Ward 21 councillor Joe Mihevc is looking to remove the city’s unused streetcar tracks in hopes it will help prevent another fatal accident.
Mihevc will be presenting a motion along with Ward 19 councillor Mike Layton to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Sept. 12 asking for city staff to come up with a plan for the city’s approximate 3.5 kilometres of unneeded track.
On Aug. 6, cyclist Joseph Mavec died after his bicycle wheel got stuck in the unused streetcar tracks on Wychwood Avenue and he was thrown to the curb. Mavec was not wearing a helmet at the time.
Mihevc, who was Mavec’s scout leader decades ago, occasionally waved to Mavec when he saw him cycling in the neighbourhood. Mavec lived near Christie and Bloor Streets.
“I was very saddened by it, A) because it happened in my neighbourhood, B) because it was a bicycle accident, and C) because I knew the fellow,” Mihevc said. “So it was a tragedy on so many levels.”
Mihevc remembered Mavec as an energetic child and a friendly face in the neighbourhood.
“He was a typical rambunctious young kid, and you needed to give him a lot of room to run and play and explore,” he said.
The St. Paul’s councillor said cyclists have had issues with the decommissioned streetcar tracks in the past, but there has never been such a serious incident.
“People often have run-ins with streetcar tracks, including myself, but nothing so serious that I would have been told as a city councillor,” he said.
Much of the 3.5 kilometres is set to be removed as part of standard road reconstruction.
“Then there are places like Wychwood, where the road is in good condition, so what do you do between now and the time where you basically rip it up?” Mihevc said.
The councillor believes there’s a product made specifically for the application.
“In days of old what they used to do was just cover it with asphalt, so I want to explore that,” he said. “If they can’t cover it with asphalt, is there any kind of coating or covering they can put in to make sure people don’t get their tires caught in it?”
Mihevc rejected an idea from Public Works and Infrastructure Committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong to ban cycling on Wychwood Avenue, at a lower cost than road reconstruction.
“It’s insane,” Mihevc said. “We don’t ban cars on the Gardiner Expressway because there’s an accident, we try and find out what the problem is and repair it.”
Minnan-Wong could not be reached for comment by press time.
Mihevc said if the tracks cannot be covered, he would like them to be removed altogether.
He said the idea has support among his colleagues.
“We disagree on a number of things on council, but there’s strong support that safety has to come first.”