Update: Bike Share station in Riverdale Park West

An update on the matter of the Bike Share station in Riverdale Park West for you. The poll we ran in late November / early December showed overwhelming support for having a Bike Share station located in the park – over 97% of the 739 respondents supported this. For the record, the 2 “other” responses were also in favour of the current location but wrote comments about it rather than voting yes. We shared the results with Councillor McConnell’s office.

Pie graph showing 739 responses, Does a Bike Share station belong in Riverdale Park West? Yes-721, No-16, Other-2

In January, some preliminary discussions were had between the various City Departments involved, but no decisions were taken although the popularity of the station has raised the possibility of a second one being placed nearby. More recently, the Cabbagetown Heritage Conservation District (HCD) Committee was approached by a concerned resident about the matter and on January 23 posted an open letter to Councillor McConnell on their website. The letter reads in part that their “primary concern lies with the negative impact the Bike Share unit has on the neighbouring heritage sites and its incompatibility with the character of the neighbourhood. We support the function of Bike Share, just not the current location.” The HCD Committee suggest moving the Bike Share station outside of the park to the south west corner of the intersection of Carlton and Sumach Streets on the grass between the sidewalk and the fence surrounding Sprucecourt P.S. (see their letter for a photo of the location). We aren’t sure yet who “owns” that piece of property (TDSB, City of Toronto…) so we don’t know their reaction at this point (Feb 4 update: according to the updated HCD web page, the trees on the boulevard would block the solar panel which needs 7 hours of sunlight per day to power the station, therefore the proposed new location wouldn’t be suitable). The HCD Committee (all volunteers, including experts in heritage and architecture) is responsible for a lot of good works in the neighbourhood, but the CRA board disagrees with them on this particular topic.

Our opinion

When the Cabbagetown Residents Association Board of Directors were first contacted about this topic in November, none of the 11 board directors supported moving the station. We reject the idea that bicycles or the bicycle rack/station are incompatible with the current location and the heritage buildings nearby. Many of us believe that bicycles and Bike Share access are a welcome and “welcoming” contribution to the park and are an enhancement to the neighbourhood. The automated “Donation Station” at the west entrance to the farm, plastic recycling/garbage bins, modern picnic benches, electric street lighting and modern signage are all modern elements that contribute positively to the park and do not negatively impact the view of the wonderful heritage buildings – we believe that the Bike Share station is similarly suitable. We think that a prominently sited Bike Share station is not only tolerated, but is *celebrated* by most residents.

If you haven’t been by the park for a while, a few photos are posted here showing the rack and some modern elements within the park. Feel free to leave comments below.

February 3, 2017: The Toronto Star has an article about the topic:
The petty battle against Bike Share in historic Cabbagetown (thestar.com)


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20 Responses to Update: Bike Share station in Riverdale Park West

  1. Anonymous says:

    Like the vast majority, I voted to leave the bike rack in the park in the CRA’s initial survey but after seeing all these sad pictures of all the other “eye sores” in the park makes me realize we could and should do so much better. Urban parks in “world class cities” like New York, Paris, Chicago or London are far better appointed with proper fixtures, no ugly garbage/recycle bins and industrial tables and lighting fixtures. Looking at these pictures of the park makes me think more “third world” and such a waste beside the Farm which is such an impressive facility.

    (FYI, the outdated lighting in the park does not meet present City regulated lighting codes and safety standards for City owned & operated parks and Pam McConnell has long been aware of this deficiency) The City should act now to get the lighting up to code & safety standards but they need to do it right for a change.

    Thought Cabbagetown was a “heritage conservation district” so why aren’t the City and Parks& Rec more sensitive and pro-active with heritage based designs and installations in the park at the heart of the heritage district? Before we move the bikes to Sumach and Carlton or further east on Winchester next to pigs (either of which I’m fine with) lets first lose the ugly plastic garbage/recycle bins and industrial picnic tables and light posts and install properly designed heritage themed fixtures.

    • The Cabbagetowner says:

      Thanks for writing in. Please do keep in mind that this is a grim time of year and combined with my less-than-pulitzer-prize-winning photography skills, the park does look a bit lifeless in the photos. The park is considered within the heritage conservation district, and that’s why the HCD Committee has an important voice in the the discussions. There are a lot of people and groups who would have an interest in the park though and I think it’s sometimes a challenge to keep lines of communication open and to find common agreement.

