News / Toronto

Traffic trimmed as construction begins on Bloor bike lanes

Cyclists will be able to enjoy safer access to one of the city's busiest east-west routes in one-year pilot.

A one-year pilot project will add safer active transportation infrastructure to one of Toronto's busiest east-west routes.

Torstar News Service

A one-year pilot project will add safer active transportation infrastructure to one of Toronto's busiest east-west routes.

Bloor Street’s vehicle traffic has been trimmed to one lane in both directions while city crews install separated bike lanes.

The lanes will run along Bloor from Avenue Rd. to Shaw St. as part of a one-year pilot project approved by city council in May. All on-street parking will be removed from the affected stretch during the first days of construction.

The pilot was given council’s nod of approval after decades of pressure from advocacy groups calling for safer active transportation infrastructure in the city.

"For too long, cycling infrastructure and bike lanes in this city have been seen as something that’s divisive, and it shouldn’t be,” said Coun. Joe Cressy, one of two local councilors who led the initiative to get the pilot approved.

“When we do it right, cycling infrastructure is a win-win for everybody.”

More than 3,000 cyclists ride that stretch of Bloor every day, according to city staff. The pilot is intended to measure the effects of richer cycling infrastructure on one of downtown Toronto’s busiest east-west routes.

Studies have repeatedly shown that cycling infrastructure can good for the bottom line of neighbourhood businesses. A recent study in Parkdale found that 72 per cent of shoppers arrived by foot or bicycle.

The pilot project has acheived relatively strong support from Bloor street businesses, but some remain wary. However, bike lanes are hugley popular among Toronto residents. An Angus Reid poll conducted in May found 86 per cent of Torontonians were supportive of a "minimum grid" cycling infrastructure plan.

As expected, the contentious vote became another flashpoint for some councillors’ “war on the car” rhetoric.

“I’m here actually to stand up for the people of the west end of the city who are going to be directly impacted,” said Etobicoke councilor Stephen Holyday. “This blocks the people from the west end from getting in and out. That traffic is not going to stop, it’s going to spill over into other neighbourhoods.”

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong openly worried bike lane “creep” throughout the rest of the city.

For his part, Mayor John Tory supported the pilot and tried to distance the plan from some of council’s more strident voices.

“I think those who try to draw lines in the sand now and predict doom and gloom about this, or predict it’s going to be utopia, (they) are missing the point of having a pilot project,” he said.

“You have a pilot project because you think you’ve got to try something in the interest of building a 21st century city and that you then assess whether it worked or whether it didn’t.”

City staff say crews will work 24 hours a day from Monday to Friday and that construction is expected to be completed by mid-August.

Metro's ongoing #TODeadlyStreets series has been calling for better investment in safer streets for the city's most vulnerable road users. You can read more here.

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