Cycle Toronto wants city to extend Bloor Street bike lanes in both directions

Cycle Toronto says nearly one million people use the Bloor Street bike lanes and now they are calling on the city to extend the bike lanes in both directions by 2020.

Advocacy group wants lane extended from the ROM to High Park by 2020

A young family rides west on the Bloor Street bike lane, near Palmerston Avenue, ahead of a Tuesday afternoon thunderstorm. Cycle Toronto wants to extend the bike lane further in both directions. (John Rieti/CBC)

Cycle Toronto says nearly one million people use the Bloor Street bike lanes and now they are calling on the city to extend the lanes in both directions by 2020.

The advocacy group says it analyzed City of Toronto data between February 2018 and February 2019, and found the Bloor Street bike lanes between Avenue Road and Shaw Street well used.

Jared Kolb, the executive director of Cycle Toronto, says since the bike lanes went permanent a year and a half ago, it has become one of the busiest bike lanes in North America.

"We're calling for an extension to High Park to really connect the ROM from one end over to High Park on the other," Kolb said on Here and Now.

He says when the city was deciding whether to make the Bloor Street pilot project permanent, the report they released showed staggering numbers from a plummet in collisions between motor vehicles and pedestrians by 55 per cent, to an increase in merchant sales on Bloor Street year over year.

"The numbers we're seeing on Bloor Street are even more impressive when you consider that it remains disconnected, linking to only two continuous north-south routes, Shaw and St. George — neither of which are protected facilities," said Kolb.

Nearly one million people rode along the Bloor bike lanes over the last year. Cycle Toronto is now pushing for the infrastructure to go further, all the way to High Park. Executive Director Jared Kolb stopped by to tell us why. 6:15

During rush hour, the area can get fairly chaotic, he said, adding that more people are choosing to get to their destination by bike.

"More and more people are taking to the bike — they want options."

Kolb said Cycle Toronto's request ties into the city's Vision Zero plan.

Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, says nearly one million people have used the Bloor Street bike lane over a one-year period, based on City of Toronto data. (CBC)

"We saw another devastating year on Toronto's roads in 2018 and there were more people killed on our roads in traffic collisions than we've seen in previous years — mostly pedestrians."

Kolb said the vast majority of pedestrians are being killed in Scarborough.

"We have a road safety crisis in the city of Toronto," he said.

Kolb said there needs to be more action that will truly create safer streets, and that the addition of protected bike lanes is not just beneficial for cyclists, but for all road users.

City councillor supportive, but says project will take time

Coun. Mike Layton says while he is supportive of the extension, it would still need approval. 

"So I'm supportive of it, but there is some planned construction at work along the Bloor street corridor from Spadina to Jarvis," he told CBC Toronto.

He said there is city policy in place that is looking at extending the lanes, but it has to do with a matter of resources to plan it and conduct a public consultation. 

"There's a plan to reconstruct the road and that's where it really gives us a fantastic option to look at what is the appropriate level of protection and separation between the different modes of transportation between pedestrians, cycling and drivers," he said.

There is planned road reconstruction in 2020 and 2021, he said, explaining that extending bike lanes would take some more time. 

"It will take a little bit of time but I think that what we saw in the pilot [for the] Bloor Street bike lane pilot where we tested all these variables of the impact of these lanes, one thing was clear — it makes it safer."

Layton said there is already an endorsement in place for the department to do the work that it will take to implement the expansion both east and west, but it's just a matter of implementing it.

When the city was asked about the call to extend the bike lane, Eric Holmes, a representative with the city, said it is something that's on their radar.

"It's expected that in May City of Toronto staff will provide council an update about the Ten Year Cycling Network Plan that includes opportunities to extend the cycling network on Bloor Street both east and west," he said.

With files from Here and Now

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