New Ramp On the Way for Lower Don Trail

A great win for access and advocacy!

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If you enjoy the Lower Don Trail, you know how difficult it can be to access – for people using a mobility device, with children in strollers, on bikes or trikes, pushing a bundle buggy or towing a trailer, etc. That’s about to improve, with an accessible ramp to be built at the Riverdale Park pedestrian/cyclist bridge.

This amazing win is the result of several years’ hard work by cycling and pedestrian advocates who collaborated together, found a champion in a local councillor, and engaged residents and the community. The process started in April 2013, when the City of Toronto held a public consultation on the Lower Don Trail Access, Environment + Art Master Plan project. Advocates attended and provided input, including requesting that ramps, rather than simply staircases, be part of the plan to increase accessibility to the Narrows section of the Lower Don Trail (located halfway between trail entrances at Corktown Common and Pottery Road). When the final plan was released by the City of Toronto and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority in September 2013, advocates were disappointed to learn that new staircases proposed for the bridges at Gerrard Street East and Dundas Street East would not include any ramp. That’s when the hard work began – to get an accessible ramp connection, to better serve the many people for whom stairs are still a barrier.

Fortunately, a coalition of local and city-wide advocates, including Walk Toronto, didn’t give up and kept the pressure on staff and politicians to come up with an accessible solution, which the City finally agreed to in the spring of 2015. The ramp, once it is built, will benefit not only local Riverdale residents but also downtowners who are not well provided with large bodies of green space – Torontonians will have three streetcar line options if they wish to get to the ramp using public transit.

Congratulations are in order to Ward 30 Bikes, the official Cycle Toronto advocacy group for Ward 30, which took the initiative on this project. In April 2014, the group, led by Michael Holloway, authored the report “Creating Accessible Connections: Ramps to the Lower Don Trail at Dundas and Gerrard,” which was endorsed by Walk Toronto, Cycle Toronto Trails Working Group, Ward 28 Cycling Advocacy Group and Ward 29 Bikes. Walk Toronto submitted its own “Lower Don Trail Accessibility” report in August 2014 and posted about this issue at that time.

Kudos are also due to Councillor Paula Fletcher for getting a study on the matter, and to Paul Young at South Riverdale Community Health Centre for assisting the advocates. The Riverside BIA, neighbourhood residents, individuals in local walking/hiking groups, and Cycle Toronto members are among the many others who also made known their support for an accessible ramp.

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The work isn’t over. Advocates, including Walk Toronto, continue to be involved as the City prepares a Request for Proposal for the design phase in 2015, with construction slated for 2016. Nevertheless, let’s celebrate this victory, and reflect on what it teaches us to do:

  • Get involved.

  • Collaborate with others, and engage different communities.

  • Find a political champion.

  • Be persistent. Be persistent. Be persistent

 

Post prepared by Vivien Leong

 

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