Toronto

City set to build 120 kilometres of new bike lanes despite concerns network goes 'nowhere'

Toronto city council voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to build at least 120 kilometres of new bike lanes — roughly the driving distance from here to Niagara Falls — over the next three years. But some worry the shorter timeline is leaving behind the forward-thinking nature of the previous 10-year plan approved in 2016.

3-year timeframe means longer-term targets are 'lacking,' says Coun. Joe Cressy

Toronto is set to get at least 120 kilometres of new bike lanes — roughly the driving distance from here to Niagara Falls — over the next three years. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Toronto city council voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to build at least 120 kilometres of new bike lanes — roughly the driving distance from here to Niagara Falls — over the next three years.

But some worry the shorter timeline of the newly-approved cycling plan is leaving behind the forward-thinking nature of the previous 10-year plan approved in 2016.

Down-the-road targets in the new version are "lacking," Coun. Joe Cressy said during the debate on Wednesday in council chambers.

"You can't build bike lanes to nowhere," he said. "You actually have to build a grid."

Coun. Anthony Perruzza, meanwhile, took a more animated approach to his criticism of Toronto's piece-by-piece approach: "Dumb as a bag of hammers," he said. "Goes nowhere to nowhere."

Still, both were among the large majority of councillors who voted in favour of the strategy, which Mayor John Tory said will keep council more accountable thanks to the tighter timeframe.

The plan includes 120 kilometres of new cycling infrastructure to be developed in the short-term, coupled with 70 kilometres of routes up for study — at a cost of $48 million over the next three years.

Staff are also set to explore options for University Avenue bike lanes, Bloor Street lane extensions, and a pilot project for lanes along a stretch of Danforth Avenue.

The city already installed around 60 kilometres of new cycling infrastructure between 2016 and 2018 under the 10-year plan, but cycling advocate Jared Kolb of CycleTO said it was a "glacial" roll-out.

The new short-term focus will provide a "lot of bang for the buck," Kolb said, while aligning the plan with the city's political cycle.

Plan approved after hours of debate

Before council's stamp of approval, the plan was debated for most of the day on Wednesday.

A large chunk of the early discussion surrounded calls from Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong for city staff to consider a "warrant system" for cycling infrastructure which would require benchmarks for expected bike traffic volume before building new lanes.

"How many cyclists need to use a road before you recommend a bike lane be put on it?" Minnan-Wong asked staff during the debate.

Repeatedly, several members of the transportation services department said that's not the ideal approach, noting both Richmond and Adelaide Streets jumped from few riders to more than 6,000 each day since bike lanes were installed six years ago.

"It's often said in our field that you wouldn't determine if a bridge is needed by counting the number of people swimming across a river," said Jacquelyn Hayward, director of transportation project design and management for the city.

Councillors eventually voted to drop Minnan-Wong's request from the cycling network plan.

The overall plan's approval comes on the heels of council backing Vision Zero 2.0, a road safety strategy closely aligned with the push for more cycling infrastructure.

About the Author

Lauren Pelley

City Hall reporter

Lauren Pelley is a CBC reporter in Toronto covering city hall and municipal affairs. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca

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