News / Toronto

Bloor St. bike lanes work, cyclists say — though drivers may not agree

Children and teachers from local schools gathered Thursday at the corner of Bloor and Christie streets to support the pilot project.

Students and teachers from local schools turned out in full force Thursday to express their support for the Bloor St. bike lanes, which were installed last August after decades of advocacy from Toronto’s cycling community.

(BEN SPURR / TORONTO STAR)

Students and teachers from local schools turned out in full force Thursday to express their support for the Bloor St. bike lanes, which were installed last August after decades of advocacy from Toronto’s cycling community.

Students and teachers from five local schools rallied on Thursday morning to express their support for the Bloor St. bike lanes.

Gathering at the corner of Bloor and Christie streets, the group urged city hall to make the pilot project of protected bike lanes permanent, and to extend it farther east and west across the city.

“As an every day biker I don’t feel safe riding my bike without a clear division of ongoing traffic and bikes,” said Avani Karir, a Grade 11 student at Harbord Collegiate Institute. “If we had bike lanes, more people would be encouraged and inclined to cycle, and the more people cycling the more sustainable our community becomes.”

The lanes extend along a 2.6-kilometre stretch of Bloor St. from Shaw. St. to Avenue Rd. Marika Kungla, a teacher who co-ordinates a bike club at the Ursula Franklin Academy in the High Park Neighbourhood farther west, said building separated lanes on Bloor St. near her school would benefit children and teachers.

“Extending bike lanes would encourage more members of our school community to see cycling as a viable means of active transportation and as a safe, fun way to explore our city,” she said.

Kungla argued Toronto doesn’t have an extensive network of separated bike lanes, which is a “barrier” for young people and others “not confident with sharing the road with motor vehicles.”

Last week, a 5-year old boy was killed when he fell into traffic while riding his bike on a trail next to Lake Shore Blvd. West. Cycling advocates said his death could have been prevented if there had been a simple barrier between the trail and the roadway, and the incident prompted Mayor John Tory to order a safety review of the trail network.

The city installed separated bike lanes on Bloor St. last August after decades of advocacy from Toronto’s cycling community. The pilot project had strong support from council, and was approved in a 38-3 vote in May 2016. Council is expected to vote again this fall on whether to keep, modify or remove the lanes.

An initial analysis released by the city in February and first reported by the Star found that while the number of cyclists using Bloor St. increased to 4,500 per day from 3,300 per day after the lanes were installed, travel times for drivers had increased by as much as 8 minutes and 25 seconds during afternoon rush hour.

The city is holding a public meeting about the bike lanes on Monday, where transportation staff are expected to provide updates on a public survey, as well as brief residents on a technical evaluation of how the reconfigured street is working.

The survey was completed by more than 14,000 people, and while city staff have not yet released the results, according to the meeting materials the trends so far indicate that while cyclists report feeling safer, drivers “do not feel the trade-offs are worth it.”

Jared Kolb, executive director of non-profit advocacy group Cycle Toronto, conceded that the upcoming council vote about whether to make the lanes permanent could be much closer than the one that approved their installation.

“It could be. I guess we’ll see where the data comes out,” he said. “It would be great to have a unanimous vote from city council that’s saying this project is key. Where that winds up landing this fall, we’ll see.”

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