      Off the top of my head and in no particular order, the following probably have an interest in the state of the park:
      – Parks, Forestry and Recreation Dept.
      – Riverdale Farm
      – Cabbagetown Heritage Conservation District Committee
      – Riverdale Farm Stewardship Group
      – Councillor Pam McConnell
      – Friends of Riverdale Park West
      – Toronto Parking Authority (Bike Share is owned and managed by the TPA)
      – Transportation Services
      – Cabbagetown Residents Association
      – Cabbagetown Preservation Association

    • Gina Dineen says:

      While we are at it, how about the unsightly sonar tube stumps that are supplied as a base for every dedicated memorial tree?
      These are impossible to mow around, present a lurking stubbed toe hazard and are prone to crumbly deterioration. They are set at random heights, with most unnecessarily high. They often list pathetically to one side after a few seasons.
      Who considered them a suitable substitute for the subtle, functional and elegant flat cement markers of the past?
      When the tree dies, whats left…a hideous sonar tube with a puny brass plaque. Is that the best we can do?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Some good commentary so far.

    I think the CRA continues to be correct in recommending the rack stay where it is, and I continue to support the CRA’s position.

    It seems silly to relocate it outside the Park for any reason (aesthetic or otherwise), because it 1) serves local residents and 2) provides an easy way for everyone to visit the Riverdale Farm and Riverdale Park. This seems like a mushrooming NIMBY issue and I hope I don’t see the G&M pick up on these “Cabbagetown NIMBYs” as with the splashpad canopy last year.

    As well, I’m delighted to hear that demand is high enough to support a second rack. Let’s hope the city spends its $$$ building a second rack rather than moving the first.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree. This is absolutely a NIMBY issue, and as a Cabbagetown resident I find it pretty embarrassing.

    The Star article got it bang on. Heritage protection language has its real uses, and is also a slippery slope for rigid and exclusionary impulses. (Eg: WHOSE heritage is being protected? The neighbourhood historically represents a confluence of traditions and peoples and social classes – and it still does.) The park is public space enjoyed by many, including folks who are not wealthy enough to live right next to it, and may be less troubled by its shabbier trappings.

    My priority is to avoid the park being a flashpoint for “us vs them” thinking, and that it remain accessible for all. After that, I’m always up for measures that make the park safer and healthier, and more beautiful too.

    I applaud the CRA and the “Cabbagetowner” for remaining diplomatic and collaborative, yet taking a clear stand on protecting the BikeShare infrastructure. Thank you!

  4. Randy Brown says:

    The Bikeshare should be removed from the park for many reasons: it is placed on a grassy slope, it stands in front of historic landmarks and it looks like an industrial nightmare, not at all in tune with the neighborhood. If it is placed 100 feet from where it is now, will that affect, even minutely, people’s access to it? Will it not still serve local residents and be close to the park? If you separate reasons from opinions, people who want the status quo have no grounds and are incapable of managing reasonable change. It was placed there at random – let it be placed somewhere else, at random.

    As for the splashpad issue last year, over 30 residents living close to that canopy signed a petition appealing for a change of colour to green and the city was happy to oblige.

    Let me also say, that if you prefer to remain anonymous and not stand behind your comments, your comments should be dismissed as whimsy.

  5. Doug Fisher says:

    I suggest that the park be removed from the Heritage Conservation District. Two structures – the Simpson House and the Donnybrook Pavilion – are officially designated heritage properties and their status should continue. The rest of the park should be treated in the same way that the other City parks are handled.

    New attractions and conveniences like the BikeShare station broaden its value. Who can predict what we’ll want there in ten or twenty years – so let’s not put the place into a straightjacket demanding that it conform to vaguely described heritage principles.

    If this can’t be done, then we have to clean up the official heritage descriptions for the park. The HCD District Plan’s comments about the park are wildly general – in contrast to its specifics about nearby homes, landscaping and other neighbourhood features.

    A bike station really cannot be placed on a boulevard right beside neighbouring homes. This is a convenient and seemingly reasonable idea for those who want it out of the park but the suggestion ignores the impact of noise, litter and a constant stream of people. The current location inside the park handles all of these issues neatly.

    The CRA’s poll did all of us a great service – many thanks.

    Finally, thanks also to the volunteers on the HCD committee. We disagree on this small issue but let’s not forget that their work over the years has been invaluable and they’ve been instrumental in making the heritage project in Cabbagetown such a success.

