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Cycling traffic up 56% on Bloor Street bike lanes, report shows

CityNews | posted Thursday, Oct 12th, 2017

The Bloor Street bike lanes are one step closer to becoming a permanent fixture.

In a report released on Wednesday, city staff said the year-long pilot project has increased cycle traffic in the area by 56 per cent and made motorists feel more comfortable sharing the road.

The 2.6-kilometre stretch of separated bike lanes on Bloor Steer West between Shaw Street and Avenue Road are making it safer for cyclists to get around the high-traffic area.

The report stated that preliminary indications show collision and conflict (“near-miss” collision) rates have gone down in the area. Before the lane installation, an average of 22 collisions involving cyclists happened each year in the section between Shaw and Avenue.

As well, pedestrians feel safer and more comfortable walking on Bloor Street where the bike lanes have been installed.

Coun. Joe Cressy and Coun. Mike Layton, who championed the project, backed the report’s findings.

“Making our streets safe for all must be a critical priority for us,” the councillors said in a joint statement. “If we want to build a 21st century city – a city that moves people safely – we must make the Bloor bike lane permanent. And the data is clear – bike lanes on Bloor Street work.

They added that making the streets safe must be a “critical priority” for the city.

“We’ve created an environment where people feel safer – not just cyclists, but motorists and pedestrians,” the statement reads.

“We’ve seen a real decrease in collisions, and we’ve successfully made improvements to vehicle travel time, impacts now reduced by 50 per cent since the first data collection during the pilot.”

The report found that Bloor is now the busiest bike lane in the city after Richmond and Adelaide.

Mayor John Tory said the key reason for this study was to examine the safety of cyclists.

“(The report) shows that the road is safer for cyclists. This was a key reason to examine the impact of safe, separated, bike lanes, as car-bike collisions were numerous,” Tory said.

“People will sense, as a result of some of the data that you’ll find in the report — both car drivers and cyclists — that things are much safer with these bike lanes in place during the pilot project.”

The report found that while traffic times initially increased at the start of the project, with adjustments made to signal timing, increased travel times have been cut in half.

As for businesses, the study found that “most merchants reported an increase in the number of customers, most visitors reported spending more and visiting more frequently, and that vacancy rates are stable.”

And while on-street parking spots have decreased, the report found that lots and street parking off Bloor have allowed for parking revenue generated in the area to remain the same. However, it does acknowledge that sometimes both on-street and off-street parking were at capacity.

“We know there is more work to be done to continue to improve the lanes. Pilot projects allow us to test changes, see what’s working and make improvements,” Cressy and Layton said.

“But by making the bike lanes permanent, we can make improvements that will continue to make this bike lane a resounding success.”

Based on the report, Transportation Services is recommending the lanes become permanent. The Public Works and Infrastructure Committee will consider the report next Wednesday.

“I look forward to seeing the deputations that are made at the committee, to listening to them, to addressing actively the concerns of the people that have been identified, whether it be businesses or cyclists or drivers or pedestrians, and to making improvements to this,” Tory said.

“I also look forward to supporting the main recommendations at council and to supporting the motions that ensure that these changes will be done in a way that benefits businesses, cyclists, pedestrians and drivers.”

City council will vote on the matter next month.

Click here to read the full report.

Expert on Weinstein sex assault allegations: ‘There is never a reason to be silent’

CityNews | posted Thursday, Oct 12th, 2017

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Less than a week after The New York Times published a scathing expose, revealing stories of alleged sexual assault at the hands of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, the allegations continue to mount. But for one Toronto woman, the story was all too familiar and she decided to share her experience of workplace sexual harassment on Twitter.

 

“Seeing the familiarity, the parallels, the abuse of power, using his body to trap you, is not only a sad and unfortunate parallel, but translates to every sexism as well,” Anne T. Donahue told CityNews in a phone interview Wednesday about why she shared her story.

The online reaction was instant, with thousands of women tweeting Donahue their stories of sexual harassment.

“Things like workplace verbal harassment, casual sexism, there’s been full on sexual assault stories,” she says. “To me, the takeaway is: if we can continue to create space where people feel comfortable sharing and feel supported, there’s power in numbers.”

Deepa Mathoo, with the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, which serves women who experience various forms of violence, says it’s not uncommon for victims to feel afraid of reporting sexual violence in the workplace.

“It can feel very daunting and intimidating to speak up against superiors because you know it can have an adversarial impact on your income and that sometimes is the life source for people,”  she says, explaining that that is often what perpetrators hope for. “Power and control definitely breeds the right kind of situation for people to abuse their power, and control people who are vulnerable.”

That’s why Mathoo says it’s important for colleagues to be good bystanders and support women who may be on the receiving end of sexual harassment.

