Toronto's big cycling challenge? Coaxing nervous riders onto the road
City has 10-year plan to build cycling network, but advocates calling for more lanes sooner
Sarah Speedie has the "want" to ride her bike to work, but for now, that only goes so far.
Speedie has been riding to her job for one week, something she says she only feels comfortable doing after having taken a safe infrastructure tour put on by Cycle Toronto. If there's no lane, she often dismounts.
Her message to city councillors? "Where they're able, invest in that infrastructure," she told CBC Toronto.
Cyclists like Speedie could be key to Toronto getting more bike lanes, says Coun. Mike Layton, because right now the city is stuck in a "chicken and the egg scenario" where people are saying they want to ride — but only if there are safe routes.
"How do we increase the number of cyclists when we know more people want to bike, they just won't because the infrastructure doesn't exist?" Layton said.
A vocal proponent of the Bloor Street bike lanes, Layton says he'd like city council to push for more protected lanes across the city.
"It's going to take bold change," he said.
Instead, Layton says council seems to be taking a cautious approach. The Bloor lanes are still just a pilot project and may not continue, while lanes on Jarvis Street, Pharmacy Avenue and Birchmount Road have been established then removed.
Toronto is adding several new bike lanes — several of which are contra-flow lanes, where cyclists can ride in either direction on a one-way street — in 2017 as part of its 10-year cycling network plan. Bike lanes are also on the way for Lake Shore Boulevard in Etobicoke, and Woodbine Avenue in the east end.
The provincial and federal governments are also investing in cycling infrastructure in the GTA.
'Torontonians are cyclists'
Cycle Toronto's Jared Kolb says when those lanes are built, ridership data will prove it: "Torontonians are cyclists."
Kolb, speaking at a celebration marking the launch of Bike Month in the city, says he's seeing an increasing number of people hopping on their bikes to get to work.
"When we're installing safe, protected infrastructure, people are riding," he said.
In the downtown core, many can reach a bike lane. The problem, he says, is those riding from Midtown, Etobicoke or Scarborough often face jagged routes where only part of their trip is protected from cars.
"We have a growing network in the downtown core, but we have not done enough to connect it," said Kolb.