'It's going to be a nightmare': Residents worry Woodbine bike lanes will increase traffic, endanger children

As bike lane construction begins Friday on Woodbine Avenue from Danforth Avenue south to Queen Street East, area residents worry the new lanes will increase traffic congestion and force drivers to use residential streets, instead.

Construction work on 3.6-km bike lane begins Friday

The Woodbine Bike Lanes are part of the city's $153.5-million 10-year Cycling Plan, adding more than 525 kilometres of cycling infrastructure to city streets, more than doubling the existing network. (David Donnelly/CBC)

As bike lane construction begins Friday on Woodbine Avenue from Danforth Avenue south to Queen Street East, area residents worry the new lanes will increase traffic congestion and force drivers to use residential streets, instead.

"I think it's going to be a nightmare, " said Kathy Blewett, who lives on one of the side streets in the area. She says Woodbine is already a major artery used by many going to or coming from Danforth and Gerrard Street East to access Lakeshore Boulevard East and the Gardiner Expressway.

Area resident Kathy Blewett is concerned the bike lanes will increase traffic congestion on Woodbine, which is already the main north-south artery between Danforth and Lake Shore Boulevard. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

"I think it's going to slow down traffic a lot," Blewett said. "And for people going home this is already a very busy corridor at rush hour and I think it's going to force people to cut through side streets. There's a school. There's a park. There's lots of kids in this neighbourhood."

Blewett would like to know how many cyclists will use the lanes and if it will justify jeopardizing the safety of the people in this neighbourhood.

"I'm a cyclist. I sympathize with Toronto cyclists," said Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, who also lives on one of those side streets. But he worries about the safety of his two kids who are both under four.

"Traffic is already bad. We live on a road where ... people are already flying through 50 kph just to get around the back up."

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, a father of two, says cars already use his street as a shortcut when traffic on Woodbine backs up. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

 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.

Ward 32 Coun. Mary-Margaret 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.

 "We want to ensure connectivity with our cycling network. And there was nothing. The most easterly bike lane going north and south is at Greenwood. There's nothing east of Greenwood," she said.

McMahon says she's puzzled about why the residents did not come forward earlier to air their concerns as the city sent out flyers announcing three public consultation meetings.

"We had meetings onsite and on different streets. It was all over social media, local papers, big city papers. So, I'm not sure how you could possibly know they weren't going in," she said.

Ward 32 Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon says other north-south routes were considered, but a bike lane in the east end was desperately needed to connect the rest of the city to the Martin Goodman Trail. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

By the end of the month the existing lane markings will be replaced by painted bike lanes separated from traffic by plastic flexi-post bollards, 

Later this fall, a contra-flow bike lane will be installed on Corley Avenue between Woodbine Avenue and Brookside Drive and "sharrows" — mixed use lanes — will be installed on Norway Avenue between Woodbine Avenue and Elmer Avenue.

The city hopes to improve safety and reduce the risk for all road users by providing designated space for cyclists.

Loreena Voninklianis, who also lives on a side street off Woodbine, and has two kids aged nine and five, is hopeful the bike lanes will help ease traffic congestion..

"There will be a lot of people cutting up our street, but that's why we had the speedbumps put in this year, so with the bike lanes hopefully it will all work out," she said.

"We have to work bikes into our society. Everyone needs to stay safe."


Philip Lee-Shanok

Senior Reporter, CBC National News

From small town Ontario to Washington D.C., Philip has covered stories big and small. An award-winning reporter with three decades of experience in Ontario and Alberta, he's now a Senior Reporter for the National Network based in Toronto. His stories are on CBC Radio's World Report, World This Hour, World at Six and The World This Weekend as well as CBC TV's The National and CBC News Online. Follow him on Twitter @CBCPLS.


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