Toronto–Danforth by-election candidates talk about cycling

By , March 8, 2012 11:32 am

Ward 29 forms the northern half of the federal Toronto–Danforth riding and we’re in the final two weeks of the campaign to elect a new Member of Parliament on March 19. We asked all eleven registered candidates several questions about cycling issues and activities that affect Toronto–Danforth residents. Eight candidates sent us detailed responses. Read on for each candidate’s complete answers to our questions:

1. How does bicycling fit into your regular transportation?

Dorian Baxter (Progressive Canadian Party):
Although I have two bicycles and enjoy bike riding I have been too busy to do justice to bike riding recently. However, I have been swimming for the Aurora Master Ducks for the past 7 years and am planning to do a triathalon this summer! Unfortunately at the present time bicycling doesn’t fit into my regular transportation at all!

Grant Gordon (Liberal Party of Canada):
I love to cycle. The fresh air, the exercise and seeing the city all make cycling one of my favourite activities. When the weather gets nice we try to go cycling as a family in our neighourhood. And we’re sure to wear helmets!

Brian Jedan (United Party of Canada):
Cycling isn’t a mode of transportation for me at all. I’m not even a casual cyclist. I’ve been considering taking a bike to work but am not comfortable with spending time on the roadways. Even if I were to try it, I would probably still drive my car to the bike paths, unload and take the paths to my offices rather than be on a roadway.

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu (Green Party of Canada):
I am a walker more than a cyclist. I’ve enjoyed my bicycle since I was a child, but I’m a slow cyclist and a fast walker. I walk several hours a day, avoiding transit of any kind when I can. We don’t have a car. I cycle for pleasure rather than mobility, taking long rides along the Don River up to the Science Centre or down to the lake with my children in good weather. Occasionally, fast runners pass me by. Busy streets scare me on a bicycle though I occasionally brave them. I have fond memories of cycling in Amsterdam and Stockholm, where cyclists had safety in numbers. I admire people who get around by bicycle and worry for them.

Christopher Porter (Canadian Action Party):
I have to admit that I don’t nearly do enough bike riding in my daily life. Teaching my daughter how to ride her bike reminds me of the freedom and benefits that cycling has. Time for me to return to cycling more.

Craig Scott (New Democratic Party):
My regular transportation—to and from my work at York University—is largely via the TTC.

John Turmel (Independent):
I have a bicycle and use it when I don’t have to go too far or too fast.

Bahman Yazdanfar (Independent):
I personally use public transportation (TTC) to commute in the GTA.

 

2. What role, if any, do you believe the federal government should take in encouraging a balanced transportation system that includes cyclists and pedestrians?

Dorian Baxter:
I would very much like to see the federal government take a much more serious approach to encouraging cycling as a bone fide method of transportation. In my view this ought to include a trans Canada cyclists route along the lines of the skidoo trails that are currently receiving significant recognition!

Grant Gordon:
If we’re going to deal with things like smog and traffic congestion, we need all levels of government to cooperate. Dedicated bike lanes might be the best way to solve traffic and safety issues when it comes to pedestrians and cyclists. I don’t support Rob Ford’s move to eliminate the Jarvis bike lanes. As an MP I would advocate for increased transfer payments to cities and municipalities that undertake dedicated bike lanes.

Brian Jedan:
Cycling is a fact of life and more and more it has to be considered as part of transportation infrastructure. Ignoring this fact isn’t the answer. More and more, we need to make the public understand that children can no longer ride bikes on the street because there’s simply no room left on them. Certainly, the federal government must, at some point, assure that any funds going to the provinces for roads and transportation allow for a component pertaining to the bicycles and pedestrians.

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu:
The federal government has a responsibility to reduce emissions quickly and must take advantage of every way to do so. The Green Party would impose a fee on carbon emissions which would discourage vehicles, making cycling more popular and streets more safe. We would also replace tax breaks for company vehicles with tax breaks for bikes and transit passes. In general, the Green Party is more interested in street safety rather than maximizing mobility and speed.