“You could have anyone and anyone in the workplace be a bystander and play a role,” she says. “It could be right from Human Resources, to a supervisor, to a colleague or someone who works with you who has seen it.”

Humberto Carolo with White Ribbon, an organization that works with men to end violence against women, says part of being a good ally is calling the behaviour out when it’s happening.

“Ask them, ‘what do you mean by that comment?’ Or, ‘I don’t understand that joke, can you explain that to me?’”

“You can say, ‘that’s not cool, that’s disrespectful.’ And if you’re a manager you can say, ‘That’s not welcome in the workplace.’”

Humberto says some often feel it’s not their place to intervene in personal relationships, or may fear for their safety in a dangerous situation, but he says there is never a reason to be silent.

“You can speak with the person who has experienced the incident and say, ‘are you OK, you didn’t deserve to be treated that way, and is there anything I can do to support you?’”

Twitter shuts down second anti-Doug Ford account

CityNews | posted Thursday, Oct 12th, 2017

Former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford announces he is publishing a book: "Ford Nation, Two Brothers, One Vision: The True Story of the People's Mayor," at a news confererce in Toronto, Sept.13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

For the second time in the past several weeks, Twitter has shut down an account criticizing soon-to-be mayoral candidate Doug Ford.

The group behind @DougFordFacts got a notice from the social media site on Monday saying the account had been suspended.

They filed an appeal and got a reply saying the account was “in violation of the policy on impersonation” and would not be restored.

“[We were] surprised, mostly,” founder Simon Henderson told CityNews in an email. “We aren’t a parody site. We’ve published researched and sourced commentary for four years without issue. Impersonating the Fords would be counter-productive.”

According to Twitter’s policy, the bio and name for commentary accounts should clearly show the user is not affiliated with the subject by using words like “fake,” “fan” or “commentary.”

DougFordFacts said for that reason it superimposed its website name on its photo and didn’t tweet in the first person. The group also said it followed the accepted practice of adding the word “facts” to the handle of a commentary account as in @DonaldTrumpFact, @facts_donald, @TrudeauFacts, @HillaryFacts, @FactsByBernie and @NenshiFacts.

“It’s immediately obvious that this is a third-party political commentary account,” the group said in a post. “Nobody in their right mind would conclude that this is an official account.”

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Henderson said Twitter hasn’t provided him with any details about the decision or the complaint that triggered it — and he has no idea why the company hasn’t given him a chance to make changes to the account.

Now, he added, there’s no way to dispute the suspension as Twitter doesn’t offer mediation or independent review

“We have always responded in good faith to make adjustments as requested,” he said. “We’ve never tried to be deceptive.”

Twitter said it wouldn’t comment on individual accounts “for privacy and security reasons.”

About six weeks ago, Twitter suspended @DougFrod a satirical account mocking Ford. User Richard Feren appealed, but the account has not been reinstated.

“Twitter absolutely needs to protect users against trolls and malicious impersonation,” Henderson said. “But now politicians are abusing the rules to stifle public criticism, and that’s not right. We know that private commentary accounts are a small part of the political discourse but citizens still deserve a voice.”

Ford announced last month he would join the race for mayor in 2018. He also ran in 2014 to replace his brother Rob Ford, who had a terminal cancer, but lost to John Tory.

Ford has not responded to a request for comment.

Tourist bus crashes downtown, driver has serious injuries

CityNews | posted Thursday, Oct 12th, 2017

A double-decker bus crashed at Sherbourne and Gerrard streets on Oct. 11, 2017. Photo credit: Twitter/@Painkillaah

The driver of a double-decker tourist bus is in hospital after she was injured in a downtown crash.

The crash happened at Sherbourne and Gerrard streets just before 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Police say the bus collided with a car, mounted the curb and struck a pole, bringing some hydro wires down.

The bus driver was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries. Her condition has been upgraded to serious but not life-threatening.

No other injuries were reported.

It’s unclear what led to the crash or if any charges will be laid.

Sherbourne remains closed between Dundas and Gerrard streets while police investigate.

City staff to deliver report on Bloor bike lanes Wednesday

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Oct 11th, 2017

Cyclists on the Bloor Street bike lanes. CITYNEWS

It could be the day of reckoning for the Bloor Street bike lanes.

City staff will reveal on Wednesday how the bike lanes have affected traffic and cycling rates downtown.

The Public Works Committee will receive a report on whether to make the lanes permanent. Next month city council will vote on the matter.

Last year, city council approved installing a separate bike lane along a 2.6-kilometre stretch of Bloor Steer West between Shaw Street and Avenue Road.

During public consultations in June, most cyclists said the pilot project has been a welcome addition.

