The Bloor Street bike lanes, Toronto's most-intensely studied transportation project, will be a permanent fixture on the roadway after council voted strongly in favour of keeping them following a daylong debate.
Coun. Joe Cressy, a major supporter of the project who represents one of the wards the 2.4 kilometre lanes cut through, called it a "monumental effort" that's been 40 years in the making.
City staff recommended keeping the lanes in place following a one-year pilot project that measured its affects on cyclists, motorists, pedestrians and local businesses. It found:
- On average, 5,220 cyclists use the lanes every weekday.
- The commute for drivers is two minutes slower during the morning rush hour, and four minutes slower in the afternoon.
- There was a 44 per cent reduction in the total number of conflicts between all road users.
"It is safer for everybody," Cressy told council.
Coun. Michael Ford's motion asking the general manager of transportation for more study on the lanes, which would have delayed making the lanes permanent, failed, 30-9.
Critics focus on slower commutes for motorists
A number of suburban councillors, including Ford, Giorgio Mammoliti (who again peddled his theory that a group of 10 cyclists are inflating ridership numbers by riding around in loops — potentially disguising themselves with different hats) and Jim Karygiannis voiced their concerns about the effects the lanes are having on motorists, playing down the idea that it could be a symptom of a growing city.
"I would agree congestion is getting worse, but you don't take a stick and poke it in the eye of every single driver … you don't actually go around and make it worse for them," said Denzil Minnan-Wong, one of two deputy mayors to vote against the plan.
The other, Stephen Holyday, wrote his own report card for the bike lanes, giving them an "F" grade for not attracting more cyclists while reducing the number of motorists using Bloor.
Safety should come first, pro-bike councillors argue
Coun. Gord Perks, whose ward has seen two pedestrian deaths this year, said the city should only be focused on keeping cyclists safe. He said the Bloor Street lanes would get an "A" in that category, and that's all the matters.
Moments later, Coun. Mary Margaret-McMahon showed pictures of all three cyclists killed in the city this year before telling councillors this is one of their most important votes this year.
"This should be a unanimous vote," she said.
Mayor John Tory supported the lanes, saying he believes the report's findings that the lanes make the street safer for both cyclists and drivers.
Tory told reporters he believes there's a growing support within the city for active transportation and said he will be focusing on filling in small gaps in the city's cycling network in the immediate future.