Toronto

ActiveTO pilot aims to shift Bloor Street East bike lanes into high gear while keeping cyclists safe

Construction is set to begin this week on upgrades to bike lanes on Bloor Street East between Sherbourne Street and Castle Frank Road as part of an ActiveTO pilot project.

Project to create more 'consistent and predictable' route for drivers and cyclists, city says

An artist's rendering of the Rosedale Valley Bridge with the ActiveTO cycle track improvements. There will be fewer motor vehicle lanes to make space for widened bike lanes between Sherbourne Street and Castle Frank Road. (Submitted by the City of Toronto)

The City of Toronto is hoping to make cycling safer with a project starting this week on Bloor Street East. 

Construction is set to begin on upgrades for bike lanes on Bloor between Sherbourne Street and Castle Frank Road as part of an ActiveTO pilot project. The work includes widening cycle tracks along with the addition of concrete curbs and is scheduled to be completed before the end of the month.

It's the only stretch of the 15-kilometre Bloor-Danforth bikeway right now with multiple motor vehicle lanes going in both directions — and without buffers for cyclists. There's also a lot of construction in the area with more to come, prompting road safety advocate Janet Joy Wilson to call it "a deadly zone."

"The construction has taken over the bike lane and pushed people right into live traffic," said Wilson. "It's harrowing for anyone who's experienced, let alone if you're cycling with your kids."

Road safety advocate Janet Joy Wilson uses her bicycles as her main mode of transportation, cycling 'pretty much every day.' (Courtesy: Matthew Richardson)

Wilson got rid of her car two-and-a-half years ago, and uses her bicycles as her main modes of transportation. She sees cycling as advantageous, not only for the health benefits but also for reducing the city's carbon footprint.

"We are in a crisis and we cannot continue living the way we do," Wilson said.

"We have trains, we have subway, we have buses, we have streets that can be used for active transportation. If you have protected and connected bikeways throughout this city to all edges of this city, it provides a choice for people."

The bike lanes were installed last year as part of ActiveTO — the initiative the city launched to ensure the growing number of people walking and cycling during the pandemic had space for physical distancing. Since then, the city says it has noted a near doubling of the number of cyclists using that stretch of Bloor Street East. 

The redesign will include:

  • Flipping the location of the bike lane and parking on the south side of Bloor Street East between Sherbourne.and Parliament streets.
  • A reduction of 16 parking spots and removal of two lanes of traffic.
  • Widened bike lanes with buffers between Parliament Street and Castle Frank Road and concrete curbs along those bike lanes except on the Rosedale Valley Bridge.

Results from the pilot project and the future of the ActiveTO program will be discussed by city council later this year.

The changes should also be beneficial for drivers, according to Jacqueline Hayward, the City of Toronto's Transportation Project Design and Management director. She says the city planned the redesign keeping in mind more people may soon return to commuting to their offices.

The city says the existing parking and bike lane on the south side of Bloor between Sherbourne and Parliament streets will be flipped. The bike lane will be beside the sidewalk, and a reduced number of parking spots will float between the new bike lane and the motor vehicle lane. Additionally, two lanes of traffic will be removed. (Credit: City of Toronto)

"The reconfiguration does anticipate to improve operations at some of the key intersections where people need to be making left turns and right turns," Hayward said. "There's a left-hand lane eastbound and westbound at Caste Frank [Road] that would be converted to left turn-only, which means that will be more predictable."

The city says the road modifications will also help people navigate local work zones. In addition to the construction sites already in the area, three new projects — work on the Castle Frank TTC station, the Glen Road Pedestrian Bridge and Tunnel, and the Rosedale Valley Bridge —  are slated to begin in the fall.

"We're making the lane configuration around those construction work zones more consistent and predictable," Hayward said, "so you don't have kind of a jockeying and an unsafe condition for drivers and cyclists in between those work zones."

Between Parliament Street and Castle Frank Road, the city will widen bike lanes and add concrete curbs, except on the Rosedale Valley Bridge. One westbound motor vehicle lane will be removed, and the eastbound and westbound left lanes at Castle Frank Road will be designated exclusively left turns. (Credit: City of Toronto)

It's welcome news for cyclists like Wilson. She says her advocacy group, the Toronto Community Bikeways Coalition, has noticed huge increases in users along protected bike lanes, especially during the pandemic. 

"We should be able to get everywhere with our families, whether they're eight years old or 80, safely cycling."

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