“Since we’ve had the divided bike lanes, I feel much more confident,” cyclist Judith Butler told CityNews when public consultations were held on the project in June.

“I love it. I just sometimes come along to look at the shops and have coffee. I think it’s amazing.”

But not everyone was thrilled with the project.

“From Bay, all the way across to Shaw, it’s a disaster,” driver Rocco Catalano said.

“Traffic is just jammed right up and what (drivers are) doing is they’re going up side streets. Barton Street is like a highway.”

Coun. Joe Cressy, who helped spearhead the motion, said since the installation of the Bloor bike lanes the number of cyclists has been up, the degree of safety for both cyclists and drivers have been improved, and that there’s been a minimal impact on travel times.

In an effort to promote the lanes, Cycle Toronto kicked off the Tour de Bloor Passport this summer – a program designed to promote the Bloor bike lanes and support local businesses. The passport featured more than 70 businesses along Bloor where cyclists could get a stamp when they spent money.

Toronto airline expands daily service to 3 Ontario cities, including tech hub

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Oct 11th, 2017

A FlyGTA Airlines plane is seen at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport in an undated file photo. HANDOUT/Facebook

FlyGTA Airlines says it will soon fly daily to three new Ontario destinations out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, including an 18-minute flight to technology hub Kitchener-Waterloo.

The Canadian airline says travellers will be able to fly with them from Toronto to Barrie’s Lake Simcoe Regional Airport and Region of Waterloo International Airport in Kitchener-Waterloo starting Nov. 6.

The company says flights to London International Airport in London, Ont., will commence in December.

FlyGTA has been offering eight daily flights to
Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Niagara District Airport since Sept. 2016.

Flights to Kitchener-Waterloo and Barrie will cost $129 each, including taxes and fees, and seat eight passengers, according to the company’s website.

The company also operates charter flights, aerial tours of Toronto and getaways to Niagara wineries.

Sears Canada to seek court approval to liquidate all remaining stores

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Oct 11th, 2017

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Sears Canada Inc. is applying for court approval to liquidate all of its remaining stores and assets after failing to find a buyer that would allow it to continue as a business.

The embattled retailer has been operating under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act since June.

The court overseeing Sears Canada’s operations is expected to hear a motion Friday seeking approval for the liquidation and wind down of the business.

Sears Canada said in a statement Tuesday it “deeply regrets this pending outcome and the resulting loss of jobs and store closures.”

The company wants to start the liquidation sales no later than Oct. 19 and expects them to continue for 10 to 14 weeks.

Last Tuesday, Sears received a revised bid from a buyer group led by its executive chairman Brandon Stranzl to buy the business as a going concern.

However, a lawyer for Sears Canada’s court-appointed monitor told the court last week said it would consider it but the company was running out of money and time.

Litigators for a group of lenders who have provided debtor-in-possession financing to Sears Canada to keep it afloat pushed for a liquidation agreement to be entered into by Oct. 7 at the latest. The lenders pushed for approval no later than Oct. 13, in order to liquidate before the crucial holiday season and maximize value.


Residents in Scarborough have their say on SmartTrack plan

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Oct 11th, 2017

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Mayor John Tory wants the public to get back on track with the talks of SmartTrack, announcing six new stations, including two in Scarborough.

SmartTrack was a marquee promise during Tory’s election campaign in 2014. He initially said shovels would be in the ground within two years.

Public consultation is underway this week, with the first held on Tuesday night at the Scarborough Civic Centre.

In a presentation, the city unveiled part of its plan which would see all-day, two-way service with trains every 6-10 minutes during peak periods and every 15 minutes during off-peak periods

The trains will also be electric, quieter and faster.

The idea is to use the existing GO rail corridors, which would see rapid transit along the Kitchener, Lakeshore East and Stouffeville lines as well as Eglinton Ave West.

However, some in attendance couldn’t help but voice their concerns over the project. They include worries about parking, noise, location and overall design

“They call this a meeting but it’s not a meeting” says Peter Thachuk, a concerned resident. “There’s no party at the table, no representative from communities at the table. They need to properly consult with communities”

And he’s not the only one – some members of City Council feel the same way.

“Their minds are made up” said Jim Karygiannis, who was surprised to see initial plans for parking at some of these stations altered.

“When they say here is a drawing with parking and then come back and say “oh there’s no parking” what consultation is that?”

For their part, the mayor and Metrolinx told CityNews everything discussed at the meetings will be taken into consideration.

“The only thing our minds have made up is that we are going to build SmartTrack and a subway extension” said Mayor Tory.

“The details of how things will happen, parking issues, noise issues are all on the table for discussion, that’s what these meetings are about”

Click here for information on the other meeting times and locations.

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