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A challenge to John Tory: support pedestrians and cyclists like you have the Gardiner

John Tory during this year's bike to work day.
John Tory during this year's bike to work day.

After botching the launch of the city’s road safety plan during a week in which pedestrians and cyclists continued to get mowed down on Toronto’s deadly streets, Mayor John Tory decided to spend some of last Wednesday delivering a press conference in front of his old pal, the Gardiner Expressway.

He had great news for motorists, he said. Thanks to the city’s previously-announced decision to spend another $3.4 million to speed up repairs, all lanes of the Gardiner will re-open this week – well ahead of schedule.

It was more of the same from Tory. Since he took office, he’s treated the city’s lakeside expressway like a favoured child. It gets extra allowance, ice cream after dinner and never has to hear the word “No.”

The Gardiner got a $400-million boost in Tory’s first budget to pay for rehab. Then, despite pleas from city planners, Tory decided to accept the billion-dollar cost premium to maintain the Gardiner East.

No expense has been too big.

The Gardiner Expressway between Jarvis and Carlaw.
torstar news service

Meanwhile, initiatives for pedestrians and cyclists have been subject to typical Tory handwringing.

The city’s 10-year bike plan, already scaled back from its most ambitious funding levels, was stripped of corridor studies that would have looked at bike lanes on major streets.

Tory later clarified things, pledging his support for a Vision Zero target. But he also said there would be no additional funding for road safety beyond what was laid out in the report. I’m not sure how that math works.

But with the Gardiner, the math has always been simple. If money is needed, the mayor will be there.

For all of us who mostly get around without a car, Tory needs to do better. To help, I’m laying down the challenge.

I challenge the mayor to commit to at least one pedestrian or cyclist project with the same zeal with which he’s supported spending gonzo cash on the Gardiner.

I’m not asking for too much. The transformation of King Street to a pedestrian- and transit-focused corridor – currently being examined by the city’s planning department – might be a good place to start.

But whatever the project, I’m challenging Toronto’s mayor to show the same kind of enthusiasm and willingness to invest for pedestrians and cyclists that he’s shown for the city’s motorists.

He needs to show this city that his priorities aren’t as skewed as they often look.

This post was originally published at on 2016-06-20T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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