After the death of a cyclist whose wheel became caught in an unused stretch of streetcar track on Wychwood Avenue, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong says the city should consider banning cycling on the quiet, residential street.
Cycling advocates and local politicians have called for the city to examine the dangers that streetcar tracks pose to cyclists since the death of Joseph Mavec on Aug. 6. Although the city does not track crashes on streetcar tracks, advocates say a wrong turn onto the rails can send even the most seasoned rider flying.
Now, Mr. Minnan-Wong said the city should examine solutions that include removing parking spaces on Wychwood Avenue or banning cycling on the street.
“You wouldn’t have accidents because people wouldn’t be allowed to cycle on the road,” Mr. Minnan-Wong said.
The councillor’s role as chair of Toronto’s public works committee means that he plays a key role in the development of cycling infrastructure in the city. He supported the controversial push to remove the Jarvis Street bicycle lanes while being in favour of more separated lanes in other parts of the city.
As to how such a ban on Wychwood would be enforced, Mr. Minnan-Wong said, “Well, how do you enforce cycling rules anywhere?”
Mr. Minnan-Wong’s suggestions stem from the high cost of removing out-of-use streetcar tracks at a time when the city is particularly cash-strapped.
The TTC says that removing out-of-use tracks is such a complex task that doing so is practical only if the city is undertaking significant road work.
Mr. Minnan-Wong believes a ban is a more economical option.
“It’s all a question of how much it’s going to cost to reconstruct the road,” he said.
Cycle Toronto, a local advocacy group, has called on the city to undertake a study of the hazards streetcar tracks pose to cyclists, while providing more signage and markings to help cyclists navigate particularly dicey intersections.
Councillors Michael Layton and Joe Mihevc, meanwhile, are pressing city staff to investigate solutions to the dangers posed by streetcar tracks.
Mr. Mihevc, whose ward includes the stretch of Wychwood where Mr. Mavec was killed, said the city should focus its energy on providing safe conditions for cyclists.
“I think it’s over the top and inappropriate,” Mr. Mihevc said of his colleague’s suggestion. “It’s like banning swimming because someone drowned.”
A slow trickle of cyclists navigated Wychwood Avenue on Friday afternoon, where a “ghost bike” painted white and chained to a poll serves as a memorial to Mr. Mavec.
Ian Mosby, who was saddling up on his black Mountain Equipment Co-op bicycle, scoffed at Mr. Minnan-Wong’s suggestion.
“The reason why it’s dangerous to be a cyclist in Toronto is because we have such poor cycling infrastructure,” Mr. Mosby said.
Peter Gillett, an artist living in the Wychwood Barns community, gave up his 10-speed road bicycle for a green Supercycle with wide tires after a fall on the Bathurst streetcar tracks. Mr Gillett said cyclists should be prepared to adapt to the road conditions and that his tires would never become caught in a streetcar track.
As for a proposed ban, Mr. Gillett said he and other cyclists would simply ignore it.
“It would totally backfire in his face,” Mr. Gillett said.
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