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NEWS (AUGUST 2017): Expanding the city’s cycling network

September 13th, 2017 · No Comments

Study proposes to use laneways as bike lanes

By Geremy Bordonaro

Could Toronto’s network of laneways be integrated into the city’s cycling infrastructure? A recently launched study may answer that question.

Sponsored by the Laneway Project, Laneways as Bikeways explores whether laneways could be converted into bikes lanes.

“We know there’s the ten-year bicycle plan and there’s going to be a lot of proper infrastructure being put in place on our roads. But in the interim we’ve still got this truncated bike network in our city. How can we help alleviate that?” asked Michelle Senayah, co-founder and director of the Laneway Project. The non-profit organization, which in the past has advocated for laneway housing, is dedicated to transforming unused laneways into friendly, multi-use community spaces.

A survey has been distributed to residents, cyclists, and community groups asking whether they see a use for laneways in the city’s cycling network, and what potential issues might be involved. And some concerns — safety, obstacles, and lighting — have already been raised.

“Part of what we’re asking in this study is what role do people see laneways playing, if any,” said Senayah, who believes the study is a new and unique way to think about bike networks. “Do they see them as shortcuts? Do they see them as alternate routes to places like Bloor Street? Or do they see them more as recreational spaces to move through at their own speed?”

While she believes converting laneways to bike lanes could help the city introduce more cycling paths sooner, Senayah stressed that this shouldn’t be a long-term solution.

“We’re not claiming that laneways are going to replace cycle lanes,” she said. “But there is that potential, in the short- to medium-term, for laneways to provide a safety upgrade in Toronto’s cycling network.”

The Laneway Project is working on the study with the Community Bicycle Network.

“Laneways are an untapped source of potential. They’re getting a lot of attention these days. And in a big city like Toronto they’re relatively unobscured and unobstructed,” said Adrian Currie, chair. “There’s a lot of possibility for positive use. They don’t have to be just these dead spaces between the roads anymore.”

He says that he, like many cyclists, already uses the laneways. But he thinks upgrading the laneways could make cycling safer in the city.

“We think there is some possibility. People take laneways as they are now. It’s not a stretch,” he said. “I know I take laneways to avoid Bloor Street or Spadina Road. As a shortcut I’ll take a laneway or two. We’re looking at it as a complement to the bike network.”

However, there are those who are skeptical of the feasibility of using the laneways for bike riders.

“I can tell you the lanes in Harbord Village probably won’t work,” said Gus Sinclair, chair of the Harbord Village Residents’ Association. “They’re kind of quirky. They come to T-joints. They’re not contiguous. Some of them don’t go from one place to another. I’d be hard-pressed to point to many laneways that would get you to where you need to go in Harbord Village.”

Sinclair thinks that it would be much safer for cyclists to stick to the main roads and bike lanes while the city continues to introduce more safe routes.

The study is but the latest in a long line of initiatives that active transportation groups like the bicycle network have taken to improve the city’s cycling infrastructure. But Currie believes the city is evolving in its approach to transportation.

“I think this is all part and parcel in a push for Toronto to become more cycling-inclusive. We’re trying to become more of a twenty-first-century city, less dependent on cars and gas. So let’s see those Bloor Street bike lanes stay in and have some added laneways to support them.”



ON THE COVER: Putting the city’s laneways to work (January 2017)

NEWS: Laneway living (January 2017)

Incubating micro-retail: Laneways untapped realm of urban design (December 2015)




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