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Provincial Policy Statement

The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is responsible for much of the land use planning decisions in the province. It’s stated goal is:

an Ontario made up of safe and strong urban and rural communities with dynamic local economies, abundant greenspace and a quality of life that is second to none.

That’s a pretty good goal.

On their website you can access the Citizen’s Guide to Land-Use Planning, which goes into greater detail about the laws, administration and process of planning. You can also access the Provincial Policy Statement 2005.

The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), as the name would suggest, sets out the province’s land use planning policy. It contains a planning vision for the province and sets out specific policies and implementation plans.

Section 1.0 deals with ‘Building Strong Communities’ and says:

Ontario’s long-term prosperity, environmental health and social well-being depend on wisely managing change and promoting efficient land use and development patterns.  Efficient land use and development patterns support strong, liveable and healthy communities, protect the environment and public health and safety, and facilitate economic growth.

What I’m going to do, instead of editorializing about it, is provide relevant extracts of the PPS below.

Section 1.1.1

Healthy, liveable and safe communities are sustained by:

g) ensuring that necessary infrastructure and public service facilities are or will be available to meet current and projected needs.

Section 1.6.5 Transportation Systems Transportation systems should be provided which are safe, energy efficient, facilitate the movement of people and goods, and are appropriate to address projected needs. Efficient use shall be made of existing and planned infrastructure. Connectivity within and among transportation systems and modes should be maintained and, where possible, improved including connections which cross jurisdictional boundaries. A land use pattern, density and mix of uses should be promoted that minimize the length and number of vehicle trips and support the development of viable choices and plans for public transit and other alternative transportation modes, including commuter rail and bus. Transportation and land use considerations shall be integrated at all stages of the planning process.

Section 1.7 Long-Term Economic Prosperity

1.7.1 Long-term economic prosperity should be supported by:

d) providing for an efficient, cost-effective, reliable multi-modal transportation system that is integrated with adjacent systems and those of other jurisdictions, and is appropriate to address projected needs;

Section 1.8 Energy and Air Quality

1.8.1 Planning authorities shall support energy efficiency and improved air quality through land use and development patterns which:

b) promote the use of public transit and other alternative transportation modes in and between residential, employment (including commercial, industrial and institutional uses) and other areas where these exist or are to be developed;

Section 4.0 Implementation and Interpretation

4.2   In accordance with Section 3 of the Planning Act, as amended by the Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act, 2004, a decision of the council of a municipality, a local board, a planning board, a minister of the Crown and a ministry, board, commission or agency of the government, including the Municipal Board, in respect of the exercise of any authority that affects a planning matter, “shall be consistent with” this Provincial Policy Statement.

And some relevant definitions of terms used throughout the PPS, which actually mention cycling!

Infrastructure: means physical structures (facilities and corridors) that form the foundation for development.  Infrastructure includes: sewage and water systems, septage treatment systems, waste management systems, electric power generation and transmission, communications/telecommunications, transit and transportation corridors and facilities, oil and gas pipelines and associated facilities.

Multi-modal transportation system: means a transportation system which may include several forms of transportation such as automobiles, walking, trucks, cycling, buses, rapid transit, rail (such as commuter and freight), air and marine.

Transportation systems: means a system consisting of corridors and rights-of way for the movement of people and goods, and associated transportation facilities including transit stops and stations, cycle lanes, bus lanes, high occupancy vehicle lanes, rail facilities, park’n’ride lots, service centres, rest stops, vehicle inspection stations, intermodal terminals, harbours, and associated facilities such as storage and maintenance.

As you can see, the PPS shows that transportation methods such as cycling are linked to a variety of planning concerns ranging from efficient and effective use of land, to issues of accessibility, economic prosperity, and air quality.  Like the Planning Act, the PPS sets out the parameters of provincial public policy on land use planning issues and in some cases even specifies that cycling and cycling infrastructure are integral to fulfilling the PPS and achieving sustainable planning.

Moreover, it’s important to keep in mind that decisions and by-laws of a municipality must be consistent with the PPS, and this may open up arguments for the improvement of cycling infrastructure in Toronto.


