Ontario ready to spend $93M to expand bike lanes, boost cycling infrastructure by 2018

With more riders hitting the street, Ontario is investing $93 million by next year to improve the province's cycling infrastructure — nearly double the amount that was initially promised.

New funds allow Toronto's Bike Share program to add 3,000 more bikes and 300 stations in next decade

With more people taking up two wheels as a way of getting around, Ontario will invest $93 million to improve cycling infrastructure throughout the province over the next four years. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

With more riders hitting the street, Ontario is investing $93 million by next year to improve the province's cycling infrastructure — nearly double the amount that was initially promised. 

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca and Tourism Minister Eleanor McMahon announced the new funds on Monday under the province's four year commuter cycling program designed to help the province make its greenhouse gas reduction targets. 

"Cycling is a convenient and sustainable way to get around and that is why we are committed to building more cycling infrastructure to make it easier for people to bike," Del Duca said in a news release. 

"Our government looks forward to continue working with our partners and the cycling community to ensure we create a safe and integrated cycling network."

He explained that 120 municipalities throughout the province will receive funding to expand bike lanes and other cycling infrastructure. This investment is drawn from the proceeds of Ontario's cap-and-trade program.

Toronto slated to receive $25.6M

Toronto is poised to receive $25.6 million by next year. 

The city says it plans to use this funding the deliver its Ten Year Cycling Network Plan. This includes expanding the city's Bike Share program by adding 3,000 more bikes, 300 new locations and 6,000 docks over the next decade.

"This is about giving Toronto residents more options to get around the city," said Mayor John Tory in a news release. 

"Cycling infrastructure and expansion of the Bike Share program will encourage people to cycle more often, improve safety and provide more travel options." 

Urban planners and cycling advocates have criticized Toronto's piecemeal approach to bike lanes. (John Rieti/CBC)

But Canada's most populous city has been criticized by urban planners and cycling advocates for having a piecemeal approach to bike infrastructure and lagging behind other urban centres across the country.

Last month, city council voted 36-6 to make the controversial Bloor Street bike lanes a permanent fixture on the roadway. 

The city now has approximately 590 kilometres of on-road bike lanes, about 37 kilometres of which are protected from car traffic.

But despite a decade-long plan approved last year to create a bike-lane network, the majority of lanes are currently disconnected from other stretches, leaving cyclists and motorists contending for space on busy roads.

Meanwhile, Montreal — internationally recognized as one of the most cycle-friendly cities in North America — has about 570 kilometres of on-road or roadside bike lanes, of which nearly 90 kilometres are protected or separated from car lanes.

Spike in cycling

Initially the province had committed $42.5 million to its commuter cycling program, but since doubled that due to the growing number of people wanting to travel on two wheels. 

"Creating more bike lanes in communities big and small makes it easier and safer for people across the province to choose cleaner, quicker ways of getting around," said Environment Minister Chris Ballard.  

The number of people riding their bikes to work is up 61.6 per cent since 20 years ago. (Charles Contant/CBC)

According to a news release, around 1.5 million people in Ontario hop on their bikes at least once a week throughout the year. 

Statistics Canada's 2016 census revealed that more Canadians are cycling to work, up 61.6 per cent in the last 20 years.

"The benefits to jumping on a bike are endless — it can be a wonderful way to explore our cities and a healthy method to get those much-needed errands done," said McMahon. 

"We're building on the vision to create cycling-friendly roads that municipalities want and deserve."