Christopher Porter:
The federal government needs to ensure it has an overview and strategic plan to increase cycling alternatives for people. Municipalities face many funding difficulties in provision of services. Proper infrastructure projects that create long term cycling paths and connections need to be developed in joint cooperation with all levels of government. Not only for the health benefits but also through the environmental savings using pedal power. This can be accomplished through Bank of Canada as well as through tax benefits for those that decrease their reliance on fossil fuels.

Craig Scott:
New Democrats are well known as strong supporters of cycling. Canadians – and residents of Toronto-Danforth in particular – remember Jack Layton smiling from the seat of his bicycle, setting a wonderful example for our country. First, the federal government could encourage a balanced transportation system through legislative changes. NDP MPs have also been behind bills that would allow Canadian employers to offer tax-free commuter benefits for people who choose public transit, bicycling and carpooling over driving to work. Olivia Chow has also been pushing the issue of bicycle safety for the past six years. Outside of legislation, the federal government can also work towards a balanced transportation system through infrastructure funding. The NDP has been pushing for substantial investment in municipal infrastructure to address the massive infrastructure deficit our cities face. These infrastructure funds could be spent in many different ways, including improving cycling infrastructure. Those decisions would ultimately be made at the local level, but we would push for the federal government to make these decisions possible by investing in predictable and meaningful infrastructure funding. Finally, increasing the use of public transit would do much to reduce congestion on our roadways and making streets safer for cyclists. The NDP has championed public transit by pushing for better transit funding and a National Public Transit Strategy.

John Turmel:
Short of fixing money so everyone can afford the best, I think a balanced system would arise for both automatically.

Bahman Yazdanfar:
Areas that can be related to cyclists, directly or indirectly, and fall under Federal jurisdiction, are Transportation, Environment, and Criminal law. Although cycling is strictly municipal, or at most a Provincial issue, there is a need for the growth of a national network of cycle lanes and pathways within and between cities, and provinces.

 

3. Do you believe that side guards should be mandatory on all trucks to protect other road users?

Dorian Baxter:
Absolutely!!!

Grant Gordon:
A private member’s bill dealing with just this issue was introduced in the House of Commons not that long ago. I support the idea of side guards to save lives and help make cyclists safer.

Brian Jedan:
While I understand the sentiment for side guards on trucks, I don’t necessarily agree with them being mandatory. All cyclists have a duty to act responsibly and obey the rules of the road. They must proceed with proper care and control at all times. My personal choice is that cyclists partake in educational courses which would train them better to be on the roadways. This is a two way street and because cyclists are not currently required to be licensed or maintain vehicle tags to be on roadways, I believe they too have to come to the table with some responsible ideas for their own community.

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu:
Yes. Safety trumps pretty much all other considerations.

Christopher Porter:
I believe that more cooperative communication needs to be secured between all parties sharing the road. Might has right may work on the high seas, but in our communities we need to focus on understanding and security of those helping themselves and society through cycling.

Craig Scott:
Late last year, fellow New Democrat, and Transport critic Olivia Chow, introduced a bill that would require the use of truck sideguards on all heavy road trucks. The bill is a practical, common sense initiative that would save cyclist and pedestrian lives. Every year around a dozen cyclists are killed in accidents with trucks in Canada. We can and must prevent these accidents. This is the third time Ms. Chow has introduced this bill, and, if elected, we will work together to see it passed this time. The grassroots campaign she co-founded (safetrucks.ca) has also raised awareness of this issue. New Democrats are the party fighting for cyclist safety.

John Turmel:
Once every trucker has his interest-free credit card, sure.

Bahman Yazdanfar:
Definitely, anything that can prevent loss of life should be considered seriously and without political interference. Not only safety features have to be utilized, mandatory training and education should be provided for trucks operators, as well as advertising through media for public awareness.

 

4. As TorontoDanforth MP, what would you do to represent the needs of cyclists in this riding?

Dorian Baxter:
I would immediately seek to expand the number of traffic cyclist’s lanes in the Toronto/Danforth riding and would increase the number of recreational lanes currently available to my constituents!

Grant Gordon:
Right now there’s a tax credit for those that use public transportation and buy metropasses, and I support a similar credit for those that bike to work. I’m also in favour of exploring where we can add bike lanes to help ensure the safety of Toronto’s cyclists.

