News / Toronto

Toronto cyclists demand 'minimum grid' of safe bike lanes

A recent staff report says the city could add 200 kilometres of new cycle lanes and paths by 2018 for as little as $50 million.

A cyclist pedals along the Sherbourne Street bike lane Sunday. Commuter cycling, even in the winter, is on the rise, cycling advocates say.

Liz Beddall/Metro

A cyclist pedals along the Sherbourne Street bike lane Sunday. Commuter cycling, even in the winter, is on the rise, cycling advocates say.

As Toronto city council debates the 2016 budget, cycling advocates in the city are urging local leaders to get rolling on building a “minimum grid” of protected bike lanes.

“If cycling is deemed a priority, then it’s something we could do rapidly,” said Cycle Toronto director Jared Kolb, citing a recent staff report showing the city could complete the cycling grid by 2018 for between $50 million to $150 million.

That may seem like a lot of money – the city’s current cycling budget is a mere $14 million – but Kolb said the price tag pales in comparison to other infrastructure projects, including the estimated $1 billion to prop up the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway.

“For a fraction of that cost, we can build a city-wide, protected bike lane network that will impact all Torontonians,” he said.

Kolb said completing the minimum grid would require building an additional 100 kilometres of protected bike lanes on major roads and another 100 kilometres of contra-flow lanes – like the ones installed on Shaw Street – along residential corridors.

Cycle Toronto has declined to name specific streets – save for Bloor Street West – where bike lanes should be installed, but Kolb says there needs to be an adequate network of east-west, north-south routes that extend into the suburbs.

“We need to stop building bike lanes to nowhere,” he said. “We need a fully connected, protected grid that would enable people to use the bicycle as a form of everyday transportation.”

The city’s 10-year cycling plan would arrive at something “resembling” a minimum grid, Kolb said, but he and Coun. Mike Layton want that timetable sped up.

“The increase in commuter bicycle traffic in the city is enormous,” Layton said. “And if we can give people a safe option to get out of their cars, it’s worthwhile.”

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