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A cyclist rides on a two-way bike lane in Montreal. The city already has permanent barriers separating bike and car lines, a system the chair of Toronto's public works committee wants to put into effect on downtown streets. ((Giacomo Panico/CBC))

The chair of Toronto's public works and infrastructure committee is proposing a plan to convert bicycle lanes in the downtown to a network of curbed, physically separated paths. 

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong told CBC's Metro Morning on Friday that he has talked about the plan with Mayor Rob Ford, who made a campaign pledge to end the "war on cars."

"He has a robust plan himself," Minnan-Wong said. "This is my plan. I've had a discussion with the mayor's office. And they were open to having the discussion and I hope we can move forward with this."

Protected lanes are commonplace in other parts of the world — placing a physical barrier between traffic and bicycles — but not in Toronto.

If implemented, Minnan-Wong's proposal would introduce the city's first physically separated bike lanes. Biking advocates have long argued for separated lanes, saying they make cyclists feel safer and would increase the number of people using bicycles to get around.

Ford has spoken out against bike lanes in the past and his bicycle plan envisions building a cycling network along the city's ravines and parks. It included no plans for additional lanes or enhancements on the city's roads.

Minnan-Wong's plan, on the other hand, focuses on enhancing existing lanes on downtown streets like Sherbourne, Wellesley, St. George and Beverly. He also wants to add a major east-west bike lane on Richmond, a one-way street running west. To do this, he suggests removing one of the four lanes on Richmond to create a two-way separated bike lane.

"We don't have an east-west bike lane through the south downtown," he said. "We've been struggling with that for eight to 10 years.

"It's creating a box in the downtown that will give cyclists an opportunity to ride downtown safely by using existing bike networks and enhancing them."

Minnan-Wong wouldn't specify when such a plan could be introduced to council for a vote, saying only he is currently working with city staff.

The city had previously narrowly voted against a 12-week pilot project to remove two traffic lanes along University Avenue and replace them with two protected bike lanes down the middle of the street.

Minnan-Wong had voted against the project, but he defended his vote against that plan, saying it was poorly thought out.

"They were going to put a bike lane in the middle of the road. Now how would you get to that?" he said.

Both Ford and then Mayor David Miller were not present during the May 11 vote.