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First Bloor, then Yonge: Toronto cyclists eye Yonge Street as next bike lane battleground

Studies are underway in Toronto and York Region examining the potential for bike lanes on Canada's longest street.

With the city busy installing bike lanes on Bloor Street (pictured above), Toronto's cycling community is pushing for lanes to be installed along Yonge Street as well.

Staff / Torstar News Service Order this photo

With the city busy installing bike lanes on Bloor Street (pictured above), Toronto's cycling community is pushing for lanes to be installed along Yonge Street as well.

With the bike lanes on Bloor nearing completion, cyclists have turned their attention to Yonge Street as the next battleground for bike infrastructure in Toronto.

Studies looking at installing separated bike lanes on Yonge from the waterfront to Bloor and Highway 401 to Steeles Avenue have started, and cycling advocates are pushing to turn them into a reality.

To better understand what Toronto’s longest road is like for cyclists right now, cyclist and bike blogger Robert Zaichkowski rode 18 kilometres from Queen’s Quay to Steeles last month.

He spoke to Metro about what he learned along the way.

1. Queen’s Quay to Front Street

This short stretch of Yonge is the only part of the road with bike lanes. However, Zaichkowski said a taxi stand outside 1 Yonge St. puts cyclists into “the door zone.” He’d like to see the existing lanes get some separation and suggested the taxi stand could be shifted to the left of the lane.

2. Front Street to Davenport Road

Less than 13 metres wide, this stretch of Yonge is fairly narrow. “I found I had to take the lane a lot, and I know a lot of cyclists aren’t comfortable doing that because they’ll be honked at,” Zaichkowski said. An environmental assessment launched last month includes reducing Yonge from four lanes to two and installing protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks to handle pedestrian congestion.

3. Davenport Road to Highway 401

There’s little support for bicycle lanes along this portion of Yonge.  Zaichkowski says streets here become even narrower meaning it would be “a tough sell” to add cycle tracks without reducing the number of car lanes.

4. Heath Street to York Mills

At this point, Yonge Street widens and on-street parking begins, which can be dicey for cyclists worried about doorings. As the case of Bloor Street shows, Zaichkowski said bicycle lanes could be added to this stretch while still maintaining parking.

5. York Mills to Steeles Avenue

North of York Mills, Yonge begins to resemble an urban freeway, with six lanes of traffic. During his ride, Zaichkowski said he was passed frequently by cars exceeding the 60 km/h speed limit, creating a “nightmare situation” for cyclists. However, there are consultations underway about reducing the lanes to four and installing more cyclist and pedestrian infrastructure. “There’s no real need for six lanes up there,” Zaichkowski said.

6. Into York Region

York Region is planning to install protected bike lanes on large parts of Yonge Street by 2026. Despite the challenges, Zaichkowski hopes Toronto will step up and connect those lanes to those being proposed on Yonge, south of Davenport. “Wouldn’t it be great to have inter-city bike lanes?” he said.

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