The Planning Act

In Ontario, land use planning is governed by the Planning Act.  Section 1.1 lists the purposes of this Act:

(a) to promote sustainable economic development in a healthy natural environment within the policy and by the means provided under this Act;

(b) to provide for a land use planning system led by provincial policy;

(c) to integrate matters of provincial interest in provincial and municipal planning decisions;

(d) to provide for planning processes that are fair by making them open, accessible, timely and efficient;

(e) to encourage co-operation and co-ordination among various interests;

(f) to recognize the decision-making authority and accountability of municipal councils in planning.

I can’t find any pictures to illustrate the Planning Act, so instead below is a picture of the Ontario Legislative Building in Toronto, the place where our provincial legislation is debated and cast into law!


One may wonder about the site planning and construction of the Ontario Legislative Building.  Below is an aerial view of the building and Queen’s Park in Toronto.

(credit: Wikipedia)

Notice that the site is essentially an island with a moat of cars whizzing around it. Ha! How’s that for government accessibility.  And, no, presently there are no bike lanes on that road.

Back to the point though.  The Planning Act sets out, among other things, the provincial administration and interest in planning (s. 2); the need for and contents of official plans (s. 16); and the requirement that public works and municipal by-laws conform with the official plan (s. 24).  The Planning Act also sets out the rules governing local planning administration (Part II), community improvement (Part IV), and land use controls such as zoning by-laws (Part V).

The Planning Act is not the kind of document that says anything in particular about such things as biking or cycling infrastructure.  Rather it merely sets out the rules governing generally land use planning in the Province.  The Act is not inconsistent with improving cycling infrastructure though (that is, it doesn’t prevent better bike lanes).

Section 2 does speak of transportation and other areas that may be relevant to developing better cycling infrastructure:

2. The Minister, the council of a municipality, a local board, a planning board and the Municipal Board, in carrying out their responsibilities under this Act, shall have regard to, among other matters, matters of provincial interest such as,

(f) the adequate provision and efficient use of communication, transportation, sewage and water services and waste management systems;

(h) the orderly development of safe and healthy communities;

(o) the protection of public health and safety;

(q) the promotion of development that is designed to be sustainable, to support public transit and to be oriented to pedestrians.

The last of these concerns does speak of public transit and pedestrians, so I suppose the government could have mentioned cyclists. But maybe that’s asking too much.

Up next we’ll be investigating the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Provincial Policy Statement.


Division of Powers

This is the first of many entries to come on the more specific issue of land use planning law.  In the coming days and weeks (as I prepare for my class presentation on cycling infrastructure) I will be going through the basics of planning law that is relevant to the promotion of cycling in Toronto.  First I’d like to start with a nice quote from an article called Our Common Past: An Interpretation of Canadian Planning History (July 1994, Plan Canada 12), by Jeanne M. Wolfe:

Planning is about change.

So true it is.  If we are going to get our heads around seriously improving cycling infrastructure in Toronto we are all going to have to come to terms with change.  For too long our cities have been designed for and dominated by cars.  With the many issues related to fossil fuel emissions, pollution, global warming, and accessibility, bike culture has re-emerged as a positive solution.  But its re-emergence is stymied by a lagging improvement in infrastructure.  How many cars would we see if there were no roads to drive them on? So… let’s embrace some change.

The first thing to consider with the law of land use planning is who’s got the authority?  Our system of federalism means that powers and legal jurisdiction are divided between the federal Parliament and provincial legislatures.  This is called the division of powers. To find out which level of government has the jurisdiction for particular areas, one must take a look at sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Generally speaking, land use planning falls under the provincial head of power.  Subsections   8, 13 and 16 of section 92 make this clear:

92. In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,

8. Municipal Institutions in the Province.

13. Property and Civil Rights in the Province.

16. Generally all Matters of a merely local or private Nature in the Province.

Constitutionally, there are only two sovereign powers: the federal Parliament and the provincial legislatures.  This division means that municipalities are ‘constitutional orphans’.  By way of s. 92(8) then, it is the provinces that have the power to create cities.  And the provinces do create municipalities – which are essentially corporations – by way of acts of the legislature.  The Ontario Municipal Act, 2001, for example, sets out the rules governing municipalities in the province.  Toronto has a more specific statute called the City of Toronto Act, 2006.

Upcoming posts will look more deeply at the relevant planning law and powers of the province of Ontario.


Separated Lanes on University Avenue?

