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NEWS (JUNE 2017): Boon or bane?

June 30th, 2017 · No Comments

PHOTO BY GEREMY BORDONARO/GLEANER NEWS: Attendees at the third public consultation on the Bloor Street Pilot Bike Lanes annotated a map with comments on the pilot project. The annotations devolved into a war of words, in which one resident found himself battling another over the viability of businesses and bikes.

Economic impact of bike lanes still unclear

By Geremy Bordonaro

When it comes to bike lanes, business owners along Bloor Street West are evenly split: about half support them, and about half don’t. It’s a rift between business owners who think the lanes are a boon and those who think they are a bane.

“The feedback that we’ve got back from business owners so far is split,” said Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina). “For some businesses we’ve been told that it’s bringing more customers into the area and in to their shops. For other businesses we’ve heard concerns over issues like delivery and loading. What we are trying to do is understand the concerns and find a way to address them.”

At the heart of the debate is whether or not the bikes have had a positive impact on sales.

“I feel like some of my customers would try to murder me if I said anything against [bike lanes]”—Miranda Black, Theodore 1922

“What we’ve seen [in other areas] is when bike lanes come in to downtown environments business goes up. It brings more customers in. I hope that’s the case,” Cressy said. “Our economic impact study will tell us whether that’s happening or not. In the meantime we want to improve things to mitigate any impact.”

One of the street’s shop owners who is definitely in favour of the lanes is Brent Robinson from Sweet Pete’s Bike Shop.

“[Our sales are] marginally better. It’s tough to say because we are a very weather-specific business. Even with the bike lanes if it is rainy or cloudy out people aren’t necessarily going to bike to work or going to buy bikes. We’ve not had the best spring on record. We’ve not noticed a huge increase but there is an increase.”

But for other shops, the opposite is true, as in the case of Risque Clothing, which owns two shops on Bloor Street West.

“I have been very busy trying to get my businesses back on their feet due to the very negative effect of the pilot bike lanes,” said Ondina Carvalh, owner of Risque. “My business has declined terribly since the start of the pilot.”

While quite a few business owners say they have been negatively impacted by the bike lanes, many are reluctant to speak out against them for fear of retaliation.

“I feel like some of my customers would try to murder me if I said anything against them,” said Miranda Black, owner and manager of Theodore 1922.

That’s where the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT) comes in. An advocacy group that works to make streets more inclusive for walking and cycling, TCAT is conducting an economic study aimed at finding and addressing the concerns of business owners.

A comprehensive survey of consumers and merchant owners along Bloor Street, it will compare statistics from before and after the bike lanes were installed to assess whether there has been any change in the area.

“It’s been mixed. We are getting both support and some concerns expressed,” said Nancy Smith Lea, director of TCAT. “What we’re going to be doing is read each response, and categorize it as being either positive or negative. If there are concerns we note what they are. Once we’ve done that work we’ll release a report that will be openly available.”

Cressy hopes the study will lead to a good outcome for all the parties involved.

“If we were to get the outcome of the economic impact study that showed when you looked at retail trends in the city of Toronto and found that compared to other main streets, Bloor [Street] is doing well, I would say that would be a big win. I believe that bike lanes can be a win-win for business and commuters. I’m hopeful and optimistic that this will be the case.”



CHATTER: Preliminary data on Bloor Street pilot bike lane released (March 2017)

CHATTER: Ground-breaking bike lanes launch on Bloor Street (August 2016)

NEWS: Bikes blessed for another season (June 2016)

FOCUS: An early advocate for bike lanes (June 2016)

NEWS: Bike lanes for Bloor Street (May 2016)

The faster we lower speeds, the more lives we save (October 2015)

Early brewer the basis for Bloor Street’s name (May 2015)

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