Olivia Chow plans 200 km of bike lanes in 4 years

Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow is proposing building 200 kilometres of bike lanes within four years.

Mayoral candidate looks to Chicago for transit ideas

Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow is proposing building 200 kilometres of bike lanes within four years. 

Chow is the latest candidate in the 2014 mayoral race to begin to discuss transit outside of the TTC and the years-long Scarborough subway debate. Chow says bicycle use is growing fast but the city's cycling plan is from 2001 — claiming the city lost 500 metres of bike lanes in the last three years.

She plans to introduce a grid of interconnected lanes that emphasize safety.

Chow says she is using Chicago as an inspiration for the plan.

“As your new mayor, I’ll bring our cycling infrastructure up to the level Chicago enjoys," she said. "It’s one of the most cycling-friendly cities in North America with a climate similar to ours."

Chicago currently has more than 322 kilometres of bike lanes. It promises to more than double that — totally almost 1,100 kilometres of lanes — by 2020. Chicago also has more than 13,000 bike racks, and sheltered, high-capacity bike parking at rail stations.

Chow's plan would fast-track pilot projects for separated bike lanes downtown, improve maintenance of existing and new lanes including better snow removal for year-long cyclists and she would introduce bike parking at transit stations.

She said she would pay for the by "reallocating priorities within the existing capital budget for cycling", which means she would take $9.5-million next year and an estimated $9.15 million per year over the next council term would be dedicated to her proposed lanes.

The estimates are based on a kilometre of bike boulevard with painted lines costing upwards of $12,000, and separated lanes as much as $125,000.

Her mayoral opponent David Soknacki, the only other candidate with a cycling plan, says her plan includes serious flaws. He does not think it's costed appropriately, and the scope of her project is too big for the budget she announced.

He also says it overlooks the most cumbersome process of building a bike lane in Toronto: the environmental assessment.

“The problem in building lanes isn’t just money or will, it’s the slow environmental assessment process,” he says. Using pilot projects to push through construction can push through some work, but that "won’t be enough to support the pace of construction she’s claiming to promise," says Soknacki.

Chow and Sokacki are two of 50 candidates for mayor in this year's municipal election, which include incumbent Mayor Rob Ford.