  6. Ross Winter says:

    For what it’s worth and after the fact, apparently, I want to go on record as supporting the bike stand. These petty ‘historicist’ objections are ridiculous. As they were in the case of the pool umbrellas in the park at the end of Wellesley. Sugar Beach established the colour, and the same should be applied everywhere. The ‘rule’ of the Preservation Society that ‘everything should revert to the original’ would have us all living in insulbrick shacks. I am fed up with the local design police.

    Ross Winter
    B.Arch. M.Arch. MCP

  7. Beth Kaplan says:

    I could not agree more with the letter above by Ross Winter about “the local design police.” The focus on something as petty as the placement of these vital bike sharing stands, aimed at getting cars off the streets and gasoline fumes out of the air, is an embarrassment to us all, as was the utterly humiliating battle over the colour of the umbrella.

    Please stop giving us a NIMBY bad name. The rest of the city thinks of us as snobby, pretentious twits, and it’s clear why. And I for one, a 31-year C’towner, would prefer we be known for our beautifully restored old homes, our Farm, our gardens, and most of all, our welcoming inclusivity for the incredible ethnic and economic diversity in our neighbourhood, on view every year at the C’town Festival.

  8. Randy Brown says:

    No more comments about the Bikeshare by the taste-impaired need be printed. The decision is that the Bikeshare is moving. It’s over, folks.

    The pictures of our park (above) are truly telling. the garbage receptacles, the benches, the donation machine, the lighting – all of it is ugly, and it was all dropped on us by an uncaring bureaucracy without a breath of consultation. I pass these things daily and they depress me – and then they dumped the Bikeshare, once again without consultation or a care.

    That was the last straw for me. No more uglification of the park.

    And I would like to ask all those who comment about how wonderful the Bikeshare is, exactly what have they done to improve our neighborhood? Have they raised money? Have they organized anything? I doubt it very much.

  9. Geraldine Cameron says:

    I do hope this last comment proves to be wrong, and that Bikeshare is not moving from it’s current location. As far as I have read it will not happen until the spring, and possibly not at all. There is no reason for it to move as it is in a perfect location.

    This is a public facility, open to the wider city and visitors, and we are extraordinarily lucky to live near it. What one person considers an eyesore is not necessarily the community’s view, as was clearly shown in last year’s survey.

    • The Cabbagetowner says:

      Hi Geraldine. Thank you for writing in.

      You are correct that the comment that reads “The decision is that the Bikeshare is moving. It’s over, folks.” is not accurate. We received word from Councillor McConnell’s office that no decision has yet been made and that no decision will be made until the Spring.

  10. Randy Brown says:

    We live in a Heritage Area. All of us have benefited from this designation even though a few of us don’t like the rules and regulations attached to the designation.

    Riverdale Park is 130 years old. It is part of our heritage, and no one, in the past century, has put anything like the Bikeshare in that park. Yes there are the ugly garbage bins that were foisted on every park. We need to replace those bins with ones that are designed more in the spirit of our heritage park.That is my next project.

    Lots of people have a sentimental opinion about the Bikeshare location even though it’s been there less than six months.It would be nice if anyone could present a reason or facts or logical argument for it being there but I have read none. See above for my reasons.

    If only those people who care so much about this trivial Bikeshare matter really cared about our park. If they did, they would buy a brick for $100 – I have raised $30,000 doing so which replaced two pathways and built the patio in front of the arm.

    No one who actually uses the Bikeshare will be the least bit inconvenienced by having it 100′ or a block away. It will still be a community resource and just as available. I would be curious to know just how many people who have written in are members of Bikeshare and how many have done anything to improve our community.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hello, I am a bikeshare member!

    The current location is ideal because it’s right at the point of interest – the Riverdale Farm. Bikeshare stations work best when they are obvious and conspicuous, not hidden or tucked away. Bikeshare stations in other cities (Copenhagen, London England) are always right at a point of interest. The current location is best practice.

    I agree the Riverdale Park garbage bins are ugly – you would never see them in London or Copenhagen. I am so pleased to hear this is your next project, and I hope the bin issue will get traction and support in the wide community.

    Our family has donated to Riverdale Farm and we volunteer for the Forsythia Festival. I have been tempted to buy a $100 brick, but having one’s name written in the park as a permanent monument seems boorish so we just donated anonymously to the Farm instead.

