The arrival of cycling in Toronto
By Joe Cressy
For too long, discussions of bike lanes have been divisive in our city. They shouldn’t be. When we do it right, cycling infrastructure can be a win-win for everyone.
After more than 40 years of discussion, debate, and community advocacy, an overwhelming majority of city councillors — from east to west and north to south — recently voted for a bike lane pilot project on Bloor Street. Indeed, cycling has arrived in our city, and it is long overdue!
Bike lanes will improve local business by bringing more customers into the neighbourhood.
Over the past year and a half, we worked together — residents, businesses, local institutions, schools — on this exciting and long-awaited project for our community. We knocked on doors, met at local coffee shops and community events, and more. We came together to build a twenty-first-century city, and we won. But, this was only the latest push in a project that began decades ago, a project championed by community advocates like Tooker Gomberg, Albert Koehl, Cycle Toronto, Bells on Bloor, and countless others.
Protected bike lanes on Bloor Street will make it safer for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. They will also improve local business by bringing more customers into the neighbourhood; and ultimately, they will help to reduce congestion by moving people out of cars and into more active modes of transportation.
Bloor Street was first identified as an ideal east-west cycling route in the city’s 2001 Bike Plan.
Bloor Street was first identified as an ideal east-west cycling route in the city’s 2001 Bike Plan: it is flat, unencumbered by streetcar tracks, and already heavily used by cyclists travelling east or west throughout the city.
In 2009, the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation completed a study on the potential impacts on local business of a bike lane on Bloor Street and found that 90 per cent of survey respondents used some form of active transportation to arrive in the Bloor-Annex neighbourhood.
The call for bike lanes only grew louder as the years passed. Many students called for bike lanes for a safer ride to school. Many residents called for bike lanes to alleviate congestion and support healthy living. And many businesses asked for bike lanes because we’ve seen in many other contexts that they are good for business.
The pilot project will involve the installation of a 2.4-kilometre bike lane from Shaw Street to Avenue Road that will begin this August. As part of the pilot, the City of Toronto has committed to measuring everything: the impact on cyclists and pedestrians, the impact on vehicular movement, including on adjacent streets, and the impact on local business.
The pilot will give us the data to help make better decisions in our city. To quote Michael Bloomberg, “In God we trust, to all others bring data.”
The recent Toronto City Council vote may have been overwhelming in support (the final vote was 38 to 3), but it is the result of years of hard work in our community.
The project was supported by all six local residents’ associations along the corridor, the University of Toronto, cultural institutions like HotDocs and the Bloor Street Cultural Corridor, and the local BIA. I want to thank all of you for your hard work and support: this result wouldn’t have been possible without it!
If we are committed to alleviating congestion and building a more active, healthy, and liveable city, we must invest in cycling infrastructure. As more and more people choose active modes of transportation, we must invest to ensure residents can access these modes safely.
After years of old-style divisive political debates framed as cars versus bikes, we’re moving forward as a city. It is very good news and I can’t wait to ride Bloor Street together, safely, later this summer.
Joe Cressy is the councillor for Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina.
LETTERS: Annex cyclists already well served (April 2016)
NEWS: Once-seedy theatre renewed as climbing venue (March 2016) by Michael Chachura
Bike lane plan up for debate (January 2016) by Marielle Torrefranca
Bloor Street study launched (November 2015) by Summer Reid
A pilot bike lane for Bloor Street (May 2015) By Joe Cressy and Albert Koehl