Bloor Street bike lane debate heating up as final report nears

Nearly 5,000 cyclists in Toronto just got an alert on their phone warning them the Bloor Street bike lanes are at risk.

Transportation staff to present final report on year-long pilot in October

A young family rides west on the Bloor Street bike lane, near Palmerston Avenue, ahead of a Tuesday afternoon thunderstorm. (John Rieti/CBC)

Nearly 5,000 cyclists in Toronto just got an alert on their phone warning them the Bloor Street bike lanes are at risk.

The alert was sent by Biko, an app-based company that aims to get more people cycling by letting them collect points that can be redeemed for perks at local businesses.

It encourages users to join forces with Cycle Toronto, the advocacy group that's calling for the bike lanes, which opened last August, to be made permanent.

 The lanes run between Shaw Street and Avenue Road.

"We really wanted to give our users an opportunity to make their voice heard," Biko's Molly Millar told CBC Toronto.

Millar says it's up to users whether or not they'll speak out at city hall, but she says the app's data proves many are opting to ride in the protected lanes.

A heat map created by the company behind cycling app Biko shows the busiest routes in the city in red, including the Bloor Street bike lane. (Biko)

"When you build good, safe infrastructure on a destination street like Bloor, you're going to get way more people on bikes," she said.

Final report coming mid-October

City transportation staff are set to deliver a final report on the year-long pilot project to the public works and infrastructure committee in mid-October.

I think that it's the same people that just keep going in a circle just to be counted.- Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti- Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti

While the councillors who represent the wards where the lanes are located support them, others are lining up to criticize them.

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, who is on the public works committee, took a pre-emptive strike against the lanes recently, saying he wants a list of names of those riding in the lanes.

"I think that it's the same people that just keep going in a circle just to be counted," he said at the Sept. 19 public works meeting.

Cycle Toronto's Matt Pinder said that's simply not true.

"Do drivers go into the highways on the weekends just to make the highways extra congested to help justify expansions? Unlikely," he said.

"People riding bikes are doing so just because they need to travel somewhere, just like everyone else."

Bike lanes make riding more appealing, Cycle Toronto rep says

Pinder says one of the most valuable aspects of the Bloor lanes is that they make riding bikes more appealing for everyone — not just experienced cyclists. Simply watching the bike lanes proves that, he says, but he expects city stats to back it up as well.

"We really need the average citizen to see cycling as something they could do," he said.

"Because if they see it that way … they feel OK with their tax dollars and their road space getting allocated to cycling projects."

Pinder says how the city votes on the future of the Bloor lanes will send a strong signal about cycling in the city. If it makes the lane permanent, it could pave the way for similar infrastructure projects in the future. Rejecting the lanes, on the other hand, would be a major blow to similar ideas. 


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