  12. David Le Roy says:

    Interesting comments. I am always surprised by how willing people in Toronto are to accept the cheapest, most thoughtless, most ugly solutions to almost anything. As pointed out by others, the low quality, poorly designed but expedient park “amenities” and “improvements” we have seen would simply never appear in other global cities. In regard to this particular question, as someone who bikes to work every day, I would suggest the rack be moved to the service road above the lower Riverdale Park, or to the end of Winchester Street at the south end of the park (maybe even *gasp* sacrifice a few parking spaces for it). It is certainly not ideal to have a bike rack on grass (again, something most places would never dream of doing) – foot traffic will kill the grass and lead to mud ruts.

  13. Randy Brown says:

    To the “anonymous” Bikeshare user – Bikeshares are NOT put in front of important heritage buildings anywhere on this earth, they are put to one side, which is exactly where this one should be. And I’m glad you contributed to the farm, but to call hundreds of your neighbors “boorish” is churlish.

    And thanks to David LeRoy for his refreshing view – I have done much to help our park and would welcome any help (416-926-0237)

    For those who think that the Bikeshare needs 7 hours of sunlight a day to operate, kindly take a look at the one at Carlton and Parliament which is in total shade year round. Many others are in the shade as well.

    As for the hysterical article by Shawn Micallef in the Star that insults all Cabbagetowners, it is rife with errors, hyperbole, red herrings and bullshit. It is a disgrace to the Star to have published it. And it was clearly written after speaking with Keith Lawrence of the Residents Assocation. Shame on you!

    • The Cabbagetowner says:

      For the record, I have neither met nor spoken with the author of the Star article, Shawn Micallef. I had no written communications with the author either until after the article was published and I began following Shawn’s Twitter account and commented on some responses. I was unaware that the article was being written prior to publication and was as surprised as the next Cabbagetowner that a bicycle stand in our little corner of the city was being featured in the country’s largest circulation newspaper. Please keep the conversation civil. (Keith)

  14. Randy Brown says:

    8 March 2017
    Keith:
    Sorry for accusing you of being the source of the quotes in Micaleff’s Feb 3 rant but your handling of this situation has, from the start, been offensive.

    When I first contacted you via e-mail, asking for the Resident’s Association support, it would have been considerate of you to pick up the phone and call me (my number is on all my e-mails) to discuss the situation but you could not be bothered. I was then informed by you that all eleven of your board members had been against moving the Bikeshare, which makes me wonder how you presented the idea. Furthermore, when I asked for a chance to speak to the board myself you turned me down with a rather rude comment.

    You then proceeded to have a survey without discussing it with me. You came up with a simplistic misleading question on an issue that required some education and got lots of votes for the Bikeshare to remain, even though the vast majority of those 700 people never use the Bikeshare.

    You then proceeded to go around and photograph all the ugly additions to the park that the city has foisted on us to justify putting one more ugly thing in the park, i.e. the Bikeshare. Little did you realize that you had just proved my point: I do not want any more ugly things dumped in the park by the city, i.e. the Bikeshare.

    Subsequently the Heritage Committee did invite me to their meeting and did agree that the Bikeshare should not be in the park. They saw that it could be just as visible and convenient placed elsewhere.

    You have managed, in your inept way, to turn local committees against each other and perhaps even neighbor against neighbor. Your arrogance in assuming that you were the final arbiter of the question is self-important and overbearing.

    Our local committees do different things. The Preservation Association educates people about Cabbagetown; the Heritage Committee decides on the heritage rules; the Residents Association puts out public information bulletins on its website; and the Art and Crafts helps out with Riverdale Park.

    Jumping all over another committee’s area is not neighborly.

  15. Anonymous says:

    The CRA seems focussed on “livability”. HCD Committee is directly focused on “heritage”. There may be cases where one group feels differently about an issue than the other group because they each have a different mission.

    I’m OK with 2 different community organizations having differing views on occasion. I would like to think they would complement each other and generally work together, but if the CRA’s members are saying they consider the current bikeshare location to enhance livability, that’s OK.

    A big thank you to the volunteers who staff both the CRA and HCD-C (and heck, the Cabbagetown BIA when we’re at it). Let’s support each other and “agree to disagree” sometimes.

    • The Cabbagetowner says:

      Thanks for your comments. We try to represent the broad interests of residents in general and you are correct that sometimes there will be differences of opinion between community groups (and even between the residents themselves).

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