Is education the key to making Toronto's bike lanes safer?

Cycling advocates across Toronto are calling on the municipal and provincial governments to test veteran drivers on the rules of bike lanes — as well as the rules of the road.

Some cycling advocates want the city to do more to educate cyclists and motorists about bike lanes

Cyclists riding east in the College street bike lane. (CBC News/Rob Krbavac)

Cycling advocates across Toronto are calling on the municipal and provincial governments to test veteran drivers on the rules of bike lanes — as well as the rules of the road. 

Cycle Toronto's executive director says the city has too many different types of bike lanes on its streets, something that's confusing to both motorists and cyclists alike. 

"If you're somebody who's driving downtown Toronto for the first time in several years, you're going to notice a lot of changes, and it's a very complex environment," said Jared Kolb.

Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, wants to see more education around bike lane rules. (CBC News/John Sandeman)

He says it also make it more difficult to educate cyclists on the proper use of bike lanes, which is why his organization is pushing for more programs aimed at getting the message out. 

"We are encouraging all levels of government to play a role in that, to ensure that people who are riding bicycles receive some sort of education."

In the meantime, his organization created a handbook to at least get the ball rolling.

"We've tried to help fill the gap by creating a resource guide... and it's available in Toronto's top 13 languages."

The Toronto Cyclists Handbook can teach bikers about their responsibilities on the road. (CBC News/Rob Krbavac)

The Toronto Cyclists Handbook explains the rules of the road, and provides safety tips, but it doesn't solve the issue of motorists unfamiliar of their responsibility around bike lanes.

Cycle Toronto has tried to address that problem as well. The group participated in the public consultations to update the driver's handbook so it now includes how to interact with cyclists. 

That will help with new drivers, but cycling advocates want to see the province go farther.

"Someone who had a licence 40 years ago... a lot of stuff has changed since then," said Joey Schwartz, advocacy director of the Toronto Bicycling Network.

Joey Schwartz, advocacy director for the Toronto Bicycling Network, would like school boards to make cycling education mandatory for students. (CBC News/Rob Krbavac)

Schwartz said veteran drivers should have to brush up on cycling laws, too.

"I would love to see everyone who has a motor vehicle licence be re-tested every five years when they do their renewal." 

Schwartz also lobbied Toronto school boards to make the CAN-Bike cycling safety program mandatory for its students. 

And both Schwartz and Kolb say that something else that would make the city's streets safer would be a consistent design for all bike lanes. 

"The city is about to go through a process of updating their bikeway design guidelines this year," Kolb said. "I think it's a very encouraging step to create a uniform system on our streets of what protected bike lanes will look like."