion, it has a negative impact (on health) because people are not walking and cycling,” he said.

It also increases inequality. Walking and cycling are the most economical forms of transportation, and the share of the population living in poverty in Scarborough is higher than the city average.

“There is a real benefit to people by walking and cycling for a portion of the trips, and should not be limited to just downtown areas,” Sorensen said.

Although the design of Scarborough’s roads has been an obstacle to safe cycling, the report’s authors argue that it also presents a unique opportunity. The most prominent rights in the suburb are at least 36 meters wide, To provide adequate space for setting up bike lanes without removing traffic lanes or encroaching on nearby properties.

Scarborough also has a strong network of ravines and hydro corridors that would be ideal for off-road trails. One bright spot is Meadowway, a 16-kilometre hydro corridor revitalization project that, when completed, will connect the East Dawn Trail to Rouge National Urban Park.

Report co-author Nadina Shankar said she hoped the report would “break the myth” that Scarborough is inherently unsuitable for cycling.

The researchers advise the city to develop a long-term plan for Scarborough that includes an extensive pedestrian and cycling network, with measurable targets to increase the share of trips made by walking, cycling and transit, and the whole by 2030. The suburb includes an expansion of bike share stations. .

The authors state that meeting Toronto’s official target would require the city to build a network of 437 kilometers of on- and off-street cycling facilities to ensure all residents live within one kilometer of bike infrastructure . This is a dramatic increase from Scarborough’s existing 25 km of cycling facilities, and therefore the report recommends an interim network expansion of 150 km.

“I don’t think we’re going to get there anytime soon,” Sorensen admitted. But “we should start a conversation about what network we need and how we’ll get there.”

Ben Spur is a Toronto-based reporter who covers transportation. Contact him by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr
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