Brian Jedan:
We need bike lanes that run parallel to the automobile congested streets. I would lobby for that and work with organizations such as yours so that we would be noticed and understood. Education is a key component to making anything happen. The Danforth during rush hour is a nightmare for cyclists riding the length of it. I’ve seen bikes on sidewalks affecting pedestrians and not long ago watched a woman so angered by a vehicle in her way that she swerved into oncoming traffic while flipping the car owner “the finger.” Let’s take the stress out of the commute by simply creating bike lines on the beautiful side streets of the riding. This is the easiest way to make life safer for everyone.

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu:
I would advocate for bike safety. We need the Tooker bike lane already.

Christopher Porter:
As with all riding issues, I would ensure public workshops and clearly executable plans derived from those workshops would be implemented to ensure a complete plan was arrived and working.

Craig Scott:
By supporting the initiatives discussed above: fighting for tax breaks to incentivize cycling, investments in municipal infrastructure that would, for example, make bike lanes more affordable for municipalities, and by fighting for a National Public Transit strategy that would reduce congestion on our roads to make cycling a safer, more enjoyable option for local residents. I would be happy to listen to local cyclists and local lobby groups and will take their concerns very seriously in thinking about the impacts of federal issues on this riding.

John Turmel:
Provide maximum funding for the best we can do.

Bahman Yazdanfar:
An independent M.P. can introduce a bill for national bicycle transportation as a solution to environmental, economical, and health problems, by creating financial incentives to motivate people, such as subsidizing the tax portion of purchasing bicycles, as well as a bill for the development of a mandatory national curriculum for transportation safety in schools.

 

5. How would you work to create a cross-Canada cycling network, similar to Quebec’s acclaimed Route Verte?

Dorian Baxter:
As already indicated in my answer to question #2 prior to reading this question, I would seek to replicate this acclaimed route by entering into deliberations with all provinces and territories. In these deliberations I would promote the obvious impact for good such a trans Canada route would have in terms of increasing tourism from all over the world, especially Europe!

Grant Gordon:
Rick Hansen and Terry Fox are two inspirational figures for all Canadians. But traveling across Canada isn’t the easiest thing to do. As cities continue to grow, I think the best way to start to build a cross-Canada pathway is to incorporate it into existing road networks. Over 60% of Quebec’s network is built on existing roadways and I think that’s a good plan to follow.

Brian Jedan:
Because I’m not a cyclist, I can’t fairly answer the question until I educate myself. I’m pleased to know that I’ve been made aware of something such as Route Verte, but this isn’t something I could even consider as an undertaking without consulting those that understand the cycling lifestyle better than myself.

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu:
I need to work with cyclists better than myself on this because this pattern of cycling is so far from my experience. But safe, low-carbon transport is a huge priority of mine, so I’ll advocate for whatever cyclists need. I have walked from Toronto to Ottawa. I understand the need for safety.

Christopher Porter:
The Bank of Canada can create a Trans-Canada cycling path, just as it had done with the highway. Innovation would allow us to leave a legacy for our children.

Craig Scott:
The Route Verte is a treasure in Quebec and it would be wonderful to see a national cycling network along the same lines. The development of the Route Verte involved co-operation between regional governments and the government of Quebec. The development of a similar national network would involve much work and co-ordination among all three levels of government across Canada. The NDP would fully support the development of such a network.

John Turmel:
Provide maximum funding for the best we can do.

Bahman Yazdanfar:
By presenting the environmental, economic, and health benefits of a green route to the responsible ministries and engaging them to have a bi-directional, or tri-directional in this case, dialogue with each other.

 

6. How would you make Canada’s National Parks system more cyclist-friendly?

Dorian Baxter:
I would seek federal funding to introduce cyclist-friendly rest stations with appropriate accomodation, entertainment and tourist oriented centres at regular intervals throughout the national parks!

Grant Gordon:
In some cases there is little that can be done to increase the number of bike accessible pathways. But I would support dedicated funding within the Parks Canada budget to help create bike paths in our National Parks to help make them more accessible to cyclists, joggers, walkers and anyone who wants to get out, get fit and have fun.

