Make the Bloor Street bike lanes permanent, city report urges
Transportation staff's report show huge ridership gains, business not dramatically harmed
City transportation officials are recommending councillors make the Bloor Street bike lanes permanent, following a one-year pilot project.
The recommendation comes in a long-awaited and detailed report that evaluated how the lanes have affected cyclists, motorists, pedestrians and businesses. A survey of some 3,800 people also found "strong support" for the lanes among those who live in the area.
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However, there's no guarantee city council will support the lanes. The first test comes when the public works and infrastructure committee (PWIC), which doesn't include a single downtown councillor, debates the report at its meeting next Wednesday morning. More than 100 people emailed the committee, and they will also be given a chance to speak about the lanes at the city hall meeting.
No matter what PWIC decides, the entire city council will get to vote on the lanes. Mayor John Tory told reporters Wednedsay that he believes the data supports keeping the Bloor lanes in place, and that he looks forward to supporting staff's recommendation.
Tory says the results clearly show the "road is safer for cyclists," and that he looks forward to making the lanes even safer in the future.
More than 5K cyclists use lanes every day
Barbara Gray, the city's General Manager of Transportation Services, is recommending some changes to the current design of the 2.4 kilometre protected lanes, which run east and west on Bloor between Shaw Street and Avenue Road, but supports keeping them in place.
The introduction of bike lanes have significantly increased levels of comfort and safety for both motorists and cyclists.- Barbara Gray, General Manager of Transportation Services
The bike lanes have increased cycling use of Bloor by 49 per cent, her report states. An average of 5,220 cyclists use the lanes every weekday, making Bloor the second busiest bike route in the city.
Staff say preliminary data also shows collisions and near-misses have gone down.
"Based on public opinion surveys, the introduction of bike lanes have significantly increased levels of comfort and safety for both motorists and cyclists," Gray's report states, adding pedestrians also seem to appreciate the lanes.
Gray's report also says retiming of traffic lights in the area has also saved some time for motorists.
The city also used data from Moneris Solutions Corp. — think of the machines you tap to pay by card — that shows while the average transaction is smaller than it used to be, that's consistent with other parts of Toronto. Overall, spending within the pilot project area is up slightly over last year, although slightly behind the city-wide trend.
Area councillors say report proves lanes are working
Coun. Mike Layton says the report shows the city has taken an "enormous step" by taking what was once a dangerous street for cyclists and making it a place where families can ride together.
"The safety is real," he said.
"Bike lanes on Bloor work."
The data is in: bike lanes on Bloor work. Cycling is up and the street is safer. Now, let's make them permanent. <a href="https://t.co/2dxnzaHaNX">https://t.co/2dxnzaHaNX</a>—@joe_cressy
Coun. Joe Cressy says he hopes city council will move past what he called a "fictitious narrative" of choosing between cars and bikes.
"The reality is in a 21st century city that you need to move people, and move people safely. And that means redesigning out streets."
Annex residents welcome report
Online, cyclists flooded the #BikeTO tag on Twitter with delight over the city recommendation.
I bike to work every day on the Bloor bike lanes. Here is hoping this whole getting to work safely thing won't be temporary. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BikeTO?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BikeTO</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/topoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#topoli</a>—@ClaireMcWatt
HOORAY <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TOpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TOpoli</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BikeTO?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BikeTO</a> <a href="https://t.co/amtIpf474Z">https://t.co/amtIpf474Z</a>—@CourtneyBoost
David Harrison, chair of the Annex Residents Association, was also quick to praise the staff report.
"Toronto is growing and changing. A growing population requires we find ways to share our limited infrastructure. And everyone has to be assured of safety," he said in an email statement.
The David Suzuki Foundation also issued a statement, saying the report shows the lanes are "not only a great boost to the environment and public safety, they're also consistent with a healthy local economy."
The bike lanes opened last August. The report notes removing them would cost some $425,000.
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