'Livid' residents call for new Woodbine bike lanes to be removed

Construction of new bike lanes along Woodbine Avenue in the east end hasn’t even finished yet, but already some residents are calling for them to be removed in a petition posted on Change.org.

They're not even done yet, but residents want new Woodbine bike lanes removed

Shelly Penner uses the Woodbine bike lanes to get her kids to school and get to work - but not everyone agrees they should stay. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Construction of new bike lanes along Woodbine Avenue in the east end hasn't even finished yet, but already some residents are calling for them to be removed in a petition posted on Change.org.

"I just feel the whole thing is ridiculous," said Julie De Sousa, who lives on a side street near Gerrard Street East and Woodbine Avenue, a neighbourhood with many young families and kids walking to and from school.

Since the new bike lanes went in, she's seen more drivers darting down her road to avoid congestion.

"They're aggravated. They're frustrated. They've sat in traffic for so long, they go full speed. It's a matter of time before something happens to someone."

Julie De Sousa, who lives on a side street off Woodbine Avenue, is concerned for the safety of her daughter, 4, and other kids in the neighbourhood, walking to school while cars speed through the neighbourhood to avoid bike lane construction and traffic congestion. (Provided)

She's one of hundreds of people who've signed the petition calling on Mayor John Tory to get rid of the lanes. Traffic along parts of Woodbine is now down to one lane in each direction, with some parking spots now sandwiched between flowing traffic and the bike lanes.

"People have to exit their cars into car traffic or the bike lane," reads the petition. "Residents on Woodbine can no longer stop right in front of their homes. They need to carry their personal items across the street and/or obtain a special permit for deliveries or moving in and out of their homes."

"People are just livid," said Meagan Sweet, who signed the petition. She says since the lanes were installed just a few weeks ago, she's witnessed two accidents.

"It was basically the same accident, two times over," she said.  She watched as a car travelling northbound on Woodbine attempted to turn right on Gerrard — but ended up side-swiping another car that had crept up the bike lane, also attempting to turn right.

There's confusion among drivers, and frustration that cyclists don't appear to be taking advantage of the dedicated lanes.

"I've literally not seen one cyclist on that bike lane yet," she said, adding she mainly travels south from Gerrard to Lake Shore Boulevard.

"I understand we want to be a greener city; we want to accommodate our cyclists. As a cyclist, I get it. But at what cost? I feel like we are cutting off our nose to spite our face."

A little patience, asks city councillor

Ward 32 Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon says she understands residents' concerns, and she's asking for a little patience.

"The bike lanes are still under construction. They're not complete," she said.

Ward 32 Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon says she's heard complaints that some residents feel they weren't consulted about the construction, but says her office delivered 40,000 flyers and postcards, alerting people about three public consultation meetings. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

More signs, paint, and flexi-posts are still to come. Plus, she says, the city will monitor the bike lanes once they're finished to see if any additions are needed, such as synchronizing traffic lights, turn lanes or traffic calming measures on side streets.

City council approved the 3.6-km Woodbine Avenue Bike Lanes Project last October as part of the city's Ten-Year Cycling Network Plan.

McMahon says other north-south routes were considered, such as Coxwell Avenue, which was ruled out because of the streetcar tracks, but a new east-end bike lane was badly needed.

"I would just say to give it a chance," she said. "Every other world class city is putting in a whole slew of bike lanes. Toronto is sorely behind."

Cyclists feel safer

Cyclist Robert Zaichkowski commutes almost every day from Parkdale to the Danforth GO Station to get to his accounting job in Pickering. He says the new bike lanes have made a major difference for him.

"I've felt considerably safer," he said.

He's added his name to a counter petition, urging the mayor to keep the Woodbine bike lanes.

Robert Zaichkowski hopes over time residents will adapt and even welcome the new bike lanes along Woodbine. (Provided)

Chris Drew used the lanes for the first time this week. He was cycling to a community event on Woodbine from his home in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

"Having that separation is really helpful," he said. "It makes it safer for drivers and cyclists, because everyone knows exactly where they are supposed to be."

Drew was part of a group of cyclists who protested against city council's decision back in 2011 to remove bike lanes along Jarvis Street.

Those lanes were installed in 2010 for about $59,000, but council under then-mayor Rob Ford, voted to get rid of them and return to a reversible fifth lane for vehicle traffic at cost of about $200,000.

Drew is hopeful the same thing doesn't happen along Woodbine.

"I drive as well. No one wants to get in an accident with cyclists," he said, adding that bike lanes offer certainty and safety.

"That's primarily, when you're a driver, your number one concern. It should be safety, not a drag race to get from point A to point B as fast as possible."

Residents want safety measures now

And safety is what east-end resident Julie De Sousa wants to see now. She feels the city should start monitoring side streets immediately to catch drivers dodging bike lane construction and congestion.

"Unfortunately, it's going to take a tragic situation," she said. "And I just don't want that tragic situation to be my family or anyone I know or love."

What you pay in car insurance rate can have more to do with the traffic, speed and accident history in your neighborhood than your driving history. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

About the Author

Shannon Martin

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Shannon is an award-winning reporter with CBC Toronto. She was part of the core team that launched "No Fixed Address", a hugely popular series on millenials renting and buying in Toronto. In 2016, Shannon hosted a special live broadcast on-air and on Facebook simultaneously from Toronto Pride, which won top honours in the Digital category at the RTDNA awards. Contact Shannon: shannon.martin@cbc.ca or find her on Instagram at @ShannonMartinTV.