The City wants bike lanes in North York Centre, but business owners say they don’t want this idea to happen.

The six-lane, skyscraper-lined stretch of Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch Avenues is referred to as both North York Centre and Koreatown North. East along this stretch you’ll find some of the best bars in the city, a few great schools and endless high-rises.

Plans to widen sidewalks and create bike lanes have been in the works for years. This is intended to reduce car usage and make the area more pedestrian-friendly. Toronto’s downtown core sees a lot of people using public transportation, walking, and cycling, so these changes will make the area less congested and an even nicer place to live and work.

After many debates, years of tinkering, and re-tooling, City Council finally approved the plan to REimagining Yonge in December 2020. However, two weeks ago, residents living nearby noticed a series of signs popping up in storefront windows – urging council to reconsider.

. “No Bike Lanes On Yonge St. between Sheppard and Finch,” they read in bold lettering.

“The plan” should be dismissed and don’t recommend taking action to move forward.

These signs, from the Korean-Canadian Business Association of Ontario, also contain QR codes linking to a petition for supporters to sign.

One of the Association’s owners is Hyun Joo Chae, president and founder of MeNami and Han Ba Tang. This plan doesn’t take into account just how important takeout service is to local restaurants – they need quick drop-ins, too!

On a typical weekday, all 8 lanes of traffic on Yonge Street between the two curbs are in use due to parked cars. The city’s plan would not hamper this traffic flow and allows for parking in all areas. However, some people, like Chae, aren’t happy with that idea.

“Takeout restaurants, they need to have good access to parking spots,” she told Global News. “A lot of people can’t walk too far.”

“And for you—being able to order food delivery with Uber and Door Dash.”

City Council’s plan would add parking on service routes up to Beecroft Road and down to Doris Avenue, but Chae said it’s not as convenient.

“Ten minutes is a long time to walk this far,” he said, “(…) It takes a lot to do that. I wouldn’t walk it.”

Chae’s preferred alternative would be to move the bike lanes one block west along Beecroft Road rather than remove parking spaces on Yonge Street.

John Filion, who has been in office for a long time, has devoted himself to pushing for this item. It’s been his passion project and he was the one who led the charge.

This individual was set to retire after the next week, and characterized the opposition against REimagining Yonge as a way for the City Council candidates to make “election promises that were nothing but misinformation.” He told Global News that this was a way for promising to do things that are based on what the City Council has already decided.

As the Willowdale area continues to grow, the city hopes to revitalize it and make it a destination for all. However, pickup and delivery services might have some inconveniences. Nevertheless, restaurant owners will appreciate being able to expand their patios because of the added space.

This serves the dual purpose of giving wide boulevards that will be terrific for restaurants in the area.

As of today, former Councillor Filion has retired and the KCBA supporters are looking to incoming Councillor Lily Cheng to reopen the issue.

Cheng told Global News she doesn’t feel that locals were involved in the original planning process. To compromise, she suggested a 1-year test run to see how the roadway changes work, before making them permanent.

“My proposal, which I’m running on,” she said outside a local coffee shop, “is to pilot the bike lanes.”

“Having a common topic or experience to share can be a great way to foster relationships.”

She knows that a pilot project wouldn’t be accurate representation of what the real thing would be like. It wouldn’t include any expansion of the sidewalk to create bike lanes, but it would give our local stakeholders an idea of how it might work.

Cheng will take over Ward 18 – Willowdale, but trying to start a pilot project is not as easy as it may sound. She would first have to move a motion to convince fellow Councillors to reopen the debate. When asked whether he thought Council would seriously consider the idea, Filion replied frankly.

“No. This decision has been with the council for three months. Fortunately, it finally got made. The vote was pretty much unanimous.”

At the meeting, Mayor John Tory was in favour of raising property taxes by three per cent.

In response to people saying it’s hard, Chae told Global News, “Nothing is impossible.”

Councillor-elect Cheng noted that construction on the REimagining Yonge project is still several years away from starting and that the project is not yet fully funded.

“We’ll talk this through openly,” she promised.

“We still have time to get some more data, get a stronger voice in the community, and grow our membership.”

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