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FORUM: Build it and they will come (May 2022)

May 17th, 2022 · No Comments

Shaw Street, Toronto’s first street with more bikes than cars 

By Mike Layton

When we think of ways to improve Toronto’s cycling network, grand projects such as the bike lanes across the city’s core on Bloor Street or Danforth Avenue, typically come to mind. 

While some of the smaller, quieter changes also improve road safety for cyclists, they tend to be underrated and under-celebrated. 

I want to focus on one such local project that has made a huge impact and is worth celebrating—the Shaw Street Safety Improvements.

New data collected by Transportation Services shows that Shaw Street, the quiet, garden-lined residential street, east of Ossington Avenue, is Toronto’s first street with more bikes than cars.

When the Shaw Street contra-flow lanes were installed in 2013, they quickly became one of the city’s most popular cycling routes. 

In 2020, city staff implemented major upgrades to Shaw Street to improve the operation of the street and the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. 

These upgrades included a directional change to motor vehicle traffic on Shaw Street and adjacent streets to reduce cut-through traffic, the addition of a cycling-only block on Shaw Street between both Essex Streets and upgrades to the contra-flow bike lane. 

The data reveals that the project has accomplished exactly what it set out to do.

Overall, the data shows an increase in cycling on Shaw Street and a decrease in both the speed and number of motor vehicles. 

To highlight a few outstanding statistics, between Harbord and Bloor, cycling volumes are up by 205 per cent, compared to car trips which are down by 60 per cent. 

At its peak, between September and November 2021, there were 4300 bicycle trips compared to just 1479 car trips. 

This trend continues elsewhere on Shaw Street where we see sharp increases in bicycle trips and steady decreases in car trips. 

The data also shows a significant reduction in cut-through motor vehicle traffic on adjacent streets. On Barton Street, where traffic has long been a concern for many in the neighbourhood, there were 1060 fewer car trips over a 24-hour period compared to pre-2020 levels.

There is no doubt that these changes have improved traffic safety for the many commuters, families, and residents who travel and live along Shaw Street. 

We also know that how safe people feel is a significant factor in whether they decide to adopt cycling, which in turn reduces car dependency and eases motor vehicle traffic.

Installing cycling connections on local roads is key to connecting more bike routes throughout the city and should not be overlooked as a critical piece of the puzzle to complete our cycling network. 

It will also play an integral role in cutting emissions and building a greener future for our children.

If you have questions or want more information on this project, or any other, please do not hesitate to contact my office. 

You can also visit for the latest on this and many other city-related issues.

Mike Layton is city councillor for Ward 11, University–Rosedale.


Tags: Annex · Editorial · Opinion