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NEWS: Annex honoured for pioneering Bloor bike lanes (May/June 2023)

August 8th, 2023 · No Comments

BIA selected by advocacy group for foundational work 

Brian Burchell received the Business Road Safety Champion award for his work advancing bike safety on a busy mainstreet along with the Bloor Annex BIA. NEILAND BRISSENDEN/BLOOR ANNEX BIA

By Fox Oliver

On May 19, the Toronto Community Bikeways Coalition (TCBC) presented their Business Road Safety Champion Award to the Bloor-Annex Business Improvement Area (BIA) and to its general manager, Brian Burchell, for supporting pilot bike lanes and cycling advocacy. (Burchell is the publisher of the Gleaner.)

“In the spring of 2016 there were essentially no bike lanes, except stubs, on any arterial road in Toronto,” said Albert Koehl, coordinator of the TCBC. “We want to recognize Brian and the BIA for fighting for bike lanes, for being the first BIA to support the pilot bike lane, and for supporting permanent bike lanes.”

In August 2016, a 2.4 km pilot bike lane was installed along Bloor Street between Avenue Road and Shaw Street. The project was led by the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation to investigate the economic and travel impacts of the bike lanes, and it soon became the most studied stretch of biking infrastructure in North America. “This study showed that they (bike lanes) can be good for business. Brian and the BIA were instrumental in this study,” commented Mary Ann Neary, coordinator of the TCBC.

The pilot bike lanes on Bloor Street increased cyclists’ sense of safety on Bloor Street. The percentage who felt safe increased from 17 per cent, prior to the bike lanes, to 61 per cent after the bike lanes. The largest shift in perception was found in women whose sense of safety increased from 12 per cent to 58 per cent. While women are typically underrepresented as cyclists in North American cities, this pilot project narrowed the variance between men and women on bikes.

Some merchants interviewed during the study on Bloor Street expressed concerns and said  bike lanes were “bad for business.” However, the pilot study showed that pedestrians and cyclists were the groups of people most likely to spend over $100 a month and were also the most frequent shoppers in the Annex, as opposed to motorists and people who use transit.

The pilot project showed that merchants along Bloor Street misunderstood how their customers commuted to their stores, with 58 per cent believing more than a quarter of their customers drove. In reality, only nine per cent of customers shopping on Bloor drove there, demonstrating the importance of bike lanes, sidewalks, and public transit for businesses and their customers.

“This was the longest fight for bike lanes anywhere in the city, going back to the 1970s,” said  Koehl. “If you don’t have (bike lanes on) Bloor Street, you can’t have a real cycling network, so this was our foot in the door. We always thought if you get it here, then you can show the city how good it is.”

The research and experience from the pilot project will be used to push for the expansion of Toronto’s cycling network. Burchell has been active in the debate about bike lanes on Yonge Street and has shared his positive experience from the Bloor Street pilot project. The TCBC is pushing to extend the bike lanes on Bloor-Danforth even further east and west, as they currently end at Victoria Park and Runnymede avenues.

Though the pilot project has been a success, there is still work to do in the Annex regarding motorists creating dangerous biking conditions. “We have to, as a community, recognize we have a duty to protect the bike lane users,” said Burchell. “We confront delivery truck drivers when they park in the bike lane, and they are slowly learning they can park on side streets to pose less danger to cyclists.”

However, Uber Eats drivers and other food couriers still routinely park in bike lanes. “Passersby need to alert those drivers to the dangers they are causing, and politely urge them to find a safer place to park for their food pick-up,” said Burchell. Slowly these drivers will also change as it becomes socially less acceptable to endanger lives for the sake of 30 seconds of convenience.”


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