Note: Please see the update at the bottom
Last week, I helped organise a group of volunteers to do a traffic count on John Street. The purpose of the count was simple: to show that data found in the John Street Corridor Improvement study was inaccurate, fabricated and perhaps intentionally designed to support an anti-bike design for the street.
The discrepancy between our data and the city’s, was astounding:
This would have been a great opportunity for city officials to say “we’re gonna take a look at this. Something sure seems wrong”. Instead, both city staff and the local Councillor discounted our efforts and publicly insisted in the Toronto Star that the 2% number was indeed accurate.
“The reality is that the traffic counts that were done by the professionals were done to the standards that are acceptable to the city’s engineering department.”
Uh, no, they weren’t. In fact, I’m quite sure that the ‘professionals’ did not count at all. I believe that the 2% is imaginary. Pulled out of the air.
So I put out a public call:
Thank you Josh. Councillor Matlow is one of the most investigative Councillors I know. On any given topic, he drowns himself in information – from both sides of the issue, and tries to make up his mind based on solid evidence. So I wasn’t surprised to see him sign-up to the challenge.
Josh and I chose a date, and I invited a few volunteers to help out. Last week’s count was during the morning rush hour (7:30 to 9:30am), so this time we chose an afternoon count (4 to 6pm). As with last week, we looked at the modal split on John (in two locations) and we also had counters on Simcoe, Peter and Duncan so we could compare bike traffic on all four.
I wasn’t sure if the numbers would look good this time, because John Street had been closed all weekend for the Much Music Video Awards. Cyclists might avoid it. I expected a drop in the numbers, but hoped that we would still be well above 10%, and nowhere near the City’s 2% number.
It was great to be joined by Josh, as well as Toronto Star reporter Catherine Porter (read her story here), and Jane Farrow, the Executive Director of Janes’s Walk (named after Jane Jacobs). Jane has done an enormous amount of research and advocacy about pedestrian infrastructure and safety, including an exhibit currently on display at the UrbanSpace Gallery.
At 4pm we scattered to our counting stations, started clicking …and this is what we found:
21% •Average for cyclists over two hours, northbound at Richmond.
30% • Highest level of cyclists during a 15 minute period at Richmond.
18% • Average for bikes over two hours, northbound, at Adelaide.
24% • Highest level of cyclists during a 15 minute period at Adelaide.
695 • Northbound rush-hour cyclists in the Entertainment District.
0 • Number of bikelanes in the area.
The split between the four streets was very similar to last week’s count:
1) Where did the 2% come from?
2) Why was it included in the EA report?
3) When will the false data be REMOVED from the report?
There were 700 bikes traveling through the Entertainment District today, commuting home after a day’s work. These folks deserve to be counted, and they deserve a safe space to bike on John Street.
This post is the second part in a three-part series. On June 22nd, we finally got this note from City staff:
“On the City’s behalf, I’d like to thank you for the effort that you have put in to supplementing our counts with new material gathered in the past weeks…..We agree it was inappropriate and incorrect to have used the 2% figure for weekday peak hours.”
This was great exercise in community engagement and democracy. I want to thank the volunteers who made it happen:
Andie Garcia, Baye Hunter, Ben Sulky, Dan Godin, Herb van den Dool, Jane Farrow, Josh Matlow, Stephen Cooper,Steve Barnes, Lynda Young, Miro Wagner, Ross K and Stephen Cooper.
I also want to thank Stephen Schijns, Manager of Infrastructure Planning at the City, for being very responsive and working with us to resolve the situation.