News / Toronto

Allowing disabled to park in bike lanes 'just bad policy,' say cycling advocates

Proposal would allow drivers with parking permits temporarily stop in separated bike lanes to "load or unload" a person with a disability.

Toronto’s public works and infrastructure committee has approved a proposal that would allow drivers with accessible parking permits to stop in the city’s cycle tracks.

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Toronto’s public works and infrastructure committee has approved a proposal that would allow drivers with accessible parking permits to stop in the city’s cycle tracks.

Toronto’s cycling lobby says a proposal to allow drivers with disabilities to temporarily park in separated bicycle lanes is “just bad policy.”

“From our perspective, the city has the responsibility to create accessible areas on our streets,” said Cycle Toronto director Jared Kolb. “But you can’t sidestep that responsibility by taking away from another vulnerable road user group.”

The plan – which was given a thumbs up by the city’s public works committee Monday – would let drivers with accessible parking permits stop in separated cycle tracks so long as they’re “loading or unloading” a person with a disability. It must still be approved by city council to get the green light.

Accessibility advocates in the city have praised the move, but Kolb fears it could undo some of the progress Toronto has made in building safe cycling infrastructure.

“We know separated bike lanes are substantially safer than painted bike lanes, but that safety is reduced if frequent incursions take place by vehicles,” Kolb said, noting there are roughly 120,000 active accessible parking permits in the city.

In a letter to the public works committee, Cycle Toronto also expressed concern that the policy will fuel tensions between cyclists and drivers. Kolb noted that due to the location of the accessible permit, there’s no way a cyclist can tell whether a vehicle has a right to be in the bike lane when approaching from behind.

“There’s already a massive communication problem on our streets and this policy would make it worse,” he said.

Rather than “prioritize the convenience of one vulnerable road user group over the safety of another,” Kolb said Toronto should look to other cities that have found ways for bicycle lanes and accessibility to co-exist.

“This has got to be done by design,” he said.

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