News / Toronto

City of Toronto allows Bell Media to use Richmond Street bike lane as parking lot

Cyclists who use the Richmond Street bike lane found it blocked off this week because Bell Media was granted permission to use it as a temporary parking lot.

The cycle track was shut down Tuesday and Wednesday behind Bell Media’s building west of Simcoe Street.

At first, Bell Media said the bike lane was going to remain closed off until Monday. The company was given permits for 30 vehicles to park on the bike lane for a week, because it was holding a "Fan Experience Event” for a Coca-Cola-sponsored FIFA Women's World Cup event in its parking lot on Queen Street West on Thursday and Friday, which displaced the vehicles that normally park there.

Stephen Job, who works in the area, saw the vehicles on the cycle track and tweeted about it, getting the attention of media outlets, other cyclists and the local councillor.

“Every cyclist who’s taking that road has to look over their shoulder, merge into traffic that’s moving two or three times faster than they are and hope that they don’t get hit by a truck," he said.

Job said didn’t think the private company’s parking needs should have allowed them to get a film permit for a public right-of-way.

“These are not big production vehicles for a Hollywood film, this is a CP24 camera van, some guy’s minivan and Bell Media– or MUCH-branded Ford Escape,” he said.

Ward councillor Joe Cressy worked with city staff to get the vehicles moved, and Bell Media has apologized for the disruption.

“We should not issue permits that block cycle tracks unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Cressy said. “Cyclists and commuters should not be risking their safety and veering into traffic because of film permits.”

Cressy plans to pursue the issue with council to make sure all construction and film permits include a plan to accommodate cyclists.

While Cressy said Bell Media was never allowed to park there in the first place, the city department that granted the permit disagrees with him.

“Yup, they were, we authorized it,” said the city’s film manager, Eric Jensen. “It was necessary to facilitate the ongoing operation of Bell Media.”

Jensen said there was nowhere else other than the cycle track for the vehicles to park.

Initially, city staff had a discussion with the police about using the lane of traffic adjacent to the bike lane instead, but the police deemed that “more unsafe,” he said.

“On 90 per cent of the other roads in the city cyclists and motorists use a shared lane,” said Jensen. “There is an expectation that everyone will operate safely whether a bike lane is present on a road or not.”

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