Some recent reports indicate that University Avenue may be poised to become the first street in Toronto with physically separated bike lanes.  A week ago the National Post ran an article on this.  It’s nice to see bike lanes getting some press, but I wish the media would stop framing the issue as a car-bike war.  It’s a false dichotomy and people are smart enough to be able to engage with an issue without it being an either-or war like situation.  But, I digress.

The article calls the proposed separated lanes “New York style” and further explains:

He said the “New York style” involves using paint and plastic flexible bollards to separate the bike lanes from traffic and parking, while keeping the parking there. “The street can pretty much function the way it is now, but you’ve got a much safer, more comfortable space for cyclists to occupy,” said Mr. Egan.

Mr. Daniel Egan is manager of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure for the City. You can check out his cyclist profile on I Bike T.O.

Separated bike lanes are certainly a step in the right direction, although I would advocate for Danish style lanes – as I have in previous posts – rather than New York style lanes.


Jarvis Street Reconstruction

The impetus for my original Cycle Toronto proposal was to use the reconstruction of Jarvis Street as a template for future street and bike lane construction. If Jarvis Street could be reconstructed with a proper, physically separated bike lane, then it would serve as an important precedent.

From what I’ve read and seen about the project, it appears that the City has approved bike lanes for Jarvis Street. The design of the reconstruction, however, indicates that these bike lanes will take the usual Toronto form of “sharrows” (widened curb-side car lanes to be shared by cars and cyclists).

The photo below illustrates the before and after of the proposed changes. If you look closely in the “new” picture you can see cyclists riding between the cars and the trees.

This is the wrong way to construct bike lanes.

The City could easily create physically separated bike lanes by simply reversing where the trees and cyclists go.  The excellently doctored photo below illustrates how Jarvis Street should be reconstructed.

As you can see in this photo, the cyclists are separated from the cars by the tree line buffer.  In this scenario, all three users of the street – cars, cyclists, and pedestrians – have their own space, which creates a safer and more enjoyable experience.  This is one example of how to construct physically separated bike lanes.

In Copenhagen, the above type of physically separated bike lane is common.  The photos below show this type of construction in a real life example on Nørrebrogade – the busiest cycling street in Denmark.

If you’re interested in the Jarvis Street project, take a look around the City of Toronto site where you can download the environmental study report.


Ontario’s Best Traffic Sign

This is Ontario’s best traffic sign. By ‘best’ I really mean worst.

I notice this sign often when driving along Bathurst St. and Yonge St. and always stare at it with amazement. In what situation does reserving a lane for buses, taxis, carpools, and bicycles make sense? In what situation does putting the largest vehicle on the road (a bus) and the smallest vehicle on the road (a bike) together in one lane make sense?

So imagine this: during morning and afternoon rush hour you have a cyclist riding in the same lane with a bus, which will stop every few blocks, pull over to the side of the road where the cyclist is riding, and drop of/pick up passengers.

Really Ontario? Is this your idea of a bike lane?


“A strip of paint at the side of the road”

The idea behind Cycle Toronto is to push for better cycling infrastructure in Toronto. I spent four months living in Copenhagen last autumn, and the cycling infrastructure was just amazing. The basic premise underlying their bike lane system is physically separated lanes. The idea is that with safe space for cyclists, more people will choose to use their bikes for daily commuting. According to the Copenhagen Bicycle Account 2008, 37% of people in Copenhagen (including residents of surrounding suburbs) cycle to work or education every day. Restricting this to just residents of Copenhagen, the statistic jumps to 55%. Brilliant!

There are many ways to build physically separated bike lanes. Here is a basic diagram to illustrate the idea:


Check out this Streetfilms video about cycling in Copenhagen:

In the midst of my Danish cycling exuberance, I put together a small proposal for physically separated bike lanes called “Cycle Toronto” which I sent in to my Toronto city councillor. The hope was to make use of cycling infrastructure in Copenhagen as a model for Toronto. (More on this to come in future posts)

Just a few days ago I received a refreshing article about physically separated bike lanes in Toronto. Our current lanes were described as “a strip of paint at the side of the road”.  Some good news: the article reports that the Toronto Cycling Committee (at City Hall) has endorsed physically separated bike lanes as the preferred design for the upcoming reconstruction of Sherbourne Street. It must now go through the city planning department and be approved by Council. The adoption of a physically separated bike lane would be precedent setting in Toronto, and may very well lead the future development of our cycling infrastructure.

Bike lanes, cycling infrastructure, and land use planning law