Toronto council votes to double size of city's cycling network

Toronto city council put the finishing touches Thursday on a new plan to double the size of the city's cycling network.

'The face you'd want to present to the world,' Coun. Kelly says of 10-year master plan

Councillors have agreed to double the size of the city's bke lane network at a cost of about $16 million a year (Matt Galloway/CBC)

Toronto city council put the finishing touches Thursday on a new plan to double the size of the city's cycling network, voting 38-2 in favour of the proposal.

The plan singles out eight major streets that could be re-configured to include bike lanes, or bikeways — cycling routes that are separated from traffic lanes by concrete curbs or bollards. 

"There's no question it's a good step forward for Toronto," said Jared Kolb, executive director of the advocacy group Cycle Toronto. "But there's a long road ahead. The rubber hits the road when we start building bike lanes."

The plan will be rolled out over the next decade and cost about $16 million a year, eventually adding 525 kilometres to the city's bike-lane network.

Under the new Ten Year Cycling Network Plan, bike lanes or bikeways could soon appear on stretches of:

  • Yonge Street, downtown and in North York
  • Bloor Street
  • Danforth Avenue
  • Jane Street
  • Kingston Road
  • Kipling Avenue
  • Midland Avenue
  • Lakeshore Boulevard W.

'The face you want to present to the world'

Already approved last month was a controversial pilot project that will see bikeways erected on Bloor Street between Shaw and Avenue Road,  which will eliminate about 130 street parking spots.

Despite the objections some councillors raised to the 10-year plan — increased congestion and unnecessary costs, compared to the relatively small number of people who bike daily — Coun. Norm Kelly supported the idea, saying it could change the way Toronto is perceived.

"If you were sending out photographs of the City of Toronto internationally you wouldn't send out photos of congestion on the DVP, or the Gardiner," he said. "You'd be sending out photos of smiling young or middle-aged cyclists, because that is the face you want to present to the world: This is a terrific place to live. It's cool. It's physically an active city."

Cyclist safety at stake

Ward 38 Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker, who cycles to city hall every day, also supported the plan.

De Baermaeker said bike lanes protect cyclists from collisions with cars. He said about 40,000 people a day cycle to work in Toronto. That number is expected to grow as cycling infrastructure spreads, but staff are reluctant to put a number on that growth.

At present, cyclists "risk their lives every day when they go to work," he said. "I think what many cyclists are asking for us to do today is to make sure that when they go to work and when they go home, they are safe."

Although some councillors objected to the $16 million annual price tag, two others — Ward 20 Coun. Joe Cressy and Ward 19 Coun. Mike Layton — lobbied to have it increased to $25 million, which would speed up the network's completion date by three years. Council rejected that amendment.

A license for cyclists?

Also shot down was a motion by Ward 3 Coun. Stephen Holyday who wanted council to ask staff to look into the feasibility of licensing cyclists. Councillors Giorgio Mammoliti and Jim Karygiannis also raised that issue.

Mammoliti suggested that licensing fees could help pay for cycling infrastructure.

Coun. Holyday's motion was ruled out of order, but he could raise it again at the next meeting of the Licensing and Standards Committee later this month.

One amendment that was passed by council came from Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong. The councillor for Ward 34 asked that council approve the use of removable bollards, so that lightly-used bikeways could be opened to traffic during the winter.

City staff will now start the process of determining, along with the public and councillors, which segments of the targeted streets would be best suited for bike lanes or bikeways.