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Alms for Bike Safety

November 5th, 2012 · No Comments

By Hamish Wilson

There was good news for cyclists at a recent public meeting initiated by the Annex Residents Association: many of the needed pieces for re-doing Bloor Street in the Annex for bike safety are finally coming together.

The ARA’s Transportation Committee produced three major recommendations for public consideration: bike lanes on Bloor, a lowering of the speed limits on residential streets to 30km, and easing “wrong” way biking on these side streets.

A study conducted in 1992 found Bloor ideal for an east-west bike route with the subway enabling a vast amount of non-car mobility, but since then official counts of bike/car crashes have shown a steady pattern of harm including four deaths with no real reaction.

The push for more bike-lanes was killed off in the summer of 2011 by the Rob Ford’s council to save around $500,000, the approximate cost of repainting the entire Bloor/Danforth – the same amount paid to former TTC Chief Gary Webster. Though cities like London, England, have seen the merits of expanding their bike network to ease subway woes, Fordian logic, backed by a majority of suburban councillors, seems intent on removing bike lanes.

Data presented by the Toronto Coalition for Active Transport showed that the majority of commerce on Bloor comes from public transit, cyclists and pedestrians. Currently, there are approximately 90 car parking spaces between Spadina and Bathurst, half of which would be excised if bike lanes are introduced in favour of the three Green P lots nearby.

With residents embracing real change to the street, Councillor Adam Vaughan is becoming increasingly supportive, though the devil lurks in the details. For instance, while wider sidewalks arguably improve pedestrian flow, good bike lanes would take up almost all of one current lane – and Bloor is not that wide. Also, merely placing sharrows on the road doesn’t adequately counter the speed of drivers who tend to respect white lines far more.

Sadly, getting a consensus from the community will not guarantee bike lanes as the motor-happy Fordists will fight this change, despite previously saying they would allow bike lanes with community support. Unfortunately, the communities and councilmembers of Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York have more votes than the old core and use them.

Next year, the city intends to redo Bloor Street from Bathurst to Lansdowne. Repairs to the Annex Bloor area’s heavily potholed and disintegrating roads could logistically be included within this makeover. Astoundingly, to merely repaint Bloor seems now to require an Environmental Assessment, whereas ripping out the hundreds of tonnes of sidewalk and road etc. has become routine destruction and waste. So what if we have issues with Mega-quarries – the three Rs don’t apply!

Civic responses, which gave equal value to lives and well-being, are in favour of attempting the repainting of Bloor between Spadina and Dundas – and to try it this fall, to see if the world ends. The simple repainting of Bloor for those 4kms would cost $100,000 – a large sum, yes, but a penny in the overall city budget. Is that too much to ask to improve the safety of cyclists while reducing carbon emissions?

HW is an Annex area cyclist advocate and consultant with many years of urging Bloor bike safety with Take the Tooker and the Bells on Bloor.

Tags: Editorial