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80% of Toronto residents support building protected bike lanes, poll finds

Support for building more bike lanes came from every region of the city, with the strongest support downtown — and from three-quarters of drivers surveyed.

Support came from every region of the city and 75% of drivers surveyed

East-end resident Steve Micheli, who's been cycling for a decade, was pleased to hear about the poll results after experiencing multiple dangerous moments on the city's streets, including being hit on Lakeshore Boulevard East by a car last fall. (Grant Linton/CBC News)

More than 80 per cent of Toronto residents support building protected bike lanes, a new poll finds.

The support is highest among those living in the core, with nearly nine in 10 people in the former pre-amalgamation city of Toronto wanting the lanes. But the trend was also visible in the suburbs, including Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York, with more than 70 per cent of respondents expressing support in every region of the city, according to the survey results provided exclusively to CBC Toronto.

"It was uptown, it was downtown," said Gideon Forman, a transportation policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation, which co-sponsored the poll with cycling advocacy group Cycle Toronto.

The random survey of 800 Toronto residents, conducted by Ekos Research Associates earlier this month, also found more than 75 per cent of people who primarily drive to get around the city are also supporters of protected bike lanes — though nearly one quarter of frequent car users was opposed. 

The poll's margin of error was +/- 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Forman says that high level of support among drivers was an exciting piece of data to obtain. "The broad sweep of people support bike lanes," he added. "It's not just downtown, it's not just young people."

East-end resident Steve Micheli, who's been cycling for a decade, was pleased to hear about the poll results after experiencing multiple dangerous moments on the city's streets.

Last September, the 43-year-old was going west on Lakeshore Boulevard East, and heading straight through an intersection, when he was hit by a car turning right onto Coxwell Avenue. Micheli caught the whole incident on a camera mounted on his bike — which shows the driver not stopping, and instead just leaving the scene.

"I feel much safer on Sherbourne, and took Queen's Quay here — beautiful — I don't feel unsafe there at all," Micheli said of several spots in the city with protected bike lanes.

A new poll shows support for building more bike lanes comes from every region of the city, with the strongest support downtown — and from three-quarters of drivers surveyed. (David Donnelly/CBC)

20 pedestrians, 3 cyclists killed so far this year

Bike lanes, and road safety in general, have been hot-button issues amid another surge in cyclist and pedestrian deaths.

According to Toronto police, 20 pedestrians and three cyclists have been killed in collisions so far this year.

With that in mind, the city's Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic-related deaths got a multi-million dollar boost earlier this summer, amid criticism the strategy has done little to curb fatalities over the last several years.

Ongoing road safety efforts have also been beefed up in other ways, including the upcoming addition of advanced walk signals for pedestrians at 80 intersections across the city, the approval of permanent bike lanes on Bloor Street, and more than 750 proposed school community safety zones.

But these kinds of measures have long been polarizing on council. Some projects hit dead ends, while others like the city staff-recommended Transform Yonge initiative — which would mean fewer lanes for cars and raised bike lanes on a stretch of Yonge Street through Willowdale — wind up being delayed.

That plan was ultimately deferred by city council in March for more study, to the disappointment of supporters who said it would create a more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly street.

"Bike lanes, and protected bike lanes can be a helpful thing, provided they're put in the right place," said Coun. Stephen Holyday, who has opposed adding bike lanes in car-heavy areas. "The question is: How do you balance that out with all the needs of the road users?"

The poll results showed support from Toronto residents for specific bike lane projects — namely Yonge Street and the Danforth — was slightly lower across the city, with roughly three-quarters supporting the proposed lanes and a quarter opposing them.

But that's still high, according to Liz Sutherland, director of advocacy and government relations for Cycle Toronto.

She stresses that Toronto is "behind" in building bike lanes compared to other cities around the world.

"Everyone acknowledges much more needs to be done," she said.

With the poll also finding 90 per cent of Torontonians are concerned about road safety in general, Forman hopes all incumbent councillors and candidates elected in October take a strong position on safe streets. "You have to have a plan to protect people when they're cyclists or when they're walking," he said.

In the meantime, Micheli just finds it reassuring that not all drivers are like the one who hit him last fall — and many do want more bike lanes to protect cyclists.

"Cyclists and drivers alike are getting it — they do help," he said. "Drivers don't want to deal with cyclists in their lanes either, just like we don't want to deal with cars in ours."


Clarification: This story was updated on August 2, 2018 to add the poll's margin of error.

About the Author

Lauren Pelley

City Hall reporter

Lauren Pelley is a CBC reporter in Toronto covering city hall and municipal affairs. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca

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