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NEWS: Bike lanes for Bloor Street

May 13th, 2016 · No Comments

Council votes in favour of pilot project

PHOTO BY BRIAN BURCHELL/GLEANER NEWS: Gleaner intern Geremy Bordonaro interviews eight-year-old Malina Fritz-Schwartz after her deputation at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on April 25.

PHOTO BY BRIAN BURCHELL/GLEANER NEWS: Gleaner intern Geremy Bordonaro interviews eight-year-old Malina Fritz-Schwartz after her deputation at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on April 25.

By Geremy Bordonaro

At long last, bike lanes are coming to Bloor Street.

On May 4, Toronto City Council voted 38 to 3 approving a pilot project to install separated bike lanes on Bloor Street from Avenue Road to Shaw Street.

“Bike lanes on Bloor [Street] is a 40-year-long concept that is long overdue”—Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina)

It was only the latest hurdle facing the pilot project, which was previously considered during six hours of hearings before the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on April 25. In the end, councillors on that committee passed the Bloor Street Design Feasibility Study and Bike Lane Pilot Project without recommendation.

“Bike lanes on Bloor [Street] is a 40-year-long concept that is long overdue,” said Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), who has been helping to spearhead the pilot. “It’s overdue because bike lanes on Bloor [Street] will make it safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers. It’s going to make it better for local businesses by bringing more customers into the area. Ultimately, it’s going to reduce congestion in our city by moving people out of cars and into more active modes of transportation.”

Although the bike lanes have been a long time coming, that lengthy wait may be instrumental to the pilot project’s success, noted Cressy, who said the community is ready to embrace the lanes.

“We have all six local residents’ associations who have endorsed this pilot project,” he said. “Ten to 20 years ago you would not have seen that type of support…. What we see here now is a real overwhelming movement in our city amongst our businesses and residents, cultural institutions and schools, of the benefits of bicycling infrastructure.”

It was an overwhelming movement reflected among the diversity of those who spoke to the committee in favour of the bike lanes.

“When there [are] bike lanes you’re not allowed to pass the lines. It’s [safer] for everyone and the kids can actually talk to their parents,” said Malina Fritz-Schwartz, perhaps one of the day’s youngest speakers, who gave a deputation alongside her mother. “Usually when you’re on a busy road when you’re riding your bike you have to put your head backwards if you want to talk to someone, because you have to be in a single file line. But if there were bike lanes, that gives you more space to talk, ride, and have more fun.”

While Fritz-Schwartz emphasized the boon to families the bike lanes would bring, Matthew Languay spoke of the potential boost to business.

“Walk-by traffic is really what drives our business. Bike lanes will not only help in terms of allowing more people to see the gym and be able to drive by the gym,” said Languay, who owns Basecamp, a rock climbing facility that is now open on the site of the old Metro Theatre. “But let’s say you’re driving by in a car and you notice a place and you’re interested, now all of a sudden you have to find a parking space, which outside of rush hour might be possible but anywhere between 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. you’re going to have to try and circle around the blocks. It’s a large deterrent to looking into our climbing gym.”

Not all business owners are in support of the plan, however.

“I don’t see survival for my business on Bloor Street with bicycle lanes and one single lane of traffic,” said Michael Remenyi in his deputation to the committee. His music store has been in his family for generations, and he argued that the proposed removal of 135 parking spots to accommodate the plan would hurt his lifeblood.

“Being unapproachable and being perceived by the general populace as generally unreachable will change my entire business model.”

Cressy, however, maintains that the only true way to see the impact of the pilot project is to let it through.

“What’s critical in terms of how we’re approaching this, and what our professional transportation staff have recommended here, is to do it in a pilot so that we can measure everything,” he said. “I believe bike lanes on Bloor [Street] will be good for business, will be good for safety, will be good for alleviating congestion. Don’t just take my word for it. We’re going to measure and study it so that we can demonstrate the positive impact.”

 

READ MORE:

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

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