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A pilot bike lane for Bloor Street

May 6th, 2015 · No Comments

Make cycling safer in Toronto

By Joe Cressy and Albert Koehl

Many people fear change, even when research suggests they should welcome it. The same is true in Toronto where projects like bike lanes that promise benefits to our health, air, businesses, climate, and traffic circulation are nonetheless treated with some suspicion. This is part of the problem in the long-standing fight to make cycling safer in Toronto, including on Bloor Street in our neighbourhood. Fortunately, there is a safety net for such projects — a simple planning tool known as a “pilot” that not only shows people what a change might look like, but provides an opportunity to work out any unforseen problems.

In January of last year, the Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) asked then Ward 20 Councillor Adam Vaughan for a pilot bike lane on Bloor Street. The call for a pilot was supported by all five neighbouring residents’ associations (Harbord, Seaton, Palmerston, Huron-Sussex, and Christie Pits). In fact, the installation of bike lanes on Bloor Street has been part of the ARA’s cycling policy since 2011. At a public meeting in Oct. 2012 there was overwhelming support for bike lanes, as well as other safety improvements for the many area residents who get around by bicycle.

With a new city council in place as of Dec. 2014, planning has already commenced for a pilot bike lane on Bloor Street for Apr. 2016.

The case for bike lanes on Bloor Street is fairly well-known: the route is flat and unencumbered by streetcar tracks; there is a subway beneath the road; and many people continue to cycle on Bloor Street, despite the absence of cycling safety measures. These were some of the factors that were identified in a City of Toronto report two decades ago when Bloor-Danforth was identified as an ideal east-west cycling route. Since that time the case for bike lanes on Bloor Street — and across Toronto — has only become stronger.

In a 2013-14 study by Toronto Public Health (TPH) as part of its “Healthy Canada by Design” initiative, Annex residents identified bike lanes on Bloor as their top “active transportation” priority. In a number of recent reports, TPH has made it clear that the lack of safe cycling infrastructure deprives many residents, particularly motorists, of the health benefits of this enjoyable form of exercise.

In a 2012 review of cycling deaths, Ontario’s chief coroner recommended the implementation of “Complete Streets”, namely streets that can be shared safely by all road users, particularly vulnerable ones such as cyclists and pedestrians.

An earlier study by the Clean Air Partnership found that motorists bring only 10 per cent of the business to local shops — about the same amount as cyclists (even though cyclists are relegated to the risky door zone of parked cars, or squeezed perilously close to the curb during rush hour).

The same study found that parking in Green P municipal lots could make up for most of the loss of parking on Bloor Street. (Indeed, there are also hundreds of free daytime parking spots along side streets.)

Family-oriented bike parades by Bells on Bloor along Bloor Street over each of the last seven years have drawn up to 2,000 cyclists. Perhaps more importantly, residents continue to cycle along Bloor Street, despite the absence of measures to protect them. Imagine the potential for more shoppers to the area if bike lanes were actually installed.

The gist of these studies, reports, and observations is that our community has very good reason to welcome bike lanes on Bloor Street for the safety, health, environmental, and business benefits. A pilot project is an effective planning tool to move the idea towards reality while ensuring that the best design is chosen for our community.

For many years the calls for a bike lane on Bloor Street have grown louder and louder. Many high schools students at Central Technical School and University of Toronto Schools want bike lanes for a safer ride to school. Many residents want bike lanes to alleviate congestion and support healthy lifestyles. And many businesses want bike lanes because, simply put, they are good for business.

We believe the time is now to bring bike lanes to Bloor Street. And in 2016, with the support of many throughout our community, we’re looking forward to safely cycling along Bloor Street. We hope you’ll join us on that ride.

Tags: Annex · News