Brian Jedan:
Once again, I’m not a cyclist nor have spent much time in Canada’s park system. I’d have to experience the parks and what they make available for cyclists presently. This isn’t my field of expertise and would require someone educating me on what problems, if any, exist.

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu:
Same answer as above. When I go to national parks, I take very long walks. But I appreciate that others prefer to cycle. I understand that the needs are similar yet different, and I would work with cyclists to ensure that they had safe opportunities to enjoy national parks in ways that respected the park but encouraged activity.

Christopher Porter:
National Parks would be incorporated into the Trans-Canada cycling path to highlight this beautiful country. It would creat a unique experience that many would work hard to complete.

Craig Scott:
Our national parks are true Canadian wonders and making them more accessible to cyclists would not only make the parks more enjoyable, it would make them more sustainable as well. A sustainable way of achieving this goal is to ensure that all restoration projects in National Parks include an evaluation of how to better integrate cycling in its activities and how to make road safer for bicycle traffic. Working to make Canada’s National Parks system more cyclist-friendly would also mean close collaboration with the NDP’s Environment Critic, Megan Leslie (as Parks Canada falls under the Environment Canada portfolio). Megan is a strong advocate of cycling and a proud voice for sustainable transit solutions. Making them more cyclist-friendly would involve consultations with cycling, environmental and nature groups from civil society and working with them to craft a plan that works.

John Turmel:
Provide maximum funding for the best we can do.

Bahman Yazdanfar:
By mandating and overseeing Parks Canada’s responsibilities, as well as providing free access to the national parks by those who ride bicycles as well as those who walk. Returns on this investment can come through attracting tourists to experience bike tours.

 

7. What is your favourite cycling destination in or near Toronto–Danforth?

Dorian Baxter:
The “Don Valley Trail”!!!

Grant Gordon:
No question about it: Riverdale Park.

Brian Jedan:
I’m sorry to admit that I don’t cycle and I don’t hike the trails in the area. I could pick a spot and pretend as though I frequent it but that wouldn’t be fair to the spirit in which these questions were asked.

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu:
I really enjoy the path along the Don River going down to Cherry Beach and then onwards to the Leslie Street spit.

Christopher Porter:
Anywhere near the water makes me feel the freedom cycling gives an individual.

Craig Scott:
From my home on Dingwall out to Cherry Beach or the Leslie Spit.

John Turmel:
Haven’t ridden in Toronto-Danforth.

Bahman Yazdanfar:
Queen Street, Lakeshore, Leslie

 

We thank all of the candidates above for taking the time to answer our brief questionnaire. Three additional candidates—Leslie Bory (Maple Party of Canada), Andrew Keyes (Conservative Party of Canada), and John Christopher Recker (Libertarian Party of Canada)—were also contacted multiple times about our questionnaire but did not respond to any of our inquiries.

3 Responses to “Toronto–Danforth by-election candidates talk about cycling”

  1. Thanks for bringing this issue to attention of the Voters. Here you see consensus on the importance of cycling, yet our Government still does not do enough to produce real changes. Initiatives like this can help make that change!
    Thanks for all that you do for Canada.

  2. Susan Clarke says:

    Quick question, not sure where to ask. I live near O’Connor and Coxwell. I work at Don Mills and Eglinton. Is there a more direct way to get into the valley without going west to Beechwood or East to Taylor Creek? I’m directly below it and I’m stumped! I’ve tried riding the roads and it’s thoroughly unpleasant.

    • Val Dodge says:

      There aren’t really any bike-friendly access points closer than the two you mentioned. There’s a long staircase leading into Taylor Creek Park from the back of Cullen Bryant Park at Coxwell Blvd. and Taylor Drive (follow Coxwell north of O’Connor and take the first right). Unfortunately, there are no wheel gutters for pushing a bike up or down the stairs, so it’s a long hard climb with a bike on your shoulder. I’ve done it before and it’s not what I’d call fun.

      The only other possibility is to ride down Don Mills Road from O’Connor to the park entrance just after the DVP ramps. But that’s a pretty hairy ride down Don Mills for cyclists.

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