Toronto

Biked to work this morning? You were probably being watched and counted

Dozens of volunteers stood at street corners around downtown Toronto this morning counting cyclists entering the core. It's part of a grassroots operation to find out how many people are commuting by bicycle.

Around a hundred volunteers offered to help conduct the survey

Volunteer Herb Vandendool counted cyclists entering downtown Toronto on St. George Street on Thursday. (Taylor Simmons/CBC)

If you rode your bike into downtown Toronto Thursday morning, you were likely being watched.

But don't be alarmed.

Around 100 volunteers stood at street corners with clipboards in hand today, recording each cyclist who crossed into the downtown core during the morning rush hour.

The grassroots operation — branded #TOCycleCount17 — was an attempt to replicate a 2010 city survey on the number of people using two wheels for their daily commute.

"The response was phenomenal," said organizer Gil Meslin, who floated the idea for the survey on social media two weeks ago.

He said the original data hasn't been updated since the city's survey seven years ago, and that an update might accurately capture the apparent boom in cycling around Toronto.

"We know anecdotally that there's a lot more people biking but we didn't have the numbers," said volunteer Herb Vandendool, who counted cyclists at Bloor and St. George Streets. "Now I think we can actually show that there's a lot more people biking."

Fresh data, better planning

The survey counted all cyclists who crossed into the core at Spadina Avenue, Bloor Street, College Street and Queens Quay.

Meslin is hoping the data will not only capture the uptick in biking, but also influence the city's decision making when it comes to cycling infrastructure.

Organizer Gil Meslin wants to update a now outdated 2010 survey conducted by the city. (Taylor Simmons/CBC)

"It has troubled me in recent years to watch so many debates at city hall get bogged down in wedge driving and partisan rhetoric and for the numbers to kind of get lost on the sideline," he said.

Vandendool said the numbers will only strengthen the argument for more cycling infrastructure, if politicians and city planners are willing to consider the data.

"When there is opposition, we can show that when there are bike lanes more people come out," he said, calling Toronto's current bicycle network "disjointed."

"There are a lot of people biking these days, and they deserve to be safe on the streets," Meslin added.

Organizers say the data will be ready "within a month or two," allowing for a thorough peer review of the work.

"We'll do it right and we'll get it out there," Meslin said.

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