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It’s really a village, not a freeway

July 31st, 2015 · 3 Comments

The thought of bicycling down a highway is a frightening prospect. It is dangerous, and that is why it is prohibited. Bloor Street is technically a highway too, King’s Highway No. 5 to be exact, named in 1925 for King George V. Those high hydro poles whose lights appear only to serve to illuminate third floor apartments are a requirement for “highways” such as Bloor Street. The Bloor Annex BIA (whose chair publishes this newspaper) attached decorative lights to the poles to bring some brightness down to the street. Introducing bike lanes on Bloor Street would be another step to share this roadway more equitably and more safely with the automobile.

The advocacy group Cycle Toronto, together with five residents’ associations (Seaton, Harbord Village, Annex, Palmerston, and Huron), have initiated an on-line campaign to get the city to follow through with its much mused-about plan to introduce pilot bike lanes to Bloor, presently intended for 2016. At press time, 1,615 people have signed the petition at BloorLovesBikes.ca. The Bloor Annex BIA is supporting a baseline “before and during” study of the impact of the pilot on its members. The assumption is that more bikes will bring more customers needs to be tested.

Bloor Street can be a hazardous place for cyclists, so much so that many choose alternative routes. And given the narrowness of the street, the question of getting doored is not if it will happen, but when. The odds are presently against the relatively vulnerable cyclist who dares to occupy that no man’s land between the parked car and the automobile travel lane.

It’s presently a hazardous roadway for pedestrians too, especially at rush hour. In both the morning and afternoon rush parking is prohibited in the curb lane. When there are two car-driving lanes, the left one is inevitably stop-and-go as the cars wait for those to complete left turns onto side streets. This makes the curb lane the passing lane and many cars see it as an opportunity to get ahead of the pack. This puts speeding cars and an overflowing sidewalk of pedestrians in too close for comfort proximity.

It is a misconception that all those cars that transit Bloor Street through the Annex are shoppers just looking for a place to park, so they can stop and buy something. They are just using it as a, well, a highway. According to a 2008 survey of 61 Annex area shops, restaurants, and 538 patrons, only 10 per cent of customers drove to the Bloor Annex neighbourhoods. Merchants’ perception was that 25 per cent of their customers got there by car. The survey, conducted by the Clean Air Partnership, also reported that there were 168 paid on-street parking spots (between Bathurst Street and Spadina Road) and 267 paid spaces in the off-street Green P lots. In addition, side streets offered a mixed bag of opportunities for free parking, where typically one hour is permitted during the day. These side street spaces were not counted in the survey. Of the paid spaces, even during peak periods, only 80 per cent were occupied, meaning at peak the Annex area had 86 vacant paid spaces. Eliminating parking on one side of the street would eliminate approximately 84 spots. That’s right, the Green Ps alone have the capacity to accommodate the lost spots on Bloor.

If the design simply removes parking from one side of the street, enough road width would be liberated for two bike lanes, one on the north side and one on the south. For the businesses on the side of the street where parking is removed, their customers will not be right on the curb of their shopping destination, but on the plus side the sightlines of the retail facade for those businesses will no longer be obstructed by a row of parked cars.

Bike parking will be key. This is a build it and they will come scenario, but we must be ready to accommodate them. Currently, the Annex is near the limit at peak times of being able to lock a bike, and the sidewalk can’t accommodate many more rings. Concentrated bike racks will need to be installed on side streets and public rights-of-way.

Toronto’s cyclists need a safe east-west bike route. It’s time we take some ownership of the highway to accommodate the bike. It’s really a village not a freeway. The Annex will become even more of a destination and we will all reap the benefits.

Tags: Annex · News · Editorial

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Albert Koehl // Aug 11, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Many thanks to Brian Burchell, publisher of Annex Gleaner, for stepping up for the safety of residents who cycle!

    Albert Koehl
    Vice Chair, Annex Residents Association

  • 2 Laura // Aug 11, 2015 at 11:15 am

    This is a small stretch of road in downtown core of the largest city in Canada that accommodates a higher order of public transportation (subway) as well as 24-hour bus service.

    I agree with your assertion that there are strategies that can (and should) be implemented on Bloor Street West to make it safer for all users.

    These strategies, however, can be accomplished without labelling this stretch a ‘village’. Nor do these strategies mimic or replicate the characteristics of a village. There is nothing about the physical characteristics or overall context of Bloor Street West on this stretch that would indicate that it is a village. It may serve some of the same functions, but calling it a village is specious and belies the goals and objectives of Toronto’s Official Plan related to the downtown core, Avenues and Mixed Use Areas.

  • 3 BLOOR LOVES BIKES!  It’s really a village, not a freeway // Aug 11, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    […] Great piece in the Annex Gleaner community newspaper about bikelanes on Bloor. […]