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FOCUS: Push for bike safety continues (Oct. 2020)

November 2nd, 2020 · No Comments

Bells on Bloor asks for enforcement of bike lane rules

Over a six week period, the Gleaner photographed active daytime deliveries along Bloor St. West in order to give a snapshot of which companies respect the bike lanes and which don’t. Most do. Some Sysco truck drivers obey bike lane rules, while others do not. Brinks trucks must deliver via the front door of their customers, and seem to actively ignore the rules while doing so.

By Mary An

In 2016, the City of Toronto built bike lanes on Bloor Street West in the Annex neighbourhood to ensure a safer commute for cyclists. These lanes do not guarantee cyclist safety though, as getting “doored” remains a serious concern. Bells on Bloor, the community group that advocated for the creation of bike lanes, is asking the city to do more. 

“Sometimes I shudder because I see some novice cyclists pull out into the roadway and a car behind them might not notice that,” says Albert Koehl, co-founder of Bells on Bloor.  “It’s very dangerous and so unnecessary. The lane is there to provide safety.” 

After noticing many interruptions of the bike lanes, Koehl and his team at Bells on Bloor wrote a letter to the city in March 2019 requesting help in protecting cyclists. They requested an increase in enforcement on the roads, spreading awareness through ads or through ride-share and transportation services, and the installation of more barriers to protect cyclists from any interferences. Since then, the city has made it a requirement for private transportation services (such as Uber or Lyft) to ask passengers to “look out for cyclists.” 

However, problems caused by large delivery trucks failing to observe the rules persist.

Brinks trucks can often be found parking in the bike lanes, creating a hazard for all road users. BRIAN BURCHELL/GLEANER NEWS

In early August, Brian Burchell,  Chair of the Bloor-Annex Business Improvement Association (and publisher of this newspaper) spotted a large Sysco truck cutting off the south side of Bloor’s bike lane by placing a ramp from the truck to the sidewalk. Cyclists were forced to maneuver their way around the semi-trailer truck during the morning rush into the middle of busy Bloor Street. 

The Annex Gleaner brought the incident to the attention of the Sysco Corporation, and they responded with an e-mail stating: “We care about our communities and expect all our employees to abide by local bike lane laws. We will share this information with our local operating team to take appropriate action.” 

Though the poles were in place to ensure cyclist’s safety, this type of barrier doesn’t prevent vehicles from interfering with the lane and destroying them. MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

Sysco semi-trailer trucks have been seen during the day interfering with the bike lanes, though the number of sightings seems to have gone down slightly.

One driver who routinely parks safely in a side alley told the Gleaner, “there is a bit of a war going on inside the [Sysco] company with half the drivers sticking to their schedules no matter what [and parking in the bike lanes] and the other half, like me, that don’t want someone to get killed because I forced a bike into a live car lane.”

One company that has an outstanding reputation for never interfering or blocking the bike lanes on Bloor street is The Beer Store. According to Burchell, the company’s delivery drivers were caught blocking bike lanes in 2016. However, Beer Store trucks have since gained a reputation for respecting the safety of cyclists and parking on side streets, avoiding the bike lanes altogether. 

According to an Empire Foods driver, deliveries cannot happen off-peak due to the lack of access inside businesses. Because of this, daytime drivers often struggle to find parking spots near their destination.

“Delivery drivers can’t pull over far enough on the road to do deliveries,” the driver said. The driver is also aware of the safety issue for cyclists and often parks on any available side road, but says the city should take more action and input a designated delivery parking spot to avoid such issues. 

Burchell believes that it’s not just up to the city, but to the businesses to hold their delivery drivers accountable as well. 

“We all have a social contract, a duty to one another. I think it’s incumbent on each of us to try to raise the bar, and make sure that our neighborhood is a safe and inclusive environment where people can gather, shop and enjoy the surroundings,” Burchell said. 

Currently, the bike lanes on Bloor Street in the Annex neighbourhood are merely painted on the north side of Bloor Street, which does not prevent vehicles from driving into and stopping in the lanes. 

On the south side there is an elevated cycle track protected, perhaps ironically, by a lane for parked cars. 

“It’s the question of whether they are being respectful to people in the neighbourhood that are riding bikes, and people from other neighbourhoods that are riding through our area,” Koehl said.

As a community leader on road safety, Koehl hopes that the city starts enforcing regulations around bike lanes, and that more barriers will be created to protect cyclists from vehicles interfering or parking in them. 

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Tags: Annex · News