Friday, October 28, 2016

A call for better cycling options across Highway 400 in Vaughan

Highway 400 cuts the City of Vaughan in two.  It is a challenge to cross by bike or on foot.  It can be done, but sadly, the vast majority wouldn't even think of it. There is just too much high speed traffic, and crossing the ramps are deemed too risky.  I think crossing Hwy 400 is the biggest reason preventing more people to ride bikes in Vaughan.

Here's a video of one of my bike rides across Hwy 400 using Major Mackenzie Dr.  It took about 20 minutes with my 7 year old son on a trail-a-bike attached to my bike.  It's about the same time as driving, but a lot more fun for both of us.
(video shows Major Mackenzie from 9:17 to 13:00)

Here's a cycling map showing the Hwy 400 crossings in urban areas in Vaughan.  There are currently six (Teston, Major Mackenzie, Rutherford, Langstaff, Portage Parkway and Hwy 7).

  • Major Mackenzie, Rutherford, and Hwy 7 are full Parclo A4 highway interchanges with ramps to cross, and not appropriate for children.  

  • Langstaff and Teston are partial interchanges so perhaps slightly better than the others.  

  • Portage Parkway is the only midblock crossing.  There is a narrow shoulder on the bridge, but no cycling infrastructure connecting to it.  There are also signs that say cyclists must dismount and walk across.  They are intended for sidewalk cyclists, since the railing heights don't meet the 1.37m high standard for cyclists.  But they are misleading: when I first saw them, it looked like they were for road cyclists too.  

Portage Parkway - cyclist dismount sign

I'd like to highlight five potential crossing improvements shown in red circles above.

1. Canada Drive - America Avenue midblock crossing (aka North Maple Community Bridge).  The City did an Environmental Assessment a few years ago.

2. Major Mackenzie - York Region is undertaking an EA to look at options to improve the Hwy 400 - Jane.  One option being considered in a separate pedestrian/cycling bridge on the south side of Major Mackenzie, from the carpool/GO parking lot on the west, to a future transit hub near wonderland on the east. A pedestrian/cyclist underpass is already planned to get from wonderland/transit hub to the future hospital.

3. Ashberry Road - Wonderland Drive midblock crossing - shown the York Region's Transportation Master Plan as a long-term initiative (15+ years away)

4. Vaughan Mills Secondary Plan - shows a pedestrian crossing over Hwy 400 between Rutherford Road and Bass Pro Mills Drive

5. Highway 7 crossing - as part of the Vivanext Rapidway project, there will be a protected cycling/walking path down the centre of Highway 7 across the Highway 400 interchange, similar to this example in New York City.  It bypasses the highway ramps on the outsides.  Construction is expected to be complete in 2019.

These five transformative projects will give people active transportation options in a City that is in desperate need of them.  We will need all levels of government working together, a groundswell of support from residents, and the political will to make it happen.   In Markham and Richmond Hill, there are four Hwy 404 midblock crossings with cycling infrastructure moving forward including one under construction north of Hwy 7.  The Hwy 7 & 400 project is underway in Vaughan, but we need action on those 4 projects to the north as well.  Lets make the City of Vaughan and York Region people-centred, again.

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