Bloor bike lane report highlights changes for cyclists, drivers, businesses

Whether you bike, drive, walk or shop on Bloor Street West, the 2.4 kilometre stretch of protected bike lanes has likely changed your behaviour.

City council to decide whether or not to make bike lanes permanent at next meeting

Mayor John Tory says he wants the Bloor lanes to be made permanent, but is open to changes that would make them 'safer and safer and safer.' (John Rieti/CBC)

Whether you bike, drive, walk or shop on Bloor Street West, the 2.4 kilometre stretch of protected bike lanes has likely changed your behaviour.

Transportation staff are recommending city council keep the lanes after a one-year pilot project found strong public support as well as a series of other benefits. However, the report also highlights some areas of concern the city might need to address if the lanes are made permanent.

Here's a breakdown of the report's findings for the different groups.

Cyclists

Bloor Street's bike lanes have been drawing riders away from nearby routes like Harbord. (John Rieti/CBC)

Cycling traffic nearly quadrupled as soon as the lanes went in, and it appears to still be growing.  

On average, 5,220 cyclists use the lanes every weekday as of this June — only the Richmond-Adelaide lanes, with 6,540 daily riders, have more.

The daily average goes up to 5,500 riders per day on dry days, something there was a shortage of this summer.

Some 78 per cent of people surveyed by the city say they cycled more because of the lanes, while newer cyclists were also more likely to try it out.

Bloor did, however, reduce the numbers of riders using Dupont Street and Harbord Street. Harbord's bike lanes, for example, lost an average of 739 riders over the past year, although it remains the sixth most popular route in the city.

Motorists

Drivers who take Bloor are dealing with longer trip times, but there have been some benefits for them, too. (John Rieti/CBC)

Overall, traffic is down on Bloor Street, from an average of 24,300 vehicles per day to around 20,000.

About 1,500 of those drivers rerouted north to Dupont Street, while some 584 moved south to Harbord. The city also stepped in to block vehicles from cutting through some smaller streets near the bike lanes, like Barton Avenue.

Transportation staff also tweaked traffic signals to improve commute times, something the report notes cut an initial spike in commute times in half.

That said, there's still a slowdown. Drivers who take Bloor are now two minutes slower during the morning rush hour, and four minutes slower in the afternoon.

The biggest problem, staff say, is right-turning vehicles. "When multiple right turning vehicles are queued at an intersection waiting for gaps in cycling and pedestrian traffic, they can block the through movement for the entire green phase of the traffic signal for that direction," the report states.

If the lanes become permanent, the city will look at putting in right-turn signals to speed this up.

There are also 10 per cent fewer places to park, and 136 on-street spots were taken out for the pilot.

Business

City officials say their survey results show strong support for the lanes. (City of Toronto)

Several local businesses in the Annex and Koreatown expressed concerns before and throughout the pilot project that they'd be hurt by the reduced ability of customers to park and come into their stores.

To get a more objective picture, the city studied data purchased from Moneris, which operates payment machines, to track spending in the area and compare it with other parts of the city.

That data shows overall spending is up 4.45 per cent in the pilot area, although that's just behind the city-wide trend (4.96 per cent). That said, the pilot project area did better than a control area on Danforth Avenue.

Average per-transaction size did decrease, the data shows, but that trend is also seen in the rest of the city.

Vacancy rates remained steady at seven per cent in the area.

As for shoppers, some 90 per cent of those surveyed said they arrived without a car. However, 33 per cent of those who did use their vehicle to get to Bloor reported difficulty finding parking, up from eight per cent one year earlier. However, one-in-four customers who drove to Danforth Avenue shops, where street parking has remained the same, also complained about a lack of spots.

Overall safety

It will take five years before staff will definitively be able to prove the safety of the lanes, the report notes. However, before the pilot there were some 22 collisions involving cyclists in the area every year. So far, that number has stayed the same, but with far more riders on the road it suggests Bloor is safer for cyclists.

University of Toronto researchers, meanwhile, found significant drops in the number of "near-miss collisions." Overall, there was a 44 per cent reduction in the total number of conflicts between all road users.

There were 71 per cent fewer conflicts between motor vehicles, 61 per cent fewer conflicts between cyclists and drivers and 55 per cent fewer pedestrian-driver incidents.

However, there was a 61 per cent increase in the number of conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians, which the city report attributes to midblock crossings.

Finally, motorists, cyclists and pedestrians all reported feeling more comfortable after the lanes went in.

About the Author

John Rieti

John Rieti covers city hall and city issues for CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country in search of great stories. Outside of work, catch him running or cycling around, often armed with a camera, always in search of excellent coffee.

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