Two Toronto councillors plan to ask city staff to come up with solutions to the hazard posed by streetcar tracks after a man was killed when his bicycle wheel became caught in a section of decommissioned track and sent him flying.
Councillors Michael Layton and Joe Mihevc are drafting a letter, which they will present at a public works committee meeting on Sept. 12, asking city staff to examine solutions to the hazards posed by both active and decommissioned tracks.
Though few would dispute that crossing streetcar tracks at a poor angle can spell disaster for cyclists, city staffers and the TTC have said that removing old tracks makes financial sense only if a road is already undergoing construction.
Mr. Mihevc, who was victim Joseph Mavec’s scout leader more than 30 years ago, said his office has spoken with staff in the city’s transportation services department.
“It would not be a big job to think through how we can, in between now and the time that [roads] are reconstructed … find that product that would allow us to basically fill in the gap, smooth the surface,” Mr. Mihevc said.
Mr. Mihevc said he would like to see all decommissioned tracks eventually removed or covered using asphalt or a similar material when the roads are reconstructed.
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross confirmed in an e-mail that there are about 31/2 kilometres of unused track throughout the city.
“I don’t want what happened to Joe [Mavec] to happen to anybody,” Mr. Mihevc said.
Covering the tracks would present a number of challenges, according to Stephen Schijns, manager of infrastructure planning for transportation services.
“In this case, with the track in the middle of the road, if you repave right on top of that, then the side-slope and the draining and matching the road to the gutters and so on is more awkward,” Mr. Schijns said.
That litany of complications is the reason that waiting to remove tracks during road construction, while no small task, is the best option, Mr. Schijns said.
“If you’re taking out the curbs and changing draining, you may as well reconstruct the road,” Mr. Schijns said.
Still, Mr. Layton believes his request should sail through the committee.
“This is a no-brainer,” said Mr. Layton, who believes things like markings on the pavement showing cyclists the safest route of travel could help remedy the problem.
Notified about Mr. Layton and Mr. Mihevc’s impending request, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works committee, said: “I’m not surprised.”
Mr. Minnan-Wong said any decision regarding road work must be made while considering the city’s backlog of road repairs, which he says will hit $750-million by 2020.
“We don’t need to add to that list,” he said.
“That accident may not have occurred if that person had been wearing a helmet,” Mr. Minnan-Wong said about the Aug. 6 tragedy. “I think there’s a level of personal responsibility that cyclists have to take.”
Mr. Minnan-Wong could not say how he would vote on the request, but said he welcomes a chance to gather more data.
“The more information you have in front of you, the more data you have in front of you, the more expertise that you can bring, the better decision you’ll make.”
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